The love that a parent has for a child is something that you really can’t explain. It is an overwhelming, intense, primal and sometimes scary feeling. We have all heard of the term Mama Bear. Everyone knows that you don’t get between a mama bear and her cubs unless you have a death wish. As a mom, there is such an intuitive drive to protect our kids. I get it. I feel it.
So, my friends, what do you do when the person that is trying to hurt your child IS your child??
As a family we have been battling mental illness, in the shape of anxiety and depression and a pretty severe eating disorder. I say “as a family” because it affects all of us. Every single one of us is damaged by this. When your nine year old announces that his sissy’s worst part of her day is eating dinner…well, that just sucks.
There is this cycle that we go through. It started about 6 years ago when she stopped eating. After months of watching her rapidly decline and not being able to do anything about it, she was hospitalized for a month. That was one of the hardest things that we have ever had to do. Taking our 14 year old daughter and dropping her off for an indefinite time period to a hospital over an hour away because her organs were beginning to shut down…it was a nightmare. Our family had this constant cloud of fear and panic just settled over us. It was almost suffocating.
This was followed by years of therapy that she basically refused to participate in. We “forced” her to go but after two different therapists basically told us that we were wasting our time and money because she wouldn’t speak…what do you do? So much frustration there.
This was followed by a period of what we thought was improvement. She “seemed” to be ok. She slowly appeared to come back to us. My beautiful, sweet, thoughtful daughter came back to us. She smiled again and seemed to be ok. I wrapped myself in this feeling of relief and allowed myself to relax. I reveled in the feeling of things being normal, or at least as normal as this family gets. I was lulled into a false sense of security. Security that things were good. My kids, my greatest blessings were good and healthy and happy. Things seemed to be bright again. We could breathe.
But then the clouds slowly come back. You start to notice things, skipping meals, excessive exercise, bouncing and nervousness where there had been peace and calmness. You try to push it aside, hoping that you are just imagining things. Are you making things out of what really isn’t there? You hope so, but you know, deep down you just know that it is back. Actually, not back, but rather still there lurking about waiting to steal our joy.
And then it is just there again. As big and bad as ever, actually worse. Things are worse and there is nothing that we can do. I have read book after book, article after article about eating disorders. They all say the same thing. It is the same thing that doctors and therapists and friends that have fought this battle themselves, all say. There is nothing that you can do. NOTHING. You must try to separate the eating disorder from your child. Your child is not the eating disorder. The problem is that after a while it is really hard to do. It is hard to see my beautiful, sweet girl. I know that she is still there, but the lies that this illness tells her has made it increasingly hard to see her. She is being taken over by the belief that she is not enough. She is unlovable. The only way that she will reach perfection is by attaining a specific weight. Then she will be worthy. Then she will able to be loved and love back.
My heart breaks because I feel so helpless. I am frustrated and I am angry…so very angry. I keep telling her over and over again, that my frustration is not at her. We love her and we are not mad at her. Our love is not conditional on her recovery. If this is something that she will battle forever (and there is a good chance that she will), we will love her through every step of the way. That will not change, ever. But the mama bear comes out and I just want to shake her and scream,”Why can’t you see it??? Why can’t you see the truth?” But at the same time, I want to hug her and hold her and protect her from….herself.
I want to tell her that her value and her worth has nothing to do with what she looks like or what she weighs. It doesn’t even have anything to do with us, her family, despite how much we love her. It has to do with the fact that she is a creation of God. He loves her so much that he created her perfectly in His image. He loved her enough to send His son to die, so that she may someday go to heaven. That is what gives her value. That is where her worth comes from. Not the size of her jeans or a number on a scale.
The thing is that I have told her that. Her dad has told her that. Again and again we have told her this. But it falls on deaf ears. She cannot hear it through the noise of the eating disorder.
I am not satisfied to do nothing. I am not satisfied to sit back and wait for her to collapse so that we can have her hospitalized. We can require her to go to therapy, but we can’t force her to want to get better. This is not enough. Doing NOTHING is not an option. But after years of doing this, after years of waiting for it to “get better,” I know that we can’t do anything. That is we can’t do anything except to pray.
Except to pray…it sounds so insignificant. All that we can do is to pray. It sounds like such a small tiny thing. The thing is, that is not true. It is not a small insignificant thing. It is the most powerful weapon that we have in this battle. It is the constant onslaught of prayers that will eventually crack open her heart. We only need a tiny crack to get in. Just a teensy tiny crack. Because once her broken, damaged heart is cracked open, the floodgates will open. The grace from all of the countless prayers from countless people will pour into her heart and start to heal her. Her wounded self image, her warped sense of value and worth, the damage that she is doing to her body as well as her soul, it will start to heal.
That is what doing nothing but praying will do.
Please join me my friends in praying for my daughter. Join me in praying for all of the wounded souls that are battling this disorder. Pray for the healing, pray for the teensy tiny little crack to open in their hearts. Just pray.
*I know that there will be people that question my choice to share this with all of you. I know that some people (namely my daughter) who might be angry with this choice. I am ok with this. I need to feel that there is hope. If you are in the same situation, I want you to know that you are not alone. Prayer my friends, that is the key.