I am deathly afraid of heights and yet I keep finding myself standing on the ledge of an impossibly tall building hanging on for dear life, trying not to look down; because if I do, there is no doubt that I will panic and lose my unsteady perch.
I am out on that ledge because my daughter is precariously standing at the edge of the building. Make no mistake, she does not want to plunge from that dangerous height, but she can’t get herself away from the edge. It’s like she is being unwillingly pulled by a magnet toward an abyss and even though I have a magnet to pull her back to safety, my magnet is weak and impotent. My will to make her better is no match for the force of her anorexia. I can’t bear to watch her teeter so I get out there on the ledge to try and grab her to keep her from falling. Over and over again I am out on that ledge, and I am so scared sometimes that I think that I will die from fear. It’s an icy fear that squeezes your heart and races your pulse. Fear that I will lose my footing and plunge, fear that I won’t be able to grab onto her in time, fear that even if I have a hold on my daughter, I won’t have the strength to pull her toward me and away from the abyss. It’s a paralyzing, debilitating fear. Until now I have been able to grab my daughter and drag her back to safety, but I am not sure how many more times I can handle going back out onto that ledge.
My daughter’s anorexia keeps leading her to the edge of that tall building. It puts her in harm’s way each and every day. It has this impossible pull that still makes no sense to me, even after the thousands of hours that I have spent reading about and researching eating disorders. No matter what you pit against her anorexia, the anorexia always wins. What other illness has patients siding with the very thing that makes them ill and fighting against their loved ones who are trying to help them get better? The irrationality of anorexia is mindboggling.
We refuse to let the anorexia win without a fierce and ferocious fight so we up our game. My husband and I are a strong team. We follow sound expert advice. The anorexia fights rough so we must do so as well. It’s not for the faint or the weak. We need to draw blood from the anorexia while keeping our daughter out of the fight zone. The stakes are so frighteningly high and sometimes we fail, painfully knowing that we cannot afford to fail.
Anorexia causes the most intense pain imaginable. I have overheard women saying idiotic things like “I wish that I was anorexic”. Trust me, you don’t. It’s not a weight loss program; it’s a ruthless entity that grabs hold of every aspect of your life. Anorexia is like a rough puppeteer pulling the strings and jerking its victims around at whim. The puppet is for the most part at the mercy of the puppeteer.
I want to wrest my daughter away from her anorexia, the evil puppeteer. I want to cut the strings and set her free; free to lead her own life and make her own decisions. Free to control her own destiny, free to experience the joys of life, free to accept that you can be happy without being perfect. Free to feel the love that surrounds her, free to see that she is extraordinary in every way, free to follow her own heart and not the ruthless regiment of a tyrant. My most fervent wish is that the puppeteer will die a violent death; or at the very least, become incapacitated enough that I can yank the strings away. More than anything, I want to free my daughter.
The fight to reclaim my daughter from the clutches of anorexia is exhausting and I am weary. Fatigue lures me and I almost succumb, but one of my found strengths through this ordeal is my endless capacity to hope that one day I will get my daughter back. I am amazed at the powers of hope and faith. They put the strength back in me when I think that I cannot possibly persevere anymore.
If you can’t find me, look on the narrow ledge of that tall building. If my daughter is out there, that’s where I’ll be. I may be terrified of heights and tired of my perpetual perch, but that is where you will find me; because no matter how scared I am, I am her mother. And a mother just doesn’t give up.