As a general rule, I like being prepared. I like knowing what to expect. I will look at a map before I drive anywhere new to see where I am going, even when I know that my GPS will get me there just fine. So during my first pregnancy, I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” cover to cover. It was very informative; however, nothing in that book prepared me for a complicated triplet pregnancy that resulted in three teeny tiny baby girls who were born ten weeks early and spent seven weeks in the neonatal ICU. I didn’t expect *that* when I was expecting. I learned early on in motherhood to expect the unexpected and to weather the storms.
And still, when my daughter’s anorexia hit, it knocked us off our feet. Anorexia stole our daughter right out from under us and started abusing her. Some type of weird Stockholm Syndrome phenomenon took place, and suddenly our daughter was inextricably bound to her captor and resentful of anyone who tried to save her. She wanted us to leave her in anorexia’s captivity. We would not. We could not. We won’t. We can’t.
We needed to fight back against the anorexia and try to save our daughter, but we had no tools. Nothing in our bag of parenting tricks was even remotely useful in this situation. We could not present our extremely intelligent daughter with logical and rational arguments as we had in the past; anorexia overpowers rational thought and causes cognitive impairment. She wasn’t thinking straight and there was no reasoning with her.
The anorexia was like a ruthless boxer punching us over and over again; finding the weakest spots and mercilessly pounding away. We were cut and bruised so badly that some days we could barely get back up. Sometimes we were knocked out totally. That anorexia can land a punch like nobody’s business. There were some days when I wasn’t sure I wanted to get into the ring at all. It was so much more tempting to stay out of the fight altogether.
When you are a parent fighting against your child’s anorexia, sitting out the match isn’t an option. If you don’t know how to box and you are forced to get into the ring, you need to get a trainer. If you are fighting against a heavyweight with titles under his belt, you need the very best trainer that you can find; someone who knows the sport, who can anticipate your opponent’s moves, and teach you how to either block the punch or to return it.
We found a team of world class trainers here in Israel who taught us how to both fight back against the anorexia that has taken our daughter captive and to protect ourselves and our other children from the blows. They were my daughter’s treatment team, and they are seasoned champions. They empowered us to release ourselves from the vise of our daughter’s anorexia; they taught us how to not let it control us the way that it controls her. Not only did they teach us how to fight, but they got in the ring with us to help us try and win the ultimate prize– our daughter’s future.
What makes this battle so remarkable is that we are fighting against an entity within our own child. This entity is out to destroy her and yet she embraces it; and while we want to obliterate it and smash it to pieces, it’s using our daughter as a human shield. We love her, and at the same time we want to eradicate something inside of her. We are trying to protect and destroy simultaneously, which is as nonsensical as anorexia itself.
There were times when fighting against my daughter’s anorexia was tantamount to going into a burning building without any protective gear. Yes, it’s stupid, and there is no doubt that you will get burned; but if it’s your kid inside that burning building you don’t hesitate to run inside. However, if you want a chance at both your own survival and at getting your child out alive, you really need that protective gear. That’s where the parent education component of anorexia treatment comes in. Parents need to learn how to both neutralize their daughter’s anorexia and how to protect themselves from its penchant for ravaging those that it touches; they need to be educated, trained, and empowered if they are going to have a chance of helping their child beat anorexia while keeping the rest of their family intact.
Fire prevention starts with a smoke detector. If you suspect that your daughter may have an eating disorder, seek immediate help. My daughter’s anorexia was cunning enough to disable our smoke detector and we didn’t see the smoke until there were already flames.
Even with the protective gear that I have acquired, I still get singed, but I will keep going into that burning building if I have to. I have no choice; my daughter is somewhere inside.