National Eating Disorders Association

A Father’s Guide to Getting Rid of Ed

Lance Kissinger

Ed came along like a boyfriend you hoped your daughter would never bring home. I had been waiting for the day I would have to deal with this guy—I just hadn't realized he would come in the form of vapor, a cloud, something I couldn't reach out and injure. I expected flesh and blood.

I needed to help get rid of him in a way that made it seem like it was my daughter's idea. If I came out and said how much I hated this guy, it would only push her toward him—because she was in love with Ed. She hung on his every word, scheduled her day according to what he wanted to do. She ate when he allowed, ate what he allowed. Nothing came between the two. She let friendships die so she could devote all her time to him. She began destroying family relationships with her brother and younger sister, because Ed wanted her to. She lied to her mother, lied to me, lied to anyone who came between her and him. Believe me, I would not tolerate that from any guy, let alone some mind game named Ed.

Sometimes you are talking with your daughter and she seems "normal," just like she used to be. That's because she is normal in that moment. Other times, she will look like your daughter, but you will be speaking to her at the same time Ed is whispering in her ear. Your job, dad, is to be able to distinguish between the two. 

When I was talking with my daughter, I could tell. She wasn't over thinking; she was in the moment. She would say, "Dad, I love you and I know you love me. I am trying, but it's hard." When Ed had her attention, she would say things that just didn't seem to really make sense like "I don't care if I die—it would just be like going to sleep" or my favorite, "Dad, I am glad I am getting better, I just wish I could have had anorexia just a little while longer."

That said, it was my daughter who had to come to the realization that Ed was only interested in using her for his own enjoyment. I needed to let Ed destroy himself. So, we needed to create situations where Ed could be exposed, where he was vulnerable, weak, stupid, careless, less than, predictable. Under the right circumstances, Ed is his own worst enemy. While he is good at what he does, his repertoire is limited. That's where you beat him. Get him out of his comfort zone and he has no defense—he's really just not that bright and he's pretty one-dimensional. 

In a nutshell, you have to love your daughter 24/7. Don't direct your anger at her; she is not trying to hurt you. Choose to not be insulted by what she says or how she acts. You have to concentrate on loving her, challenging her, riding alongside her, listening to her, and encouraging her to speak about what's on her mind. She has the answers. You, father, do not. So, let her know that you love her (every day), and give her space without leaving her alone. 

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