National Eating Disorders Association
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I Never Let Her Give Up, and I Never Left Her Side

Sarah Bertsch

I never thought I would ever experience the feeling of crawling to the bottom of a dark ocean floor with my daughter.   The feeling of the cold dark water as I held on to her for dear life, as I kept crawling forward, my hands gripping the black sand. She’s was grasping on to one of my ankles as I drug her, while she was sucked back so hard by a vicious monster (ED).  The view in front was dark, yet when I looked up it was such a beautiful blue I could see in my mind the sun shining and I knew one day we would make it to the top.  I would never let her give up, and I would never leave her side. 

To have my child struggle with an eating disorder was one of the hardest struggles I ever faced.  It was the worst because I couldn’t take it away.  I couldn’t give her antibiotics and in ten days she would feel much better. To see ED attack my daughter was nothing I could have understood until it happened.  To see her eyes change, to see the anger in her, and literally to have the life sucked out of her as she seemed to change into a different person.  Although I couldn’t take it away, I could be there for my daughter, get her help immediately, believe her, educate myself, and never give up. Recovery is possible.

For so many parents, first beginning the process of facing their loved one’s eating disorder diagnosis can be overwhelming. You feel so lost, lonely, and very scared.  Where do you turn to next?  I want to reassure you you’re not alone.  

NEDA’s website is invaluable.  When our daughter was diagnosed with restrictive anorexia & an anxiety disorder, after the fifth hospital stay, I was lost.  I wanted to research everything I possibly could to find out more information on this disorder to help her, and to begin to understand her diagnosis. NEDA’s website became my lifeline. I printed out every bit of material I could find. 

The most helpful resource I found was NEDA’s parent toolkit. Eating disorders are so overwhelming for both the child and the parents, but the more parents educate themselves, the more they will understand what they are facing.  The toolkit gives guidelines for levels of medical care, possible insurance issues you may face, what to expect during recovery, tips for challenging situations, and so much more. Their entire website is truly extraordinary, and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

One strong recommendation I have is, to see if your child’s residential, PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) or IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) offers a family day. This free education day is offered to help education you and is usually led by the staff of the facility. This is an opportunity to not only learn and ask questions, but to also be with other parents who are facing the same challenges you are. It’s helpful to know you aren’t alone. 

Eating disorders are awful.  They are extremely difficult to work with.  However, you have to remember to separate your child from the eating disorder.  They need all the love and support you can give them. You must face the eating disorder head-on. Get your child help immediately.  Make fighting the eating disorder your number one priority. Never give up.  Recovery is possible.  Our beautiful daughter is living proof of it.

Before her daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder, Sarah Bertsch was Vice President, Branch Manager of a bank in a small community in Texas She was able to resign from her position to stay with her daughter and focus on her recovery 100%. 

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