National Eating Disorders Association

One Mom’s Personal Journey

Deb Kreiger, Chair of NEDA's Parents, Friends & Family Network

Our daughter was in high school when, in what seemed like out of nowhere, an eating disorder crept into her life and slowly took over. Gradually it strengthened its insidious hold on her and as it did, it pushed happiness away and her joyful spirit was replaced with emptiness and sadness. It stole our daughter away from us for three-and-a-half years and in so doing, it smothered our family as we grappled with the seriousness of what was happening to her.

I spent hour upon hour researching “eating disorders” and I was horrified. This didn’t seem real. Our daughter, our beautiful, smart, talented child who was so full of life, charming and funny, what happened? Where did we go wrong? How did we miss this?

As we came to realize, eating disorders aren’t a choice, yet it is easy to internalize the blame as a parent. This burden of guilt has no place in helping your loved one get better, but it’s really hard to hold onto your perspective as you wrap your arms around your child and the long journey that lies ahead.

This horrible eating disorder held its tight grasp on each of us; my head was spinning; I was emotionally drained, extremely frightened, and I felt very alone. My fear was paralyzing. I felt as though I had fallen into this deep, dark cavern and I couldn’t find our daughter, let alone navigate our way out. I eventually shouldered this beast by channeling my hatred and fear of this eating disorder into a mission to understand and learn about these illnesses so we could get the help she needed.

A very private person, I had to find the courage to talk about it, ask questions, and push past a status quo mentality in the world around me. I needed more, she deserved better, so we forged ahead. She was by my side, equally as scared, but with a willingness to be healthy once again. We changed primary care physicians and assembled a treatment team. It was exhausting and frustrating as I searched to find that quick fix or cure. Of course, there is none.  I just wanted her to be better, to be healthy and happy. Little did I realize the challenges we would face; my patience was tested daily.

But recovery is real and I am overjoyed to tell you that our daughter has been in recovery for thirteen years and she is happy and well. She persevered and through it all she found her voice and a personal strength that today inspires others. We each emerged stronger, with a better sense of self and an awareness of the frailty of life.

As we traveled this path with her we gathered a few nuggets of wisdom along the way:

  • Learn all you can from all of the right sources. NEDA was a lifeline for us and the programs provide valuable support for you and your loved one.
  • Be patient, with your child, yourself and other family members.
  • Maintain awareness; understand the triggers and be sensitive to them.
  • Let go of judgmental thoughts and behaviors.
  • Be the referee. Many people, although well intentioned, won’t understand the truth about eating disorders so wear your protective gear and deflect, reject and protect at all times. 
  • Watch your language…words matter.
  • Be aware of your actions, your behavior may be mirrored by others.
  • If something doesn’t feel right with the treatment team pursue other options. You are fighting and advocating for your child.
  • Your child needs and loves you. As difficult as it may be, separate the harsh words and behavior you experience and know this is the eating disorder self, not the child who loves you. Be patient and compassionate.
  • Take care of you and your family...emotionally, physically and spiritually. Keep yourself centered and as balanced as possible. 
  • There are no quick fixes.
  • Have faith. Believe in yourself, your child, the treatment team and remain open to the love and support of family and friends.