National Eating Disorders Association

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Bulimia, substance abuse, self-harm, an abusive boyfriend, promiscuity, lying, other risky behaviors. This list, which seems a many-headed mythological monster, defines my nineteen-year-old daughter's past year. Although these horrors appeared to hit us like a surprise sledgehammer, they were lying in wait for quite a while. My darling, bright, funny girl, the one I've treasured and guided since before she was born is mostly unrecognizable these days. I feel as if I've spent the year mourning her disappearance and doing my best to help and live with this often belligerent, vacant stranger. Once in a while, I catch glimpses of that lovely girl I've known, but these moments are fleeting. I have wondered if she suffers a personality disorder, but as she is considered an adult, I have no way of conferring with her therapist.

My daughter struggled earlier on with bullying, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsion and has been willingly seeing therapists since middle school. I prayed that this, along with the time I've spent with her over the years, lifting her up and encouraging her, would somehow shield her from such darkness. I was wrong. I spend my days worrying, being hopeful, crying, trying to take care of myself, and trying to take care of her when she lets me.

The other day, after her boyfriend (who may be a sociopath) disappeared during the holidays (and, unfortunately, reappeared afterward with no explanation or apology), she seemed at a turning point, at least in regard to self-care and leaving that toxic relationship. For a day or two, she looked and sounded healthier than I've seen her in a very long time. She was present and was cutting down on harmful behaviors. We talked and talked and talked, without her getting angry at what I had to say. My heart lifted. As soon as her boyfriend reappeared, though, she flew back to him and lost the life in her eyes. Though we are living together, we've spoken few words since he reappeared. My current quiet is neither a reflection of anger nor disappointment in her; it is despair. What is there to say, really? Instead I hug her and ask if she'd like some tea.

Though her bulimia is not my only concern, it is one of the more immediately life-threatening. Each horror seems to be tied into the rest, so much that talking to, helping her with one means addressing some of the others. I have to time my attempts well, at the risk of her shutting me out. Talking about her bulimia seems to provoke the most anger, so I am careful with it.

She is a college student and plans to head back to school in a couple weeks. I don't know how she did it, but she managed excellent grades this past semester. Part of me wants to keep her home for the spring, but the other part, the beaten-down part, is relieved at the idea of her going. I realize therapy would help me, as well, but I am barely affording her care.

As I type this, I wonder what it is, exactly, I am looking for by posting. Perhaps I wonder if there is anyone out there who is experiencing such a storm. I realize an eating disorder, alone, is storm enough. My exhaustion, worry, and heartache often leave me wanting for neat, organized thoughts on the matter of my daughter, as if a map of her life, of my life could be drawn that would leave me without trailing caveats, without questions. At this point, she and I seem to be at the mercy of a miracle.

Thanks for listening. Peace.

A virtual hug

soosan, my heart goes out to you. You are a strong woman, who is suffering greatly. I can relate in small regard since my daughter has ODD and possibly BPD in conjunction with her ED. It's exhausting and brutal. I've heard that NAMI has a good program for parents. I am so immersed in ED treatment right now that I haven't reached out, but as soon as my daughter is in PHP I will. I look forward to the family therapy that the PHP program offers and getting my daughter into dialectal behavior therapy and meds--I think that is her only hope for a somewhat "normal" life.