Thanks, Mom, for Never Giving Up On Me

Stephanie Z and mom photo
Stephanie Ziajka author photo

Stephanie Ziajka

My mom has always been one to rescue those in need. One time, in second grade, I got a D on an oral math test. I’ve always been a math whiz, but doing what is now known as “mental math”—you know, doing math in your head instead of on paper— has never been my thing. After getting my test grade, I crawled into my mom’s car at the end of the school day and started crying hysterically. 

Instead of getting upset with me and my perceived failure, my mom spent hours that night writing my teacher a note about how unreasonable it was to administer a mandatory oral math test—and how inappropriate it was to give a second grader a failing grade in the first place. That day my mom taught me an important lesson: everyone learns differently. That lesson, taught with acceptance and encouragement, allowed me to overcome my fear of failing at math. Funnily enough, some decades later, I graduated from college with a degree in Actuarial Science.

The acceptance and encouragement my mom showed me in grade school never went away, and it eventually saved my life. I was a young girl with an impressive job, healthy social life, and what everyone said was the world at my fingertips, yet I couldn’t pull myself together enough to stop self-harming. I was ashamed, indignant, and most importantly, mentally ill. And I needed help. A lot of it.  

Although the physical warning signs were there (and I’m sure everyone took notice), I didn’t seek help for my disordered eating until I felt like I’d lost control. I started to feel like my actions were no longer voluntary; purging became a natural reflex. In essence, I, once again, felt like a failure—except this time, I didn’t think I was worthy of being saved. 

Somehow, in my most desperate hour, my mom came running to the rescue. Even though my insurance provider didn’t cover mental health expenses, she helped me check into an inpatient rehab center, used her medical expertise to stabilize my diet and refer me to a network of highly-trained professionals (side note: she’s a physician, otherwise I wouldn’t necessarily advise taking medical advice from a parent), and eventually facilitated my relocation to an environment that was ultimately less toxic. In essence, she helped me restart my life. 

As confusing as my eating disorder must’ve been, my mom never asked me to explain myself or my actions. Through her love, compassion, and award-worthy patience, she never gave up on me. My mom just saw her daughter in peril and came to her rescue, like she always will. This process taught me another important lesson: everyone hurts, but everyone hurts differently. We all have afflictions, and there’s never any shame in asking for help.  

Overcoming my eating disorder was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do, and I know I couldn’t have done it without my mom’s love and support. Our relationship hasn’t always been easy, and we haven’t always had a cookie cutter, Hallmark channel-worthy family, but at the end of the day, she is and always will be there for me. I only hope that I can be half as good a mother to my children as my mom has been to me and my brothers. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Stephanie is a digital influencer and content creator for Diary of a Debutante, a southern lifestyle and affordable fashion blog. She’s an eating disorder survivor and devout advocate for mental health awareness. She writes for Proud2Bme, serves on the ANAD Junior Board, and launched a popular Mental Health Mondays blog series in 2016.