“It’s like they are standing on a train track and the train is coming.  You are yelling, ‘Get off!  Get off!!!” but they won’t move.  You can’t reach them.”*

That’s a quote from a parent whose child suffers from an eating disorder, and it is absolutely, 100% accurate. That is exactly how I felt as I watched Katie eat less and less, and get sicker and sicker.  To know what’s coming, but being unable to stop it.  It is truly one of the most frustrating things ever.

I think as a parent it’s always hard to watch our kids make mistakes, and have to stand back and let them do it.  I remember reading book reports and letting the kids bring them to school with spelling mistakes in them. Watching them put themselves out there, walking up to a group of kids to talk, knowing full well it wasn’t going to end well.  Things we need to let our kids do – they need to learn by making mistakes, by making bad choices.

But not like this.  Not when it endangers their health.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop this one.  No matter how much I wanted to.  You hear again and again about how anorexia nervosa all about control, and that’s true.  But let me tell you, I’ve never felt such a lack of control.  As the mom, watching my daughter try to battle her inner demons by controlling her food intake, it was the most helpless thing ever.

It’s been 3 months since Katie was admitted to hospital, and as I reflect on that, I’m still a little puzzled that this is actually my life.  That this has happened to my family.  It’s still a little mind-boggling.  I think those first weeks in hospital were just so much to take in, so overwhelming, that I didn’t really process it all at the time, and now that the crisis is over, that we’re settled into our new “normal”, it’s starting to sink a little more how sick Katie really was, how serious the entire situation was and still is.

I’ve learned a lot about anorexia nervosa over these last months (as has Katie!), and reading the facts, I still sometimes struggle to assign them to Katie.  These are the symptoms of anorexia, according to The Eating Disorder Foundation:

The person:

  • is thin and keeps getting thinner, losing 15% or more of her ideal body weight
  • continues to diet or restrict foods even though she is not overweight
  • has a distorted body image – feels fat even when she is thin
  • is preoccupied with food, calories, nutrition or cooking
  • denies that she is hungry
  • exercises obsessively
  • weighs herself frequently
  • complains about feeling bloated or nauseated even when she eats normal – or less than normal – amounts of food
  • loses her hair or begins to experience thinning hair
  • feels cold even though the temperature is normal or only slightly cool
  • stops menstruating
It’s a very scientific list, and facts that I understand, I just have a hard time acknowledging that this is the story of my child.  The hardest thing I’ve learned is that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. The death rate is about 20%.  That’s about 1 in 5.  That’s pretty high.
Wow.  While Katie didn’t have all of those symptoms, she definitely had a lot of them.  
Being able to look back at it is such a gift, in that I’m looking back at these things, not still living in the middle of it.  I think God just gives the gift of auto-pilot, where you put one foot in front of the other, and just do what you need to, without over thinking things.  Otherwise, we’d never get through anything.
Katie is doing well on her road to recovery, and I’m so thankful.  However, to any parent that is concerned that their child may be battling at eating disorder, let me encourage you to get help.  Now.  Don’t wait.  Learn as much as you can, and learn how to advocate for your child.  There is help, and there is hope.

*”Book of Hope”, Sue Huff