you just never know…

I had a meeting today with a VERY IMPORTANT LADY. I say that in caps. because it is true.  She is amazing, in her 60’s, spends her days volunteering, donating, supporting women’s causes.  She speaks her mind and swears at meetings.  I admire her more than I can say.

So today she came to my office to help me with a project.  we sat at the table together, and she said,  ” So, tell me about the kids….” I shared the ups and downs of my three, starting with the  oldest, working down to our youngest.  Shared that our youngest child’s battle with and victory over, bulimia had shaped the last 9 years of my life, had given me renewed purpose.  When I finished, she looked me dead in the eye and said ” I had that”.  She went on to share her own battle with binging and purging, and how, for a time, she felt she had discovered the greatest thing — eating without calorie increase.   We discussed how, and why, she had stopped.  How she had committed herself to healthy eating, but still, over 40 years later, struggles with binging and then being disgusted with her lack of “control”.  We spent almost 2 hours sharing viewpoints, research, ideas and dreams  about the importance and impact of this disease.

Damn.

I look at her and am, once again, incensed at the ability of this disease to work its way into a life full of promise.  And at how, though she is successful, a strong woman,  wonderful parent and giver — she still has to fight with self hate.  And, once again, my passion is renewed.  We have to fight this.  We have to beat this.  We have to provide support for sufferers and families….

And then, as we finished our project and sat back, proud of what we had accomplished, nursing  a cup of tea — she said “you know I never told anyone about this. My husband doesn’t know this about me, my parents didn’t know…

Damn.

I thanked her for trusting me.  For opening her heart and her mind and for believing in herself enough to know that she can say the words out loud and still be safe.

will it ever Really end?

March is tough on me.  March 9 years ago my world fell apart.  But, its nine years ago.  things are better — so much better.  there is no tangible, recognizable remnant of the hell that time represented in our lives.  and yet, March rolls around and I tense up.  My stomach hurts, my anxiety rears its head and I worry.  I call way too often, stretch for reasons to check in….consider medication…or a strong martini….

Will it ever end?  How long does this veil stay over the joy that Spring should bring?

some days…

On days like today, especially at times like 6:59 this afternoon, I am so full of pride and admiration for my youngest daughter that I don’t know how to tell her without sounding sappy or condescending…. so I write.

This daughter of mine is without a doubt the strongest, most resilient, independent young woman I know.  She has battled many demons in her 30 years — eating disorders, assault, being the “youngest” child, high risk pregnancies….loss and betrayal.  And yet, she rises.  She falls and gets back up.  And shows very little the worse for wear.  Her strength and resolve, her joy and love, are astounding.  And something to be in awe of.

And I am.  continuously.

Love you punk.  to the moon and back.

sweet sweet child of mine

I sit here tonight, after a ridiculously long day at work (another story) and am amazed that my baby turns 30 tomorrow.  This sweet child of mine has been a rewarding puzzle since the day we found out we were going to have a third child. feisty and moody, compassionate and fiercely independent, scared of the dark and protective of all she loves.

Third child in a series of amazing beings couldn’t have been easy.  Val chose to stand out in her own way.  Athletic, defiant, demanding and giving.

College found her attacked from all angles.  people she trusted wounded her — and in her desire to please, she wilted, almost disappeared.  2 months before graduation, she broke, she welded and she chose life.

and it has been a whirlwind ever since.  backslides and triumphs, babies and careers, vacations and long bad trips.

and she survives.  She thrives.  She kicks dust in the face of the naysayers and thumbs her nose at the past.  She remembers, oh she remembers, but she moves forward, always forward….she is my wild child, my punk, my butter, my Valerie.  I love her more than life, I will protect and defend her against anyone, anyone who dares to try to hurt my child again.  Happy Birthday punk,, my sweet sweet child, I love you.

you just never know what’s gonna pop up.

Googled a website today that was instrumental in helping ME survive my daughter’s illness, 8 years ago.  My last couple attempts to log in were met with failure so I thought I’d see if I could figure out what was going on. Google sent me to a list of articles and restaurants (?) and, surprisingly, a blog written by the founder of another organization that set me back years during the recovery stage of my daughter’s illness..  Weird.

Long story short, and I think I have written about it on this blog somewhere, I was asked to become a board member of an organization working in the field of my daughters illness.  Asked after MANY long conversations and emails.  The founding Exec. Director was stepping down and I applied, on a whim.  Im one of those people who wants to pay it forward, and since we had been helped by so many when our daughter was struggling, I thought this might be the opportunity to step it up and be a force.  WRONG.  So, anyway, we talked and talked and talked. They ultimately chose another applicant, but called to ask me to take on another role, sort of a face for the organization.  Someone who could speak with parents, the press, the former exec., the new exec. Great gig, right?  WRONG.

My husband and I planned on making the trip to DC for their National Conference, I bought a new suit — took a day off work and drove down.  After signing in, with a wonderful lady who knew my name and seemed excited to see me, I wandered around for about a half hour, introducing myself, unsure of what or where my place was — feeling like I had stumbled into a Sorority Mixer that I wasn’t really invited to.  Finally the new Exec. Director approached and told me “don’t introduce yourself as a board member, the members are getting offended.”  Huh?  “There are people on the board who don’t know about this decision, people who have worked with us for a while, who are unhappy, trying to figure out who you are.”  HUH?  Wouldn’t the business meeting the night before have been a good time to tell them about me or the role you had in mind for me?

Needless to say, this did not end well.  We stayed the day, listened to the self congratulatory speeches about all the organization had accomplished, watched the new Exec. Director be introduced — Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I remember my husband’s face as he tried to gauge my disappointment, tried to say the right thing.  I had been “removed” , belittled and dismissed by people that  I thought shared my vision, people I wanted to work alongside.  His proclamation?  “You don’t need them, bunch of stuck up women”.  Gotta love him.

Which leads me back to where this post began.  Google led me to  a blog entry, written by the former Exec.  about another website set up to help people suffering from this illness, and their families.  Very similar initiative.  The former Exec. had been ‘removed” from this site for a difference of opinion, belief, whatever.  Years ago.  Apparently her removal was the impetus for starting the new organization.  Apparently she feels the former site was detrimental, archaic and giving bad information.  Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t think so.   The former site had, truly, given me solace and comfort when my daughter was suffering.  I could turn to the site and post my feelings, my fears, my challenges, our triumphs.  I didn’t fixate on  the ads or the promos, didn’t see this organization as promoting themselves as experts, just purveyors of information for you to analyze yourself — I needed moms and dads, brothers and sisters, to listen to, react to and empathize with what we were going through. That is what I got there.  No preaching.  No “our way or the highway”.

So in her blog she ranted about the horrors of the site and demanded it be taken down or revamped.  Sometime in the period of her writing the blog and the time I found the entry, the site had, indeed, been taken  down.  Because of her feelings?  Because of her blog?  Doubtful, but who knows.  On that former site I had shared information with parents.  People had contacted me, comforted me — given me advice and led me to resources that , I believe, helped our family survive.

And yet, the other site couldn’t stand the presence of their existence.  Ironic, right?.  She described her hurt at being removed from the original site, the pain it caused.  I offer up, as a comparison, the pain this group of women caused me when they dismissed me , revoked their offer to work ( for free, obviously) with them.  They missed out on something good.  Im good at this, this advocacy gig.  I am working to better the lives of women, to eliminate racism, to promote health and joy and empowerment.  Your loss, dude.  look in the mirror.

You just never know what’s gonna pop up when you hit “search’

This night

This night, exactly 8 years ago, was probably the worst night of my life.  worst.  my baby, deeply entrenched in illness, came as close as anyone could ever come, to losing her fight for life.  And she was fighting.  Fighting me, fighting her dad, fighting herself.  But this night, tonight, i feel none of that fear, that all encompassing terror that comes from the inability to make a difference — I feel peace.  Triumphant peace, as for the first time in 8 years I didnt need to see her, to touch her, to hold her, to know that she is all right.  It seems, finally, that we are both healed.

Our Recovery Continues…

Our recovery, 7 years next month, continues.  “We” are recovering from our daughter’s eating disorder.  I say “we” and “our” because, as anyone who has ever supported a loved one through the hell that is an eating disorder knows, it is not a solo act.  We suffered, we worried, we were beat up, beat down and financially overloaded.  We were treated, therapied, observed and minimalized…..

For the first 4 years, maybe a little more than that, every time I looked at this young woman who is my “child” I saw ED,  I scrutinized her eating habits, watched if she was drinking, wandered into the living room if she was in the bathroom….just listening…..I can not imagine how stressful that must have been for her, because as stealth as I thought as I was, I am sure there were red lights blinking all around me that said ” Im watching!”  She backslid a few times, as addicts are apt to do.  Alcohol became her refuge = and it almost took her down.  One last relapse, ugly and raw and painful finally seemed to click the button in her head that said “Stop this shit” .  

For the past three years it has been easier for me, and I think for her, to accept and celebrate the fact that she is not mentally ill.  She is not lurking in the hall with a disorder that will raise its head any minute and cause her to stuff her fingers down her throat.  She is healthy, happy, married and the mother of two wonderful children.  Last weekend, at her niece’s birthday party she climbed the monster maze with the kids, laughing and helping and exposing herself to the room as an athletic, strong woman.  My heart smiled.  It is so good to have her back.  Most of the time, when I say “have you eaten?”  its because it is meal time and I have food…not because I am worried that she is restricting, or binging.  And most of the time she responds “yes” or “no” and moves forward.  No more dirty looks, angry responses or denials.  It is so good to have her back.  Eating Disorders are getting a lot of attention currently.  It is “Eating Disorder Awareness Week” as I write this.  There is a lot of research on the “why” of eating disorders… is it social media, is it genetic, is it an emotional illness or a physiological problem?  I don’t know.  In our case there were signs that she had trouble dealing with stress, there was trauma in college and a roommate that was bulimic.  There was an abusive boyfriend and an overbearing mother…..

But now, there is health.  She was treated at a wonderful center, and came home to us on the road to recovery.  She chose to live, to thrive. I don’t know where that strength came from but I thank God every day that she tapped into it.  I am so glad she is here.

Riding the Green Smoothie train

ImageOkay, so Im a little late to this, but suffice it to say I don’t lose weight well.  Blame it on years of taking care of everyone but myself or the fact that I have a daughter who battled bulimia and anorexia, or on the idea that I am pretty ego centric and think that I deserve EVERYTHING I want.  Blame it on the reality that when I look into the mirror I see smiling eyes and good hair….and sort of let the rest of it  go….  But, whatever the cause, I stay the same weight — a weight that, truth be told, is about 40 pounds more than I would like it to be.  (My cardiologist would up that number, but seriously?  Im 57, what would I do with all that extra skin?  bleh) 

So, last Tuesday I decided to buy a blender and whip myself up a green smoothie.  Despite the color, OMG, it really IS green…I found it tasty.  So I took a long walk, ate light the rest of the day, drank green tea…..and congratulated myself on making a good healthy start.  Taa Daa.   The next 6 days have followed that plan, except for the walking.  I like to walk, hell, I love to walk, yet I find many excuses NOT to walk each day.  Too cold, my foot hurts, company is coming, one of the grandbabies needs me…..gotta go to work…too cold…you get the picture. 

Well, its Tuesday again.  And while I PROMISE that this will not become a “my year of green smoothies” blog, I am going to get on the scale today and see if the change in diet has produced any result.  Because, you see, I don’t lose weight well.  Typically I drop a few pounds, start to see my jeans fitting a bit better and then binge.  Seriously.  Salted caramel ice cream, French bread, rice….shrimp, milk shakes.  Because, as my therapist told me a few years back when I was going through the “what am I doing in this marriage?” stage, I have a hidden need to not be attractive to men…or threatening to women.  So, if I present as a round grammy, toting knitting needles and a cozy quilt, Im safe.  Safe for you to talk to, safe from being accosted by a man, safe.  This, I think, is at the root of the weight issue.  At my present ( or actually last Tuesday’s) weight I’m presentable. Non threatening.  I can still get dressed nicely and not embarrass anyone, I can fit in chairs, through doors and go for a long walk with my grandbabies.  Safe. Curious to see where this all leads……will I be able to keep me while losing some of me?

And then I return to center

ImageAs I stumble through my days, focused on the “issue of the moment” whether it be how to salvage the green beans I bought a week ago, or how to help my son with the custody battle for his daughter, I find myself losing focus on what truly brought me to this particular point in my life.  As impossible as it may seem, I attribute everything, everything that I am and want to be and work for to the moment my child told me she was bulimic.  For the past 7 years a day has not gone by where I did not think, if just for a fleeting moment, about that night.  It has shaped my intention and my drive.  But life moves forward, and the intensity drops.  Other things happen, other issues beckon, and my advocacy for families of those with Eating Disorders takes a back burner.  And I feel guilty that I am not out there fighting, hard, every moment of the day.

,    This morning I read an announcement that Jenni Schaefer, an inspirational voice for those suffering from eating disorders, has decided to “retire” from the field.  She has been a voice in my head since 2007 — her wisdom and insight has helped me help my child.  But, she is well. She is recovered.  She is moving forward with her life and is leaving the field of Eating Disorder Treatment.  Bells and whistles went off in my head.  Alarm?  Concern?  Joy?  All of the above.  You worry that without the support of the network she has woven, she may relapse.  You worry that her voice will be silenced, and she has said so many good things that you know that her message needs to resonate still.  But, I find myself wrapped in joy that this young woman is moving forward.  Her eating disorder does not define who she is and she doesn’t have to think about it every day. 

And I think of my child.  My grown up, married mom and mom -to -be child.  She too is well, recovered, moving forward.  Am I, with my continued focus on ED, holding her back?  Does she still think I’m timing her when she goes to the bathroom after a meal?  Am I timing her?  Does she see “treatment” or love when she looks at me? 

 

This deserves some thought.  My center is shaky.  How do I continue to fight the fight without bringing my daughter into a battle she has already won?