I knew something wasn’t ontrack. She was calling at 8am.
“What’s wrong?” I ask as soon as I answer the phone.
“Why would you think something’s wrong?” she immediately rebutts.
Ah, that negative fortune-telling. That mother’s intuition. That mother’s worry.
“You’re right. That was uncalled for.” I switch gears. Find my positive frame of reference. Slow down my heartbeat. “What’s up, honey?” I ask my eldest daughter.
“I’m at the hospital,” she whispers.
I can hear the tears in the back of her voice. I can feel the fear leaping into my heart. And in my head, the thirteen year old is busy being right, “Harumph. I told you so. Something is wrong.” I don’t say the words out loud.
“Oh no. What happened?”
She pauses. “I just wanted to get our medical history. I’ve got really bad pains in my chest.”
Panic. Consternation. Fear. She’s only 27. But my brother had heart issues. So does my sister. “What!? You think you’re having a heart attack?”
She starts to cry. “I don’t know.” She pauses. I remain silent. Waiting for her to speak. And then she blurts it out. “I’ve been acting out.”
I breathe deeply before gently asking, “In what way?”
I know but I need her to speak the words. To let the truth out. “In my eating.”
I can feel the ice gripping my heart. The spider cracks of fear spreading out. I can feel my veins pumping sorrow, sadness, regret. I wanted to believe she was all better. I wanted to believe it was all gone.
I breathe again.
“Tell me what’s happening.”
My daughter has an eating disorder. She’s been doing well and then, it came sneaking back in, insinuating itself in her mind while she was busy thinking she had it all under control.
Mental illnesses are like that. They don’t play fair. They don’t play nice. They have their own set of rules. They don’t have a ‘done by’ date, a best before expiry. They have their own agenda.
I want to take it away from her. I want to make it all better. Make it stop.
And I can’t.
I can only love her. Accept her where she’s at and stay true to what I believe. There is nothing in this world that she can do that would ever stop me loving her, that would ever stop me seeing her as the perfect miracle of life she is.
I want to tell her to look at herself through my eyes, to see the wonder and beauty I see. And I know I can’t.
This is not my path. Not my disorder. Not my role.
My role is to love her. In all kinds of weather. In every kind of condition.
That is easy.
What’s hard is knowing the pain she’s in. What’s hard is knowing I can’t take it away. I can’t stop it. I can’t change it.
And the Al-anon slogan slips into my mind. “You didn’t create it. You can’t change it. You can’t cure it.”
But I want to. I want to not only change and cure it, I want to carry the blame. I want to own it. I want to make it mine. Because maybe if I own it all, she won’t have to. Maybe if she knows it’s all my fault, she’ll be able to let it go. Maybe if ED knows I created him, he’ll let her go and attack me. I can take it. I can carry it.
And that’s the challenge. No matter how hard I want it to let go of her, no matter how I want to help her let go of it, sometimes, things don’t let go of us.
My daughter has an eating disorder. I know enough about them to know that they never really leave. That those who have been afflicted with their presence are never really free of their insidious desire to steal well-being away. That the only ‘cure’ is to live in the light. To be vigilant and stalwart in your desire to stay the path of living free of their calling.
And sometimes, whether an eating disorder, alcohol or drug addiction, or stopping smoking or committing to a workout regime or any of the other things we do to create well-being in our lives, sometimes, we lose ground. Sometimes, we fall back.
And when we do, there is only one thing we can do.
Begin again. Always begin again.
My daughter has an eating disorder. It’s reared it’s ugly head again. Stolen her peace of mind, and her confidence in her ability to live free of its insidious call to pull her under.
She is beginning again.
So am I.
Learning to accept, I did not create this. I cannot change it. I cannot cure it.
All I can do, is Love.
Alexis wrote a powerful and moving piece on her blog on Sunday about ED and its presence in her life. The White Flag.