Being a Mum Is Hard Enough.
Being Mum with an Eating Disorder is Even Harder.
This year marks 20 years of living with an eating disorder. Only just entering my thirties, I’ve internally battled an uncontrollable disease whilst attempting to live life as ordinarily as possible.
You don’t just wake up with one day with an eating disorder. Often, a traumatic event is usually the catalyst. For me it was an episode of acute trauma at 12 years old, added to that, an emotionally detached father. The pattern of male abandonment has followed me into adulthood. By the age of 23 I had suffered from emotional, financial and physical abuse. One boyfriend totalled my car, one controlled my friendships, one drained my bank account and one punched me in the face. Each of these are vital to note. These abusive relationships controlled me; so amidst the uncontrollable actions of abusive partners, the only thing that I had complete control over was my disordered eating.
My teenage years were spent in wasted psychology sessions and weekly weigh-ins with social workers. I knew all the tricks. Drink two litres of water and shove a heap of coins into my pockets prior to the appointment to survive another week as an outpatient. It was a matter of time until this would fail. With no choice, I was involuntarily admitted to hospital. Trust me, you do not want to be an inpatient in the mental health ward. I saw children try to flee. Nurses check throughout the night to ensure you’re still breathing. I would be woken in the early hours of the morning to be weighed and showers were closely monitored by nurses so no one could try something silly in there.
I bargained and pleaded to be released. I played my intelligence and eventually secured my discharge. From that point onward, I cleverly hid my disease from family and friends.
Adulting with an Eating Disorder
Now I’m a mum. I have the utmost important job in the world. I’m raising two beautiful children and this requires the job of a positive role model.
Suffering from a life-long eating disorder does make family interactions particularly challenging. It feels like living a dual life. My personal eating habits may be disordered, but my family’s are not. I consciously provide nourishing lunches with a balance of treats. My pantry and fridge are well stocked for my family. It’s just not stocked for me.
The greatest challenge is privatising my illness to ensure normalcy at home. Organically positive conversations with our children is key to ensure they are looking up to the right public figures for aspiration before inspiration.
Growing up with the intent to starve myself has made planning and preparing cohesive meals for my family a daunting task. With limited of knowledge recipes, grocery shopping overwhelms me, escalating my anxiety and results in shame. I am grateful to have supportive family and close friends to help.
Eating as a family unit is uncommon because my mind won’t allow me to eat what they do. I have restricted my diet to a very limited range. When I know that I need to eat with my family, I will skip lunch in order to do so.
Being a mum is hard enough. Being a mum with an eating disorder makes it all the more harder. After twenty years, my mind is tired. My guard is up and my heart is closed. It has only been within the last two years that I have felt comfortable with sharing to friends that yes, I have an eating disorder.
Do I want to kick the disease? To answer you truthfully, No. My disordered eating is one of few parts of my life I am in complete control of. It’s a methodical rhythm that only I can understand. It’s the person I have grown to identify with for twenty years. She will always follow me wherever I go.
One thing for sure that I can answer with a definitive yes is, that despite my invisible demons, I am a devoted, passionate, hardworking mother who will never fail to protect her children and will strive to be the best version of myself, for them.
* For help with your own battles, or if you are concerned about a loved one, Reach out to The Butterfly Foundation at www.butterfly.org.au
* Names have not been used to maintain privacy.