my parents think it’s their fault i have BED, did/ do you think this with your daughter, and how did/ do you cope with the fact?
Yup, for a long time I thought it was my fault (Kasia was living with me at the time). To be honest, when Kasia was at her worst, I didn’t really have time to think about it too much because with work and going to see her in hospital there wasn’t really time to think about anything, which was probably a good thing. Later, I got the chance to talk to Kasia about it, which proved most of my theories wrong, and did my own research, which pretty much proved the rest of my theories wrong. Here’s what I think know…
Studies have shown that some people are more predisposed to eating disorders than others. All parents make mistakes, but in something like 5% of cases, those mistakes can lead to ED simply because the child was genetically more likely to react in that way. My mistake was not listening and taking seriously, over a number of years, Kasia’s issues with her appearance. I didn’t, because all I saw was this pretty, smart, funny kid who couldn’t possibly have any issues with self-esteem. I once dated a woman who used to hassle her daughter all the time about her eating habits, her weight, etc. Prime candidate for an eating disorder, you’d think. Nope, she’s fine and happy and completely unaffected by it all. Because she just didn’t have the inherited issues that made her likely to develop an ED.
So tell your parents not to beat themselves up. They most likely didn’t do anything different to any other parent. They, and you, just got a bad draw in the genetic lottery. You and they should just concentrate on getting better. And you can and will…
Do you like to talk about everything Kasia has been through? such as what she was like before her ED. My parents do this all the time, they tell everyone they know about what a miracle it is that I have survived, the stuff I used to eat. I know they care, but it’s driving me insane! I just want to forget it all!
I don’t know whether I LIKE to talk about it. I kind of had to though, because it impacted on every area of my life - work, personal relationships, social life. Make no mistake, if you’d asked me a year and half ago what was going to happen, I’d have told you that Kasia was probably not going to make it. And her recovery since then has been amazing, and all down to her.
When Kasia was doing really badly, I used to talk to her a lot about the kind of person she used to be (because when she was very anorexic, she was bloody horrible!). And we talked about food in the sense that she used to lie (mainly to herself) about her old eating habits. Now she’s recovering, we don’t talk about that so much because she’s much more like she used to be. Got her creativity back, and her sense of humour. And we don’t about what she used to eat, mainly because she’s a boring knit-your-own-muesli vegetarian now, but also because it’s not relevant any more.
I dont’ know how bad things got for you, but if your recovery has been miraculous then it’s hardly surprising they bang on about it all the time. But if it’s driving you insane, just tell them! It’s not going to be a big deal for them.
Were you ever ashamed of the eating disorder? Like because it was *your* daughter? Did you ever blame yourself and feel sad inside about it? Did you always understand or did it take a lot of work to understand? Do u understand now, or do u just try to help and support even though you know it’s quite an irrational disease? Were u ever scared you might lose your daughter? Have u told any of your friends about her ed + if not, why not? And if yes- how did they take it? ps.ur an amazing dad! xx
I’ve probably answered some of this already, but just to run through them in order… Yes, I was ashamed of myself for failing as a parent. Being a dad has always been the most important thing to me, and I thought I was good at it. It took five years after my divorce to win the argument that Kasia should come live with me, and then it seemed like moments later she’d developed anorexia. On my watch! So yes, blamed myself, felt sad inside. And also outside.
No, I didn’t understand it initially. I mean, who would. It’s a crazy condition. I did do a lot of research later on (I’m still considering doing some PhD work in the area of media and psychology, although it’s a lot of work and I may just decide to sit around the house eating pizza in my underpants) and I think I understand a bit more now. But understanding it’s causes isn’t really important for a parent anyway. I’m not convinced that a parent can prevent eating disorders. Understanding recovery is far more important.
Yes, I was very scared I was going to lose my daughter. I’d tell you more but I don’t like to remind her of it unless she’s being annoying or untidy, and then I bring it up to make her feel bad about not doing the washing up.
Yes, anyone who knows me knows about her anorexia. No choice really - work had to know because I would have to disappear with no notice to go help Kasia at any time. Friends knew mainly because I would often vent my frustrations on social networks. And strange women in bars knew because I would occassionally get a sympathy snog out of it. Everyone was very helpful and sympathetic, especially the women in bars. And a lot admitted their own battles with ED in their youth.
how do you get your parents to understand you’re sick? my parents just say i’m being attention seeking, and that i need to get over it :/ it makes it extra hard to recover without support and i really want it from them.
Well, I was very lucky. For a long time, I was very much in denial. I kept making excuses for her, even when she once fainted at a concert. And then someone anonymously sent me her infamous anorexia blog. I don’t know who it was and I wish I did so I could thank them properly. Kasia sometimes thinks it was another anorexia sufferer who was jealous - this is because she is sometimes, to use a complex medical term, a bit of a tit. Once we had the blog, we could confront Kasia with it, and she could no longer deny that she had an ED.
As for your parents, show them this blog, show them my page. And give them this message from me…
Your child thinks he/she has an eating disorder. If he/she thinks he/she has an eating disorder, he/she probably does have an eating disorder. And the earlier you start to help him/her recover from it, the better. So listen to him/her. If I’m wrong, and it’s just attention-seeking, then you’ve lost nothing (and hey, maybe they need the attention anyway). But if I’m right, you’ll be glad you listened.”
If that doesn’t work, talk to a teacher, or go see your doctor. Teachers always get a bad rap, but Kasia’s year tutor was awesome, and crucial to us seeing that she had a problem.
my parents keep telling me that they are here for me and want to support me but whenever i try to talk to them they make whatever i say into a joke and try to laugh about it. i know it’s a coping mechanism for them but it really hurts me. how do i deal with this?
Well the best thing is to talk to them about it. Humour is a very tricky thing. I tend to joke about everything. But eating disorders to strip their victims of their sense of humour, along with everying else in their personality. So I didn’t tell a lot of jokes back then. It’s different now, of course. I make jokes about anorexia with Kasia that would probably shock you. The other day I flew on a Japanese airline called ANA, so I stole a teaspoon with ANA on it, because I knew she’d find it funny. If I’d done that 18 months ago, well, I’d probably be typing this with a teaspoon jammed up my ass.
So talk to them about it. Tell them you understand why they do it but it’s not helping you. And if that doesn’t work, you could fight humour with humour. Next time they make a stupid joke out of it, say [This is Kasia, I deleted my dad’s joke, as even I found it offensive. That’s how bad he gets.] That might wake them up a bit…