Daddy's little girl has an eating disorder
TRIGGER WARNING: the following material may be triggering for some individuals – please read with caution.
I was always my daddy’s little girl. I would watch Coronation Street and Seinfeld with him on Sunday mornings as a child, and curl up in his lap. I didn’t understand the humor in these shows or why my dad liked them so much but still I sat with him – I didn’t inch for the remote or distract him.
I was 6 when my parents got divorced. And as the three of us sat in our living room, with my mom on one couch with me and my dad on the other, I remember my mom telling my dad what the living arrangements would be like. I was to live with her full-time and only see my dad once every other weekend. Upon hearing this news, I also remember getting off my mom’s lap, walking over to my dad, hopping onto his and stating how that arrangement would simply not do. Instead, I wanted to go back and forth between my mom and my dad every other week. To this day, both my dad and I look back on this memory with pride.
As the years went on, however, my relationship with my dad suffered. Though he always remained there for me, it was for whatever reason, that a divide came between us. The distance that had once been so small grew to the point that neither of us felt we could trust each other. I had my rebellious years where I know I was to blame for many things and no parent is perfect. We each had our faults but what I blame the most for our dwindling relationship is my eating disorder.
In its beginning phases, my dad instantly knew something was wrong. I went to Montreal on a school trip and came back with laxatives. I would come home early from school and raid our refrigerator – even when I told my dad that I had eaten what I did, he still believed that I fed the copious amount of food to our dog. I would go days without packing a lunch for work and school, and then, when I did, he questioned me and convinced himself that I was bringing food for someone else. Whether or not I was being honest with my dad, he had reason to worry and suspect that I was lying to him. Because let’s face it, I had lied to him before. He saw the tell-tale signs of some form of disordered eating but he didn’t know enough about eating disorders to confront me about it. He also didn’t have the support to get me the help I needed at the time that it was most critical. To this day, he’ll tell me that if only he had the support at the time, he would’ve put me into a treatment program when I was still legally a child. He says this as if no inner motivation is required to tackle something as big as recovery. At the time he wanted me to get help, I was in no place mentally or emotionally to even acknowledge that I had an eating disorder, let alone give someone permission to pick my brain and “help” me. But I don’t blame him for overlooking that motivation because he was desperate – a feeling that I’m sure every parent of a child affected by an eating disorder experiences.
It’s sad really. And writing this years later is no easier than it was going through it at the time. The thing about eating disorders is, they make you lie and hide things about yourself that you fear others will see and judge you for. They turn you into a person that acts impulsively. They make you do things that you know are wrong but you do them anyways because, in the grand scheme of things, nothing bad you do is AS BAD as the pain and self-rejection you’re already experiencing. Worst of all, they make you believe that your behaviours and ideations are okay – what you’re doing to yourself is your way of taking ownership of your body and your life, and as long as you’re not hurting anybody, you’re doing nothing wrong. AS IF!
What I failed to recognize, years ago, was how much of a toll my eating disorder was having on my dad. I commend him for doing everything he has – his reactions may not have always been the most appropriate, he may not have always said what I needed to hear, but he always did what he thought was best. And that’s all I could have asked for. He’s gotten counselling and tried to understand me (God help him!) and has made several attempts to talk to me about what I have and continue to go through. And I can only thank him.
I wrote this blog for one particular reason and everything I’ve thus far talked about leads up this moment and significant it was for me – in my life, recovery and relationship with my dad. The other day, I came home from work and found my dad sitting on the couch. Sitting on the stool beside our front door was a book bag from Indigo and, in curiosity, I asked my dad to see what he had purchased. To my surprise, it was a guide for parents with children affected by eating disorders. My heart flooded with all sorts of emotions. Amidst the sadness and pain I felt for my dad, it meant so much that, even after all these years, he hadn’t given up on me and that he was still trying to understand me.
To all parents trying to navigate their child’s eating disorder and recovery, do not give up on trying to support your child. Speaking as one of those children, despite our constant push back, there is a small part of us that is thankful for your continuous support and unconditional love. We know it’s not easy and we know you’re doing the best you can with the tools you have available to you.
To my dad, you’re the only person that has known about my eating disorder before I was willing and even able to acknowledge it myself. There’s a lot more that I can say to you and about you to praise your efforts to help me but I’ll save that for one of my sentimental Christmas or Birthday Cards. Just know that I love you.
Tara Fiodorowicz, a graduate of Humber College’s Mental Heather and Addictions program, is the Blog Coordinator at NEDIC. Still on her journey to recovery, Tara is a firm believer in the power of connection and positive reinforcement in the recovery process and advocates for all who have been affected by mental health and addiction concerns. She is currently trying to pursue a Master’s program and career in Social Work – she wants to explore what it means to recover from an eating disorder and contribute to the field, a perspective that highlights harm reduction and the different avenues to recovery. She wants to contribute to, and develop, the branch of care that enhances quality of life and well-being as it is too, a form of recovery. She is passionate about delivering holistic, client-centered, gender-based, and culturally relevant support to people debilitated by oppressable components of their identity. Contact Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org.