Sharing my eating disorder story with my children
After realizing that many years of what felt like ‘normal’ behavior was really a life deeply rooted in an eating disorder, the realities of the disorder and recovery started to quickly take shape. Initially, I was extremely secretive of my eating disorder and recovery. Shame, guilt, and fear of judgment and misconception were all consuming, and prevented me from feeling comfortable in sharing my story, especially to my children. I was in my forties and still just grasping that story myself.
Finding strength in knowledge
In early recovery, I believed the many common misconceptions about eating disorders – that they are driven by appearance, only the underweight really have an eating disorder, they are a choice, and so on. But, through therapy, some great online resources, and joining the World Eating Disorder Day advocacy effort, I quickly learned the many truths around eating disorders. A better understanding of the eating disorder paved the way for acceptance, and acceptance paved the way for recovery. The ability to start sharing my story with some close family and friends soon followed, but there were two extremely close and important people in my life that I found it more challenging to tell – my daughters.
Secrets are a barrier to recovery
I felt that my daughters, who were 7 and 12 by now, were at a pivotal age in terms of their own perceived body image. I feared that my eating disorder would signal to them that I placed importance on their own body weight and image, or that they should do so. I was also concerned that as they got older and could understand the eating disorder, and its associated habits and mental health challenges, they would feel that their mom was not the person they had known – I was not my true self, authentic and real with them.
A turning point
June Alexander, who I met through involvement in the first World Eating Disorder Day 2016, was the first person that I had talked to that shared a similar eating disorder story. She, too, faced recovery from an eating disorder as a mother. I was able to share with her my concerns about my daughters learning about my eating disorder, and how that news might impact their opinion of me or their perceptions of themselves. She gently reassured and encouraged me to open up to my daughters, in order to allow them the opportunity to be supportive and for me to be supported.
The moment of truth
Sharing the news of my eating disorder and recovery with my daughters has been freeing in many ways. Sharing has helped me to realize that I was defining myself by my eating disorder – and had thought that others would do the same – but my daughters just thought of me as their mom and loved me. I am now reassured by the fact that when we are together, I am giving them my true self. There are no longer any secrets, there is no shame or guilt, and I am open to their questions or curiosities.
On the continuum of my recovery, telling my children about my eating disorder was as important and pivotal as seeking help in the first place. Children are often far more capable of giving us acceptance and forgiveness – lessons that we likely taught them – than we are able to give to ourselves.
Sharing my eating disorder story has taken time, acceptance of myself, trust and courage – and it has enriched my relationships in new and exciting ways. I wish you strength, healing and support as you share your story with those you love.
This Dear Diary post by Diana Beaudet is the fourth in our series focusing on relationships in support of World Eating Disorder Day on June 2, 2017 #WeDoActTogether.
Diana is a senior marketing professional, mental health awareness advocate, and the proud mother of two daughters. After participating as an advocate in the first World Eating Disorders Action Day in 2016, she began collaborating with June to create and manage www.thediaryhealer.com to help others find a safe, supportive and healing environment to stay actively and creatively engaged in recovery.