In this podcast, Tabitha Farrar talks to an adult in recovery from anorexia who has young children. We talk about things children pick up on, dealing with children when you are going through recovery stress, and ways of talking to young children about eating disorders.
(If you have an inspiring recovery story to share, please feel free to contact me!)
Thank you to Marie for the following transcript!
The Eating Disorder Recovery Podcast Recovery Stories: Recovery with Kids 2nd March Tabitha: Hello, in today's podcast we've got a short recovery story. This person is still in recovery, this person is not recovered but I just thought this was a nice thing to share. That's my only reason for publishing this as a podcast. This is very real in recovery, right now, what's going on. This person has children and I don't, so I've never really dealt with kids and recovery. That's probably a good thing knowing me. I am so impatient, I was so impatient I was horrible. I can't imagine having to look after children when I was going through that. So it's a good job that I didn't and the world is probably a happier place because I didn't have kids. But I know that plenty of you do and I know that plenty of you get a bit stuck in that 'this is so much harder because I've also got children' So here's a little bit of an upside to having kids, for this person anyway. Here's our conversation: Parent: I don't have specific memories of the very first time I used behaviours but, it just sort of progressed really fast and I wasn't binging a whole lot. I had both anorexia and bulimia. And it was very hidden, I wore baggy clothes it wasn't that obvious. People made comments like 'more baggy clothes?' and I looked like someone who might have an eating disorder because of the way I dressed. So I finally had to tell my mum because I was so scared because I almost passed out, I was getting really light headed at school and one night I just couldn't get out of bed. I had no energy, so I finally told my parents. My mum was like 'oh my goodness, why didn't I see the signs?' the first thing my dad said was 'how could you do this when all we've done is love you?' So that was kind of heartbreaking, that was when I was 17. So I started doing outpatients treatment. Once a week I'd get pulled out of school to go and do that. I would say, really quickly I stopped the behaviours but I started using alcohol and other things to just continue to cope instead of really get better. And the eating disorder counsellor I was going to was an older man who had never experienced an eating disorder before and now looking back I can not believe some of the things he did that he thought would help someone with this disorder. It was obvious that he didn't get it. So I left that, I finally phased out of that and I didn't have any ongoing support or therapy. I basically now will say it was remission that I went into for a number of years. I was at a healthy weight, I'm not sure if it was my set point or not. I was eating, but I had always restricted certain food groups because they were fear foods. So I moved to Texas and that's where I met my husband and I started immediately having children. I was totally fine, I was probably at my healthiest mentally during my pregnancies and then after I had my third, I just spiralled. I trained for a half marathon and a couple of pounds came off and I was like sweet and it just snowballed from there. It just completely went out of control and the last six years have been a battle. Now I'm in California, we moved here about five months ago and I'm trying to recover all on my own for the most part. It's the absolute hardest thing I've ever done. I've got three children, my oldest is 12, my middle is about to turn 11 and my youngest is 7 and I home school. So having this disorder and trying to take care of the kids and act like I'm OK and I'm really good at preaching to them about what's important and what matters and how to be healthy. All that stuff, but in the meantime I'm treading water half the time. So yeah, that's my story but I'd have to say, this last 6 years I've spiralled maybe even more so than when I was 17. And I'm just realising that I'd never fully recovered. T: I think that's a tough realisation for a lot of adults. I talk to a lot of people who have that realisation. 'Oh I never got completely better, that was the problem' P: Exactly and then just realising that I don't want to go back to the person that I was before this last 6 years, because that's what lead me to this. I want to, I feel like for the first time in my life I want to beat this disorder. And I'm trying to figure out who the hell I am underneath all this. Because this is what I've lived with my whole life. So I don't even know who I am. I'm going to be 38 this year and I don't know who I am with out this. T: I think you should be pretty pleasantly surprised. P: I know. (laughs) T: I've not met many people who haven't been pleasantly surprised by who they are without anorexia. None actually. So you've been recovering with children. What would you say have been the plus points and the difficulties of that? P: Well I would say I have been really open lately with my daughter who's almost 13. I told her what I'd struggled with my entire life about a year or so ago and then in the past couple of weeks we started talking about it again because I could tell she knew something was going on. So I just have been really open with her as she's pretty mature and she inspires me to be better. She came up to me the other day and said 'mum you were upset, I want to know what's going on with you. I want you to be healthy'. So she is amazing, she motivates me, she is a very active kid she is very intuitive eater. And she checks on me, she is a sweetheart and she wants her mum to be OK so that part of it is great. My younger two, I haven't really discussed with them because I don't know if they are at the stage where they can really grasp what it is. T: But you've actually found that talking to you oldest daughter about this has been helpful and in a way, helping you with some accountability it sounds like? P: Yes, because I think it would be worse because she is at an age where she is going to start noticing some behaviours or some things that I do that are a little different or questionable and I would rather than me acting like nothing's wrong with me or I'm just perfect, I don't want her to question things like internally. And think, 'why doesn't mum eat the same thing we do for dinner?' 'what's she upset about?' or 'what's going on with her?' Because she did tell me, 'sometimes I just wonder if you're mad' T: Right because dinner times are often times we are stressed and you can be really angry and that must be, I've never thought about it before because I don't have children and I was pretty much on my own at that part of the recovery process initially. I sure as hell got angry at my parents even though I didn't even live with them. (laughs) Due to my recovery stress, I was so impatient and intolerant. The biggest thing was impatience with other people as well. SO I can't imagine having children. Because you have to be patient when you have children I guess? P: Oh my goodness, girl I've called my husband before like I'm barely treading water here and I'm trying to put out all these fires with the kids and in the meantime the biggest fire is burning right here and no ones here helping me. You just sort of feel like you're giving all the time and nobody really cares about you. And you've got all this stuff going on and it's so I do, I want to run and hide under the covers some days and just not get out of bed and be left alone. But it also I think for me be even worse at this point if I didn't have to wake up and get going and do stuff and be present for them because I isolate in general. T: You've got a responsibility to recover for your little girl who you've told you are going to recover. P: Yes T: You now have that responsibility and I'm a big fan of accountability in whatever form or shape it can take and in a sense I think we all have different recovery situations and as adults you may not have the perfect situation where you have a treatment team and all of these things and even people that know they are helping you in recovery. But you can build your own recovery support network. Even with people and children that don't even know that they are your recovery support network and your accountability and playing a part in what you're doing. I think that's really cool. P: Yes, it's turned out to be very cool and I've told my daughter that. I've said, I never question why I was given you specifically as a daughter, it's just the way she has been so gentle and tender towards me during this whole process, it's just been amazing. T: That is amazing. P: Yes. T: Go her! So how old is she? P: She will be 13 in April. I recognise that I could pass on some genetics stuff to my children so I just have to be really aware of how I'm handling things with them. T: Yes and that's fabulous as well. So that was this persons story and I just thought it was a really nice little story about how unexpected sources of support can be sources of support. Like children. People who don't even know that they are a source of support. Now does that mean that if you're in recovery that you should solely rely on your 13 year old children to support you in recovery? No, no no no, that's not what we are saying. But we are saying that when you're in recovery, all the help you can get is a good thing. So alongside that professional support, that higher level support you have hopefully got. You can have all sorts of lower level support and that can be people who don't even know that they are supporting you. I never had children but I did have one friend in particular who we never talked about my anorexia but I actually used him as meal support and he was massively helpful and he didn't even know it. Of course you can have people who know they are support you, friends, family and online people such as peer support. Really you can look all around your life and find some form of support when you are in recovery to help you get through all those moments in the week when you're not in that professional office, which is the majority of them. So the more support you can have in your homes, in your works, surrounding you. That's going to make a real difference. If you want to share your recovery story you can email me it's firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for listening. Cheers and until next time. Cheerio.