Note: *This article originally appeared on F.E.A.S.T.'s blog.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for loving me enough to allow me to hate you. Thank you for fighting my battle when I couldn’t or just didn’t want to. Thank you for choosing recovery for me before I could chose it for myself.
To all the parents out there who are in this fight with their child, don’t give up! Don’t wait for your child to choose or want their own recovery because let’s just be honest: it’s not going to happen, and if it eventually does, it might be too late. Don’t let the fear of losing or damaging your child’s love for you keep you from fighting—the love will come back deeper and stronger when they are healthy, alive, and in recovery. It is not your child that hates you; it is the illness that has taken them hostage. Think of their disorder as a person; when your child is yelling, screaming, throwing things, refusing to eat, negotiating meals, whatever it may be, you are not witnessing or dealing with your actual child, you are face-to-face with the personification of their disorder. This hate comes from a losing eating disorder so just remember that the more hate you feel, the better job you are doing. Be more worried when your child likes you because ED must be happy about something. Stand strong and unwavering when you are confronted with the demons and struggles you and your child face every day, every meal.
It is so important to remember that your sick child is not your child. When I was sick, I was not me. Anorexia turned me into a lifeless, vacant, unpleasant, and unloving version of myself. It must be the scariest thing for a parent to look at their child but not actually see them; to just see them disappearing more and more each day, both mind and body. It’s crazy to hear people talk about the way they saw me slowly coming back to life through my weight restoration journey. They tell me how they could see it in my eyes, how they once appeared soulless and empty, but were finally full of the life and personality they always loved again. Keep fighting so you too can experience this with your child.
I always say that my parents have probably put in just as much work for my recovery as I have, especially at the beginning. Recovery is one of the hardest things a person can do, and just simply choosing recovery is even harder. This is why Family-Based Treatment and parent involvement is so crucial in a successful recovery. Just as my parents did, you have to want their recovery before they can want it for themselves, you have to choose their recovery for them before they can choose it for themselves, and you have to be their motivation before they find their own. Recovery is not a simple, linear, or easy journey but it is worth it.
Kinsey was 17 and a senior in high school when she developed anorexia. Thankfully, her family had access to cutting-edge, evidence-based care using family-based treatment and she lost relatively little of her life to the devastation of anorexia. Though the journey was incredibly tough, and required uncomfortable oversight for some time, complete weight restoration and adequate brain healing time gave her freedom and independence for life. Kinsey penned this letter as a recent college graduate about to embark on a several month travel adventure. She has found the most impactful way to pay forward the wonderful care she received is to assure other parents that FBT does not ruin relationships, it saves and strengthens them.