I am sure every parent helping their child battle an ED goes through a journey themselves. I have learned as much about myself as L. Watching her struggle has taught me that finding peace and contentment is something you have to do right now, not once you’ve lost weight, got a new job, found the right person or the right clothes. That when you say you are going to do something hard, if you don’t do it immediately, you probably won’t do it at all. But also, that it is always worth just keeping going, even when it feels like you are going backwards.
I have also learned about my crippling self criticism and how toxic it is, to me and those around me. If I believe in healthy self esteem and confidence, especially for young women, I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. While I haven’t yet taken to tweeting how great I am or how good I look today, nor do I indulge in fat talk or failure talk. I look ok, I am good enough. I regret times when my self esteem was so low I found it hard to leave the house, unless camouflaged in work clothes. Sometimes, L and K would appear like teenage Trinny and Susannah, suggesting outfits and being encouraging. I regret most of all what messages that must have given them, although K is a young woman who genuinely doesn’t give a f**k what people think, having once worn a dressing gown as a cardigan on a shopping trip. (Yes, honey, I know it was knitted, so it’s not that big a deal). But I am not going to beat myself up about this – having experienced depression and anxiety, while L might have the same genetic tendencies or the same way of thinking, at least I understand her. I know the scary place she is in sometime. I have the street map and together we will find a way out.
I have also stopped blaming myself for the end of my marriage and have finally realised that actually, my three children probably never blamed me either. After yet another unpleasant exchange with my ex husband in which his inappropriate behaviour was explained away by his having been a Good Bloke and yet his wife had the temerity to fall in love with someone else, I lost it. I told him his children, who were the ones most hurt by his inappropriate behaviour, didn’t give a stuff about our ten year old marriage break up any more, that they were tired of his excuses and that no strong relationship is based on self pity and passive aggression. Harsh words, but so needed. I have spent years feeling guilty and as if I have to make everything ok. I have watched L and the others trying to make her Dad happy to make up for his great hurt. C and I have sat in silence as my ex husband visited our home three times a day to see his children, rather than suggesting he take them out or cook a meal for them in his own kitchen or see them in his own house. Guilt is corrosive and wears you out. I am giving it up for Lent. For every Lent, and all the time inbetween too.