Let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
Wisdom. Webster defines wisdom as accumulated philosophic or scientific learning. My “let it be” wisdom was an accumulation of learning – to detach and let go, to not engage Ed, to not allow myself to get caught in the disease along with my daughter.
For those who haven’t met Ed, allow me to introduce him. Ed is an eating disorder.
Ed’s entry was quiet. He snuck in like a soft blanket surrounding our family and then quietly proceeded to suffocate the happiness out of my daughter. I didn’t realize what was happening until Ed let his presence be known by telling my daughter she had eaten 600 calories for breakfast and she was not to eat for the rest of the day.
It was Christmas Day of 2001. There was a problem and I didn’t know what to do. This was no longer a diet. This was no longer a young lady who wanted to lose a little bit of weight. Let it be? No way. Not today. Let the control begin.
As time progressed and Ed proceeded to take a stronghold on our family, my determination to stop him became a focal point of my daily life. My daughter went through two therapists before she found one that she liked and felt would help her. She stated that this therapist “gets it.” That was good enough for me.
Or was it? Did I trust this newly placed treatment team to guide my daughter through this swamp called an eating disorder? I wasn’t sure.
She had three appointments each week with her therapist, nutritionist and doctor. Yet, I felt I wasn’t seeing any progress. I was impatient. I just wanted my daughter back. I wanted my time back. I wanted to be the one in control, not Ed.
In retrospect, I learned getting into a power struggle with Ed was futile. I never did win. Ed won. Let it be.
When my daughter wasn’t following the meal plan set in place by her nutritionist, I should have “let it be.” My role was not to be the food police. My role was to be her mother and to nurture the daughter I knew who was existing in Ed’s shadow.
Instead, I chose to argue with Ed over what would become a regular verbal exchange with a foe that had no intention of backing down. Instead, I needed to defer to her treatment team and let them know what I was seeing at home.
They were the ones I needed to engage in conversation, not Ed.
My daughter needed my encouragement, strength and to know I loved her no matter what. She also needed my silence. She had no control over what Ed told her to do. Did that also mean that I was not to stand up to Ed when he was verbally abusive? No it did not.
I had to learn to set the appropriate boundaries for myself of what I would tolerate from Ed. Then, it was time to listen to whisper words of wisdom, and let it be. My daughter often told me, I don’t need you to fix this, I need you to listen. Whisper words of wisdom from my daughter, not Ed. Let it be.
It is a fine line parents walk with our loved ones who have an eating disorder – when to stay silent, when to intervene, when to let it be.
After my daughter was in recovery, I realized my role through her disorder was really quite small. My daughter needed to embrace treatment because that is what she wanted. She had to own it. She had to do it for her – not for me, not for her dad. Her dad and I needed to do our own work.
Each time Ed set the stage for a confrontation, I needed to be aware of how my reaction was going to be received. If my reaction was out of guilt to make me feel better, yet did nothing to help my daughter, then I needed to “let it be.”
“What makes eating disorders difficult to overcome without professional help is the insidious way they progressively damage an already impaired self. They ultimately become the person’s identity rather than merely an illness the person experiences.”
I don’t know where I came across that particular definition of an eating disorder, but it’s a good one. We need to see that our loved ones are not their disorder. Personally, my most difficult decisions were usually those that were painful for me, yet they helped my daughter see that her identity was not wrapped in her eating disorder.
Often, those decisions were to remain silent. Silence allowed me to listen, to hear those whisper words of wisdom and let it be.