Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Training on Empty: Chapter 22

Chapter 22 – My Mom

“A mother is someone who dreams great dreams for you, but then she lets you chase the dreams you have for yourself and loves you just the same.” – Author Unknown

My mom has always been there for me. She is not only my mother but my best friend, my confidant, and my savior as well. If it weren’t for her, this illness would have killed me long ago. Her take on the whole situation is a powerful one and must be heard. Too often, people assume that anorexia is caused by bad parenting, when in reality it involves far more than parent-child relationships. When I was young, I always believed that I had the best mother in the world. I felt incredibly lucky as a child to have someone I could talk to, a person who did her best to provide love and protection to all her children. In her own words, she states just how complex this disease can be:

In the movie Gone with the Wind, there is a scene where Scarlet stands over the ravaged garden at Tara and swears that she will never be hungry again. Her motto struck a chord with me. As a teenager during World War II, I had experienced years of severe food restrictions and like Scarlet, future survival included feeding the body properly.

And so, when Lize became anorexic I found it difficult to endure with patience that in the land of plenty she was starving herself. From my point of view her determination not to eat related to the theater of the absurd.

The breakthrough toward some understanding of this eating disorder came when I realized it was a compulsion, a compulsion very much like alcohol abuse, drug addiction and other uncontrollable activity such as overtraining or washing hands. Still the depth of the problem and a solution escaped me.

This was compounded by the fact that when Lize entered her anorexia phase, the illness was viewed and treated somewhat differently than it is now. When, all glum and solemn, my husband and I took Lize to various facilities and psychiatrists, we were interviewed and made to confess to intimate details going back to our childhood, all of which made us feel that perhaps we had hastened the crisis and therefore were totally inadequate to participate in her recovery. Although unconvinced that experts were making progress, we accepted the verdict of no interference.

Left to ourselves and without her input we tried to figure out why she had become angry, self-willed, resentful and manipulative. We knew we had our own problems, but to just sit around feeling that some guilt was ours hardly led to a positive attitude on our part.

Fortunately, nowadays, the new approach does not seem to be so one-sided. Treatment includes some give and take. This is a huge step in the right direction because interaction helps to moderate and change what appear as irrevocably fixed ideas and inhospitable states of mind. Even as slowly as these changes take place, they are a part of recovery.

There is nothing wrong, either, in letting interaction go beyond parents into the Small Village metaphor. Anything that may help stimulate the will to get better is useful, for, in the end, the decision to get better comes from within, but it is also tied to a return of feelings that link people together. What is essential is to keep hope alive and follow through.

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