Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Shout Out to the Parents

February is Eating Order Awareness Month.  It is not lost on me, as I am sure it is not on any African American contemplating Black History Month, that ED gets the shortest month of the year.  Even the color that is assigned to it is shared - it stands for everything from cancer awareness to anti-animal cruelty to eating disorder awareness.  I support all those things, so I suppose I can wear it on behalf of everything it's associated with.  However, at least ED awareness has a month and a colored ribbon, so I guess that is better than it being ignored altogether.  I don't know how long February has carried this designation really.  I tried to research it, but didn't come up with an answer.  I know that when I was in the middle of the pitched battle with The Beast, I was unaware of it.  I wouldn't have cared if I'd known really.  I was too busy 24/7/365 just trying to stave off the disease that enveloped my children to worry about whether society in general carved out 28 days out of the year to focus on it.   But, I do think there is more attention on the disease (and not just because of Demi Moore) now than there was a decade ago, and that's a good thing.  Not because it's exciting that it is such a prevalent disease that it is garnering this kind of attention, but good that the individuals suffering from it and their family members can feel a little better about coming forward and getting help.

I have been in contact lately with some other mothers whose kids have or are suffering with either bulimia or anorexia.  Their stories sound achingly familiar, but one thing I've heard more than once:  I felt/feel so alone.  I was thinking about that even before those conversations because I had agreed to do something during Eating Disorder Awareness Week (the last week of the month) that coincides with NEDA's theme for this year, which is Everybody Knows Somebody, and that took me back down memory lane to our early days as a family trying to come to grips with what was happening.  Mainly because I didn't feel like I knew anybody or had anywhere to turn at first.

For anyone who has followed this blog for a long while, you know we admittedly did not do a very good job initially of helping our children.  Speaking just for myself, I never reached a level of perfection - obviously - in trying to support my children through their eating issues and addictions.  I've been openly critical of myself and other parents like me who live in a state of denial or self-absorption.  But, here's the thing that struck me as I was thinking about all of this the other day: it wasn't particularly easy a decade ago to get answers or find help.  I have written about that some.  I know I've told the story of the horrible doctor I took Kelsey to at one point.  His ignorance was only matched by his callousness, and I really cannot say it any kinder than that.

There were others we came across that were much more sincere in their desire to help, but had no training or familiarity with the disease.  I credit the crisis counselor at the high school with forcing me to have the original wake up call that there was something more serious going on with Kelsey than simple teenage angst.  He would later be instrumental in helping Marissa.  He was kind, compassionate and overly emphatic, (I always marveled that he could do his job without suffering major depressive issues of his own because he was so easily moved by the students; if you began to cry in his presence, it was a pretty safe bet he would as well) but he, by his own admission, knew nothing about eating disorders.  And, again by his own admission, that particular high school was rife with young girls suffering from some form of eating issue, being that it was the magnet school for gymnastics in the district.  As I learned about it, I would feed him information and took him reading materials.  I offered to speak to other parents so they could get a better sense of what they were facing and what to expect from insurance carriers, health care professionals and their own kids.  No one ever called.  Ten years ago there was a lot of shame involved with the disease, it would seem.  Social media has broken through that a little, I hope.  At the time, I was too wrapped up in what was happening in my own family to really think about the larger issue, which is how in the world can a school administration ignore the fact that there is a need to address this issue and not have some training at the very least for their counselors and nurse, if not the staff as a whole?!  Again, I was met with ignorance only matched by gross callousness when dealing with the school administration.  For educators, they were in many ways very uneducated, and I really cannot say it any kinder than that.

What we were left with was the hit and miss, trial and error, one step forward, ten steps back process that we ended up following over the next nine years.  But, I realized the other day that, as many mistakes as I made, I did plow forward.  I did make a sincere effort to steer my daughters free of their obstacles.  There are a lot of parents out there just like me.  Some have lost their sons or daughters like I have.  Others have seen their offspring win the fight and go on to happier lives.  Others are in the trenches still.  As critical as I have been, I should cut all of us some slack and give all of us our props, win, lose or draw, for at least fighting the battle with the often inadequate tools we had at our disposal.  It may not be as lonely out there as it was ten years ago, but it is just as scary because the stakes, the lives of our children, are just as high.

No comments:

Post a Comment