Fotolia

8 Things Recovering From An Eating Disorder Taught Me About Motherhood

By
Share
Ad failed to load

There's an adage about adulthood that goes something like, "You spend your adult years unlearning all the trauma you faced as a kid." Trauma is something that's not easily definable, but you know when you've experienced it. You feel trauma in your gut. I knew my eating disorder wreaked havoc on my body, soul, and psyche, but I had no idea that its discrete edges would shape my life after I recovered from anorexia and bulimia. The things recovering from an eating disorder taught me about motherhood, as I endeavor to become a mom, have given me surprising courage in a time that's fraught with challenges and joy (I'm talking about parenting here, people, as this is what I've heard about the whole mom thing).

It's difficult to write about my eating disorder. Now that I'm managing my recovery, something I'll be doing for the rest of my life, I no longer feel like the trauma of disordered eating consumes my every thought. I actually feel something that's quite the opposite. I feel responsible to other girls and women struggling with issues about their bodies and/or themselves, and want to make sure I don't glamorize or fetishize those unhealthy things I did to myself the first time, when I hit puberty, and then again after suffering an unendurable betrayal and breakup. When I was sick I would search the internet (and in the early days, the library for books) about stories of other women starving themselves. Their disease provided a roadmap, and often gave me ideas on how to starve, binge, and purge that I hadn't thought of on my own.

So you won't find those details of my illness. Suffice to say, I was sick, and I'm not alone in this particular sickness. According to Parenting, there are more than 5 million Americans who have a clinical eating disorder, which means their symptoms meet the medical criteria. Think about all the people who have fraught relationships with food, their bodies, and the axis of control that moderates disordered eating. Of course, part of that population includes mothers. Research on the children of parents with eating disorders has only recently emerged, according to the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. There's much to consider: is passing disordered eating onto your kid genetic? How do you moderate issues of feeding, eating, weight, and exercise when you're raising a child as a mother recovering from an eating disorder? This topic is rich for mining, and you better believe I'm found my next project. However, for now and because I feel confident in my recovery, I'm going to take inventory of all the ways that recovery can prepare me for motherhood. Hopefully much of this resonates, and this is only the beginning of the discussion.

Ad failed to load

Recovery Is All About Process

giphy

There's no, "A-ha" moment when you begin your recovery, or at least that's what it was like for me. In fact, I went in and out of recovery for 15 years, and there's no guarantee that I won't relapse into disordered eating again. Like a lot of women I know who've struggled with disordered eating, it wasn't like one day I woke up and said, "Today's the day I'm going to get better."

Having said that, there were plenty of moments I felt shifts towards healing. Those little moments accumulate, and, well, that's when personal growth can happen. Recovering from an eating disorder taught me patience (I hear that's kinda important as a mom). I learned not to expect miracles overnight. I learned to respect the process.

Strive For Progress, Not Perfection

giphy

This adage plays out in life, not just in recovery (or motherhood, for that matter). Because so much of my eating disorder came from disillusion that I had to be better than I was, I fetishized the idea of perfection. However, thinness was always beyond my reach because, well, you could always be thinner, and thinner equalled better; even though being the best was elusive. That's the ugliness of the disease.

What's scary is that perfectionism in this context is deadly, but it's also a message that gets played out to kids in everyday life. How am I going to break the cycle? TED speaker, activist and general badass, Reshma Saujani teaches girls bravery not perfection. Following her lead, I think is a good place to start. For someone recovering from perfectionism, striving for progress is a challenge and it's one I know I need to impart to my future child. Because I want better for him or her.

Recovery, Like Motherhood, Looks Different For Everyone

giphy

Eating disorders do not discriminate. Writer, poet, and activist, Caroline Rothstein chronicled the stories of eating disorder recovery and survival for Buzzfeed from 17 people (men and women). My story is in there. Read this, and you will see that there's no one way to recover, but there are common threads when you realize your life isn't overtaken by the trauma of this disease. For me, this means being in the moment, feeling present and alive. I hear that's something that can make you an awesome parent. Why? Because it makes you an awesome human.

Ad failed to load

Journeys Of Survival Are Personal, And Political

giphy

Like I said before, having navigated the terrains of disordered eating, I know how the mind of someone who's sick might work, and that's why I want to be responsible in sharing my story of anorexia and bulimia. My survival is personal. I mean, how could it not be? But it's also political — because being political means being a part of the public, where you care about your community. I hope knowing this will make me a better mom, and a better citizen of the human race.

There's Comfort In Knowing You're Not Alone

giphy

Motherhood can be isolating, or so wrote Margaret E. Jacobsen for Romper. You're in this new life and it's tempting to feel disconnected from your former self. But you're you, and recovery has taught me that self-integration is key to living a happy, trauma-free life.

Self-Care Is Essential (So Make It Happen)

giphy

Self-care is essential to being a human, but also to being a mother. When you're in recovery from disordered eating, it's so important to be good to yourself, because, let me say it again: disordered eating is a trauma. It's a mental illness. According to Janet Whitney, a counselor with over 30 years experience in treating eating disorders, an the Eating Disorder Program Director at Sovereign Health in California, "Someone passes away every 62 minutes from an eating disorder." In fact, she tells me, disordered eating has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

Armed with this info, I don't ever want to minimize my recovery. That's why I make self-care an integral part of my life. That cannot, and will not, go out the window when I'm a mother.

Ad failed to load

There's No Room For Shame

giphy

Moms shame other moms all the time, and for ridiculous things. You and I both know that mom-shaming has to stop. However, for me, it's particularly important because secrecy fostered so much of my disordered eating. Of course this was disillusioned thinking. While I was hiding my unhealthy habits out of shame, my body told another story.

Learning not to be ashamed of my eating disorder is crucial to my recovery. That's why it's so important that I write this. If you are in recovery, you know what I mean. So, let's ditch the shame together, OK?

Stay Confident In Your Recovery

giphy

Piggybacking on the last point, it's not only crucial to avoid feeling ashamed of my eating disordered past for my recovery, I want to set a positive example for my future child. I want to show that I'm confident in my recovery, and that it's OK to be flawed, and come from a flawed or "imperfect" past. Moms shouldn't have to be perfect. In fact, it's that very thinking that sent me down the rabbit hole of my disease.

So, I'm proud of my recovery, and although I haven't figured out how to share it with my future child just yet, I will. I must.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack