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Eating disorder recovery, like gardening, is most definitely a labor of love.
And while I’ve been gardening as long as I can remember (although when I was younger, I absolutely detested those summers in the “country” toiling, weeding and watering; the only salvation was my G-Ma’s raspberry pies- and oh, how we grumbled and complained! Such indentured servants to the land we were; little did we know the lessons being planted early on by our wiser parental-elder units indeed!) with digging and transplanting in country soil, urban community plots, studio rooftop gardens, CSA worker-share’s- you name the place, I’ve always found a way, even on a low budget, to squeeze something beneficial, tasty and aesthetically pleasing into the ground our family happened to be living on top of.
With only two years passing since our daughter was diagnosed with anorexia, there are many things we are still learning together about this illness and how to best tend-cultivate to our daughter’s support and recovery. But we have definitely learned so much since she was diagnosed, what works, what definitely doesn’t, when to move on, regroup/restrategize, and also when to let things be, step back, and also knowing when to step back in when needed. Quite like tending to a garden plot I’d say.
And I can’t but think as I’m scrambling to let the frittata cool, get the gazpacho out, toss the pasta with fresh tomatoes from the garden… we have ten or twenty arriving? ugh! Hubby’s tending the proverbial flame to finish the tandoori chicken and burgers- that some of the best lessons are learned from the garden.
For the garden of your daily living, plant three rows of peas:
- Peas of mind
- Peas of heart
- Peas of soul
Plant four rows of squash:
- Squash gossip
- Squash indifference
- Squash grumbling
- Squash selfishness
Plant four rows of lettuce:
- Lettuce be faithful
- Lettuce be kind
- Lettuce be patient
- Lettuce really love one another
No garden is without turnips:
- Turnips for meetings
- Turnips for service
- Turnips to help one another
To conclude our garden, one must have thyme:
- Thyme for each other
- Thyme for family
- Thyme for friends
Have a wonderful and abundant Labor Day!
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield
but to be my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved
but hope for patience to own my freedom.
“Heinasirkka-heinasirkka mene taalta hiiteen!”
(Grasshopper-grasshopper go away!)
Having Finnish ancestral blood-lines, we take this man-made legend with both some celebratory flare as well as good-natured humor. Though when I was growing up, St Urho was presented more as a fact– I actually believed there was a real St Urho chasing those grasshoppers out of the vineyards!
And I do remember drinking the grape juice (now we’ve switched to framboise) having bowls of fish soup (not too memorable taste-wise, but I’ve revised this recipe accordingly throughout the years) wearing something purple, and having a sense of pride in our family’s heritage (rarely did anyone I know growing up have any idea about Finnish culture, let alone being a fellow Finn) ; and how my great-grandparents came to the US, fleeing Soviet conflict to make a better life imbued with “Sisu“ strength. Imagine too, to my surprise and sense of fellow-kinship when I found out one of my teacher’s was also Finnish and knew this St Urho character, even going so far as to wear the green (representing the grape leaves) and purple and taking the time during chemistry class to shed a little cultural legend to the day!
So you may be wondering what I’m going on about… what does this have to do with eating disorders, has this woman lost her mind completely, gone off on a tangent of sorts? Well yes, and no…
Our daughter has been battling anorexia nervosa since last year, and as most families with young adolescents struggling with ED know- -it’s definitely a challenge, sometimes requiring every last reserve, every ounce of your sanity, energy, finances, etc. to help pull your child through the black hole of this life-threatening illness towards supporting, loving and helping them find their way back to Life, to Hope and Healing. And it is possible for your child to find their way back towards full recovery, in whatever form that may take that fully supports, treats and assists your child and family best to getting the best care possible.
Many times as parents when confronted with the diagnosis of an eating disorder, after we clear the fog of our own lack of knowledge having not experienced the illness first hand, and then educating ourselves, we may also feel conflicted by all the advice of those while well-meaning, or touting as “experts”cannot ultimately speak for our individual circumstances and personal family needs, preferences, values and choices. And as parents, we have the right to make those fully-informed decisions knowing our child best, and not feeling coerced, manipulated, brow-beaten or given endless heavy-handed black/white-right/wrong ways of fighting this illness and finding the best treatment options for our child– whatever it takes. You, as the parent, will know what is best for your child and should not have to feel guilty or at fault, or having failed , or less of a parent in any way for your choices towards making treatment possible and suiting your individual childs’ needs as well as that of your family.
However, not making a decision or acting towards taking a stand against your childs’ eating disorder/illness will only dig that black hole even deeper, and really no one suffering with this illness or their families should be alone in finding help and the care they deserve. There is help, support and resources available, but since eating disorders are still relatively incoherently and inconsistently treated, and in many instances not adequately covered by insurance for long-term outpatient treatment/services, let alone intensive residential treatment options when necessary, we as parents must take a stand, advocate for our children (and ultimately all those suffering from an eating disorder) and be the “squeaky wheel” in our child’s treatment plan.
Even when your child is at a “safe” stage within his/her recovery, as parents we know there is no looking back– our lives have profoundly changed, ED is not a welcome guest, yet at your childs’ most vulnerable moments, the disorder will work so damn hard at trying to stay and undermine progress– Health and Recovery. Recovery takes time, patience and perseverance. It requires us as parents to listen, be present, and support our children yet also allowing them to take ownership of this process without being left on their own, and with ED’s it’s a complex balancing act because we love our children and want to keep them safe, but at the same time cannot force the process on our terms, or by what we feel when they are feeling something completely other– recovery does have to be ultimately theirs, they will own it, and feel the triumph of success everytime ED rears it’s ugly head and they can face these challenges with courage, resilience and continued strength. Slowly dismantling this pernicious illness, as Lee Wolfe Blum pointedly states: “protect your recovery”…. like the patron St Urho, chasing after either the original mythical frogs or later the grasshoppers; I think there are a couple of translations that have the word “hell” added to the chant.
We Finns celebrate this day every year at this time in March, (some corners of the globe even have a dance ritual they gather together to enjoy– very interesting!) but this year something about St Urho’s Day brought an even more striking meaning to me personally with his image holding up the trident with a captured grasshopper, I was instantly struck by the power of this statue/image minus the grasshopper(s): “ED- ED, get the hell out!”
-May the spirit of this St Urho’s Day be with you all!
Does this sound familiar?
“It’s nearly always easier to relate to someone who’s been through it than a so-called expert who may have clinical or scientific knowledge but not real experience.”
“ADHD - _____ (substitute any subcategory of an eating disorder in here) is a real condition… It’s not laziness or bad parenting… When it’s carefully diagnosed the problems are quite serious, and the effects on ones life can be devastating.”
“There are so many qualities that come along with ADHD: intelligence, high energy, the ability to accomplish a lot, creativity, passion for cause, innovativeness, trustworthiness, etc. But the trick is you have to learn how to live with it and harness it. It is a difference. Realize you have lots of company.”
College freshman, BlakeTaylor has written an earnest and significant memoir: ADHD & Me: What I Learned from Lighting Fires at the Dinner Table (Laura, how about some gold forks and fire at the Dinner Table?) and his story is testament to living a life to its fullest despite some definite challenges and changes along the way.
There’s a poignant evolution in language, terminology- 1902- “Morbid Defect of Moral Control”* 1968- “Hyper-kinetic Reaction of Childhood”* 1980- Attention Deficit Disorder* 1990- ADD- and awareness that has taken place over the past hundred-plus years which, similar to Eating Disorders, has also expanded studies and research broadening the level of understanding Attention Deficit Disorder has arrived at today. But as within eating disorders, the labeling and categorizing hasn’t critically changed perceptions and stereotypes that still pervade within society, or within extensivley improving treatment strategies for these disorders which have profound impact upon an individuals development, quality of life, and effects within the entire family.
Mr Taylor states that he didn’t set out to write a book, and from accounts, it appears his story is a first within an autobiographical narrative living with ADHD. On that end, eating disorders has a bit of an edge with various self-help books, and courageous personal stories of recovery: Carrie Arnold’s Next To Nothing, Nadia Shivali’s Inside Out among many others; although the male voice is not equally as strong or heard on this end currently.
I think what’s incredibly powerful and uniting is the message of “encouraging people to get the support and help they need” that Mr Taylor emphasizes, as too the many who have recovered from an eating disorder state over and over again- you don’t have to do this alone, and YOU CAN DO IT! Blake’s mother, Nadine, shares another message many parents who help their children battle an eating disorder know all to well also: advocating for your loved one.
Congratulations Blake Taylor for your courage, honest words, and changing minds regarding living a kick-ass life with ADHD- I wish you the best towards your degree in molecular/cell biology, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your future writings on various genres soon. I also extend kudos to all the brave and resilient voices who have written about their journey through recovery from an eating disorder, and hope those who might feel isolated or uncertain where to turn for support, find strength and encouragement through amazing individuals such as these.
It’s a day filled with LOVE-
Voltaire wrote: Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination which is such an eloquent phrase, and so affecting to me having a daughter who is courageously challenging her anorexia- and winning back (embroidering) her true self each day.
Those of us with a child, family member, and/or friend who are suffering with an eating disorder know we have to be both Head & Heart for our loved ones; it’s a duality that few seem to have the discernment and wisdom to forewarn us about on this journey to wholeness and health. Most in the medical community still keep us at arms-length when it comes to offering up the most humane, balanced and adequately researched strategies to implement within supporting our loved ones that emphasize such an expanded “imagination” or creativity that not only empowers the sufferer, but works towards healing the entire family/support network of the sufferer- metaphorically this would require the most sophisticated embroidery needle and elevated imagination that can stitch a warm, comforting Love quilt for anyone to find shelter, solace, comfort and wisdom (and most likely made with fleece).
I also think it’s imperative, absolutely crucial to Love thyself unconditionally, and that dear friends, includes the parents, the extended family members, friends, etc.- your entire collective clan, blood-linked and other surrogate compassionate souls- Tending & Befriending- embracing life as it stands, even making peace with pain, uncertainty and discomfort; all of which we most certainly are no stranger to.
So on this Valentine’s Day I wish for all of you to embrace yourselves, your loved ones with the deepest sense of honor, open-heartedness, self-acceptance and Love-
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your
love and affection.”
Extremely tragic news of a mother who “believed there was no hope” for her daughter who was suffering from anorexia and depression, which ironically she herself began battling around the same age- but seemed to be particularly well hidden from the rest of the family’s awareness- ends in the death of a promising young life.
Families, parents, and sufferers affected by disordered eating and self-starvation need and deserve compassion, effective treatment, and ongoing support. Public awareness, insurance coverage and access to quality care, along with early intervention are still what we all need to keep pushing for so that HOPE becomes reality; and lives can be restored.