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Vrishabha- the sacred bull of Lord Shiva… or more widely known- Taurus, the Bull reigns this month of May.  Our daughter turns 14 on this May 20th, and she definitely characterizes the nature of the bold, loyal, and very stubborn Taurus!

Before being diagnosed with Anorexia, birthday’s had always been a festive and richly tasting  affair.  And while we’ll continue partaking in this annual delight, it’s still a bit difficult for her to freely enjoy what never took a second guess years past.  She’s committed to challenging herself, though there are days she’s not too happy to do so, and will boldly (envision the Taurus with plumes of smoke flaring from nostrils!) make that clear– well, what were you like at 14, minus an eating disorder? 

I’m forever grateful to those who also remain equally, if not at times more, committed to helping support our daughter in keeping focus upon her recovery.  Recovery is not easy for sufferers, and parents still get  bawked a’ plenty and treated with disdain, misjudgment, and left to the side when there requires a much more encompassing circle to complete for true healing and whole-ness to take place.  And dualistically, sufferers also need their own space, their own pace to regain their true Selves back once nutritionally and weight stabilized– this requires alot of Love, patience, perseverance and sometimes a compassionately coordinated “team” all working together.  It makes me think of the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and the use of “a two-handed practice”:

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I can sit in my predicament as a witness, not as a plaintiff or judge: ‘Here I am in this situation and I sit squarely in it and breathe into it.  At the same time, I am aware that I can handle this and get through it without becoming devastated.  I can trust my competence neither to become dramatically overwhelmed nor to be stoically untouched.  This sense of competence frees me from fear, since fear thrives on powerlessness.  I imagine myself holding my predicament in one hand and my power to work with it in the other.  One hand is serenely mindful; one is courageously working.  When I hold both realities this way, I am agreeable to things as they are, and I am doing all I can to change them for the better as well.”   -D. Richo 

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This resonates with me deeply as a parent and the complexities illnesses like eating disorders present to us.  Now if only we can collectively and universally have provided the very best in evidence-based, highest standard of quality care of treating eating disorders and supporting families in such a comprehensively and equally accessible manner– that would be my wish!

Our daughter has many “wishes” and dreams she wants to pursue.  We simply want to wish her a very Happy Birthday, happy 14th Year, to continued Health and vitality… and to a courageous healthy-stubborn side that can be an anchor for her when difficulties and stress arise.  Knowing she can reach out and ask for help, she’s worth every ounce of her hard work on the road to recovery she has traveled thus far, and that we Love her very, very much!

-XOXO Mom*Dad*Big’Sis

 

This is a day of promise –
Of hopefulness, laughter, and cheer,
For this is a day of remembering
The good things that happened all year –
A day for reflecting on memories
Shared with friends and with family, too,
Who were so much a part
of the joys in your heart
And the love that you felt
all year through-
This is a day of promise
Of the beauty and warmth life can hold,
And of new dreams to dream
and more love to share
Through a year that’s about to unfold.

-Emily Matthews

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holi

This month is such a busy month… I’m very blessed and so very happy that I’ve sold two paintings (not current work, but nonetheless- yeah!) and it was a carefree act on my end, thinking nothing would move someone to be so compelled for work that honestly doesn’t resonate for me personally right now– but all good!

Easter was nice, we are a culturally diverse family (hubby from India) so we partake in other various festivals and events, Holi (see above) being one this month too– my birthday is coming up (not telling how many candles- tsk!) and having our daughter home from residential after nearly three months of treatment is no light lot.

I love spring! New green shoots pushing forth from the ground– and the snow is finally melting here- yippee! New life, new beginnings… change.

And while our daughter is definitely on her road to recovery, this is not a easy road for her to travel– she still needs lots of love, encouragement and support.  She is also quite young, so the decision to “just do it” and fully connect both physically and intellectually to what has taken place over the past year is not all there for her to wade through and have immediate light-bulb moments and decide that today is the day she knows ED is behind her- for good.  She herself has openly admitted she “is not ready” to say ado to her tango with ED– not yet.

She has however been slowly “emptying” and “letting go” of ED– one day at a time.  A deep breath in and a very long exhale out…

“What will become of me if I let go of my eating disorder?”

“How many times have you tried to let go by hanging on?”

It doesn’t work…  and it doesn’t happen all at once.  One day, one step, one mouthful at a time.

Our daughter did something incredibly powerful a few weeks back.  She wrote a “good-bye” letter to ED and she opened herself up to share this moving note:

         ED,

      I need to leave you.  You have made me do some relapses and only made me think about shapes, sizes or weights.  I feel really bad for leaving you but it’s the only way I can stay on the path of recovery and be able to achieve my goals in life.  I will miss you a lot. 

You have helped clear my feeling of stress out and do something that makes me feel comfortable (restrict).  You have really hurt me.  My friends and family have been here supporting me, and it seems that you want to shove my parents away.  You also have not made me be able to hang out with my friends and then just isolate. 

ED, I plan to take care of myself and to listen to myself more than YOU.  I plan to become a ballet dancer and veterinarian, and enjoy my life and live my dreams.  You may come back to me when I look into the mirror but I won’t let you take my passions away.

                        Good-bye ED-

Indeed.  With the snow continuing to melt, the extended light of the days and the darkness of winter slowly turning more and more towards spring, I feel a renewed sense of Hope and Strength for our daughter’s continued striving forward towards full health, full Life.  There will be days, as there already are, that will challenge and the proverbial two steps forward, three-five steps back… but she’ll get there and we’re all right there behind her cheering her on!

Happy Spring- Happy Holi-Hai!

 

birds

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.

-Rabindranath Tagore

-Sarvamangalam!

St Urho                     

“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!

NEDAW         So many great happenings during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2008 – hope everyone is able to partake in some NEDAW events in your corresponding local areas.  This year’s theme,  much like last year’s,  is still quite pivotal and we can all do our share to spread awareness,  gently and compassionately encourage those who need support and treatment to take those vital initial steps with our love and backing.

Reach out, celebrate all our diverse shapes and sizes, EMBRACE each other, and share our stories- spread the word, be heard, dispel misconceptions and myths that still surround eating disorders and those that suffer- change can happen even with the simplest and smallest of steps!

Laura Collins, as always, an incredible inspiration, advocate, and Mom has posted some great commentary on the Congressional Briefing for the Eating Disorders Coalition with Dr Cynthia Bulik’s wisdom- Power to the People!

 XO

The news of UNC’s study has been bustling about, but it’s worth posting this fine gem of a quote from senior author and director of UNC’s Eating Disorders Program, Dr Cynthia Bulik: “even a nugget of accurate biological information can influence how health care professionals preceive the illness” -and similarly can change the perceptions of others as well.

Nuggets of Information- Boulders of Truth… “POW!”

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