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Tula Karras

 

When your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder your life changes- permanently.  There is no looking back (though you do, and weep and grieve for the child you once knew and still know lies underneath the ED just waiting to find his/her way back– and they do!) there is no denying the obvious even when this illness can completely blindside and throw you off your center until you fully understand and grapple with its complexity– and even then you can still be utterly perplexed. 

But you take action, keep your son/daughter safe, provide nutritional sustenance, comfort and support.  You find the appropriate medical care, treatment facilities and resources that will help him/her, as well as yourself,  find their way back to health, well being and continuing to work towards their full recovery– however that needs to happen- you just do it.  We’re parents, Moms&Dads, families, grandparents, cousins, all taking those measures and lending a hand because we love each other and want to see those suffering find their way back to their true selves, living their dreams, passions and finding happiness- not perfection- in what gift of our Lives we have been given.  Life is certainly not an easy journey, and growing up, becoming an adult, raising a family, fumbling through difficulties– these are all illuminating lessons to help bring us back to grace and compassion, wisdom and understanding.

Something within my own inner perspective and thinking is having a bit of a snag though.  Maybe because I know how damn hard it is to wrestle with an illness our daughter was diagnosed with over a year ago.  Knowing how hard she has worked to get to where she is now, how much more persistence and vigilance she will continue to have, especially now that she is fully discharged from the eating disorder program she has been intensely involved with for several months, and facing a culture and society that seems to be ironically having increased insecurities, issues and numbers of individuals (especially within older adult populations) with “disordered eating” patterns and behaviors, which to me on the outside look and behave just like our daughter did prior to her being diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. 

There is this surreal sensation that comes over me when I briefly skim over an article in SELF Magazine that highlights a partnered survey studythat was done in collaboration with Dr Cynthia Bulik and the University of North Carolina that states that “3 out of 4 American Women have disordered eating” and the magazine survey whose participants numbered over 4000, and probably still counting on both the survey, forum and follow up, continue to show an increase in disordered eating patterns and ranges of destructive habits that clearly as Dr Margo Paine boldly states exemplifies, “Dieting is a national pastime for women” and “as a society, we don’t see the problem“.

The survey also goes further into describing additional categories that 6 out of 10 (1 out of 10 have eating disorders) women who are categorized as “disordered eaters” describe themselves into specific subsets:

 

* Calorie Prisoners

* Secret Eaters

* Career Dieters

* Purgers

* Food Addicts

* Extreme Exercisers

 

Of course, none of these descriptors are new.  But while some studies and stats have been pointing towards an increase of younger individuals being diagnosed with eating disorders, which may indeed be on the rise, though it’s always difficult to know whether we are only getting better at earlier diagnosing and intervention; and if some of the outcry and attention to the issue is creating the continued awareness, discussion, research and treatment standards.  But this survey, as some previous others, is showing the age range to be in the adult category of a 25-45 year old female base, and from what I’ve read in some previous studies, this seems to be more consistent and increasing if you are to follow the conclusions.

Yes, I’m perplexed and even angry.  I don’t want to see anyone needlessly suffering with any disordered eating behavior(s) that can have even the subtlest of impact upon ones’ health- period.  But I also have another irritating irk in thinking about the continued impact these findings, if they are showing continued rises in eating-disordered behavior have upon our youth and young adults who are watching, reading, and taking in this information too.  What, if anything does this ultimately translate to and what can be done to counteract this deranged preoccupation with dieting, body-dissatisfaction, and just overkill of the human body? When will the craziness stop just long enough to take a step back, breathe, and find acceptance and compassion for who you are as you are being enough, being worthy– because we all are.

And our kids need us to model and reinforce these strong capabilities and common-sense practicalities.  When I see a book titled: My Beautiful Mommy I think this is a joke, right? But I find that it’s written by a plastic surgeon, and really set on promoting this “upkeep” ideal while cunningly proclaiming under a guise of “help”.  Are we so far gone into our self-absorbed psyches that we are so easily swayed and coerced into finding this worthy of publication to begin with? Apparently so, as the book is being sold and bought, joke or not– some are taking the bait and seem to be biting hard, though not into much that will keep one nutritionally and mentally stable.

Our daughter has to not only find safety, stability and assurance within her home environment, but the world outside as well.  And this rant of a thread I’ve lowered myself to in this post just proves what an apparently obnoxious mother on a mission I am (imperfections and all- silicon free and able to eat minus fear thankfully) to keep my daughter moving towards a healthy, happy and internally sustained recovery and passionately what that means to me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, can this insanity please begin to find it’s way back in the hole from where it came?  Like a fire out of control, can we begin to find some means of putting this insatiable flame to some simmering rational end? Will these studies and polls just continue to bloom, boggle and frustrate so many of us, while invoking the opposite within others to think less of themselves, and to possibly court a potential ED, especially for those who are either biologically, physiologically and/or genetically predisposed and vulnerable?

To continued Health, Strength & Insight for us all.

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!

 

ADHD and Me

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 NothingNadia 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.

hearts 

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.”

                                                    -Buddha

Joyeuse Saint-Valentin!

                              

                                      

              

                                      

                                   

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