A mother’s love is most often expressed through her cooking. She spends time everyday planning and cooking what she knows her family will enjoy. She plans special meals to celebrate birthday’s and achievements. Her favorite times of the year are fall and winter because she gets to make warm and cozy baked goods for those rainy days.
But then one day your son or daughter may start rejecting your meal all together. Not because they didn’t like it – it might have even been their favorite – but because they have gradually fallen into the dangerous grip of an eating disorder.
It didn’t happen all at once for us. It started with “I don’t feel like having dessert today” or “I’m not hungry tonight” to eventually arguing over every meal every single day.
It was watching her become more and more distant. It was watching her struggle with her confidence and self-esteem. It was watching her become someone I didn’t know.It was me feeling hopeless and helpless. It was me begging her to eat, then negotiating, then failing to force her to eat through loud words and tear streaked cheeks.
She needed help.
I needed help.
How could I not notice this? How did I not see my daughter’s eating disorder lurking behind every rejected meal?
I spent hours searching online for answers – I wasn’t even sure I’d find. I tirelessly looked for therapists and treatments centers desperately trying to find something to build my daughter back up again.
The worst part, however, was realizing that it would take money I did not have to save my baby. A struggle I know so many families unfortunately face.
During my research, I came across Project HEAL. I discovered that Project HEAL funds treatment grants for those dealing with eating disorders who cannot afford or get access to the life-saving help they so desperately need. I knew they received an overwhelming amount of applications, but I was hopeful for a miracle and willing to try anything.
I filled out the application and by the grace of God and the wonderful people at Project HEAL, my daughter was awarded a grant for Intensive Family Treatment at UCSD.
While I immediately realized what a blessing this was, it didn’t sink in how life-changing this experience would be for us as a family.
The advantage to Intensive Family Treatment is that the whole family gets to take part in the process, which allows the family to learn about eating disorders in depth and the crucial role each member can play in helping their loved one recover. This treatment type also prevents those struggling to returning to the same environment they were previously in. Together as a family, we worked to make changes that reassured Lauren she was not alone on her recovery journey.
After going through the rigorous days of treatment at UCSD, we returned home empowered with so many tools and so much knowledge to help our daughter recover. Allowing us to be the greatest support system we didn’t even know we had the strength to be.
Day by day we utilized what we learned and I began to see a light in my daughter again. I finally began to hear the sounds of piano keys and guitars strumming as she reconnected with her love of music. She was present at family movie nights again and I watched as her friendship with her sister began to rekindle.
What I didn’t expect after treatment, however, was her becoming the best self she could possibly be. Most families go into treatment wishing they had their child “back.” What they often don’t realize is that that old child didn’t feel like they were enough.
I watched my daughter blossom into someone who was passionate about life. She longed to spend time with our family, even if it was just a short car ride to the grocery store or running errands. She began to excel in school and learned to love how she looked in the clothing she wore. I saw a smile on her face and a light in her eyes that I had never seen before.
Hearing her laugh is one of the sounds I never knew I would appreciate hearing so much.
Treatment saved my daughter and gave her the power to not be defined by her disorder. She is so much more than that – she is a daughter, a sister, a student, a musician and a fighter.
Click here and make a donation to our treatment grant fund, which will help individuals just like Lauren.