My Daughter's Battle with Anorexia

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and in celebration of that, The Healthy Dancer has asked its readers to share their stories, and to encourage our readers to promote awareness this week and share these posts, The Healthy Dancer is hosting a giveaway. To be entered to win the new edition of Jenni Schaefer's book, Life Without ED, you must leave a comment on this post. To gain additional entries we invite you to share links to our posts this week on Facebook and Twitter.

        Today's post is from the mother of a dancer who is in recovery from anorexia.

My daughter is Margaret Claire.  She was a lovely, determined child. She danced from the age of 4 and made a choice to pursue ballet. She was talented, and when the time came to apply to colleges, she chose to major in dance.

Classically trained dancers are familiar with disappointment. While they may take class with other dancers, dance is not a “team sport”. Dancers are critical of themselves and constantly competing against other dancers for roles.  They develop thick skin – on the outside.

Midway through her sophomore year in college, Margie called and told me she had a problem:  she couldn’t eat. I didn’t understand what she meant until she came home for Christmas. My lovely, confident, driven daughter was so thin, and I wanted to hug away the pain I saw in her eyes. I was terrified, but certain that if I made her favorite foods, she would eat. When she didn’t eat, I assured myself she wouldn’t be purging because she would not be self-destructive…but she was.  She was starving herself, she was purging, and eventually began cutting.

My daughter reached out for help, and I now know how important that step was. She withdrew from college, came home, and began the odyssey of her recovery. I enlisted the help of everyone I knew – our family doctor, my daughter’s mentor, people in the dance community, family, and friends.

It was most helpful when a therapist told me that I needed to treat this diagnosis as if I’d been told my daughter had cancer or diabetes or MS – a disease she had little to no control over.

Watching my daughter fight this disease was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to face in my life. I remember feeling so low at times, praying I could take away her pain for just a short while. I couldn’t find any joy in living, knowing my daughter was hurting emotionally and was close to her body physically giving up.

Over time she began feeling good, she was dancing again, she enrolled in a college closer to home, therapy had worked, and she was in recovery – until she relapsed.

This time her option for help was a 4-month long day program.  She once again dropped out of school, her life was placed on hold, and I wondered if she would ever be okay.

I watched her fight hard – sometimes against the process, sometimes against me, & sometimes against others who held her accountable during her recovery.  She fought the disease!

Today, 6 years later, my daughter is in recovery. She graduated from college with honors and has recently been accepted to a prestigious graduate program.

Six years ago….
            I had no idea what anorexia was.
            I had no idea if my daughter would live or die.
            I had no idea how strong my daughter is.
            I had no idea if I would ever find joy in life again.
            I had no idea that I would be able to laugh with my daughter again.

My daughter is Margaret Claire, and she is a lovely, determined, focused young woman.

Diana Achee
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