Archive for August, 2009

Mothers and (bulimic) daughters

Someone told me her mother has threatened to kick her out of the house if she catches her bingeing and vomiting again. Now she is dealing not only with her eating disorder, but also with the heightened fear of being caught — and fear of the devastating anticipated consequences.

My own daughter does not have an eating disorder, but she is the same age as my reader, and in all honesty, I am probably tempted at least once a week to kick her out. This is an extremely challenging time. But I don’t threaten. I just think it to myself, and then go on to find some kind of a solution or way to cope.

Much of our misunderstanding comes from diametrically opposed attitudes about certain things, and much of the time there are assumptions — and we don’t realize how different the other person’s assumptions are.

Since I still have my diaries, it is easy to remember how it was when I was 16. I can better understand what my mother went through. Not only are the years of adolescence a challenge, but combined with an eating disorder they seem insurmountable.

I hope that this girl’s mother finds a better way to cope. Perhaps she could get some counselling herself, to accompany her through this difficult time. Only too well can I understand her anger and helplessness about her daughter’s predicament — and through that her own suffering. Both of them are in pain and stuck in a horrible situation.

Often I have been tempted to tell my daughter to go live with her father. Once I even said it, and the hurt look on her face reprimanded me thoroughly. It would be easy to have her leave. It is harder to change things — yeah, the good old thousand steps! But I trust that someday she will appreciate that I loved her through it all and that I was willing to go through so much trouble to change/improve the situation. Maybe she’ll never appreciate it. It doesn’t matter. I know I would never forgive myself for not trying.

August 31, 2009 at 11:47 am Leave a comment

Inner strength

Today I got an email from 16-year-old Maya. Since I have a similar story, still have my diaries from back then, and a 16-year-old daughter of my own, I am in the happy position of being able to understand more than previously.

My daughter turns 17 this fall. It is a difficult age. When I was 16, I felt grown up and knew about life. My mother tried to meddle, but to no avail. At 16 I tried to find and understand myself and my world. It really wasn’t easy. And now as a mother, I see what I would have done differently. The results of childrearing mistakes are impossible to oversee. But this time will pass as well. My sister-in-law made mistakes, and my niece was a wild teenager. They used to argue like crazy. Today my niece is almost 30 years old. When I watch the two of them together, it gives me hope for the relationship with my own daughter.

It took several years to realize: Things happened in my childhood over which I had no influence. Through my parent’s divorce and all resulting consequences, my world was out of control. I was terrified, and felt very lonely and abandoned. I sought a problem I could solve, and found it in my weight. Yet I didn’t really want to solve it at the time, since the real big problem (family situation) remained.

Maybe I was looking for attention. I wanted to say: “Hey, look at how I feel! I am not doing well!” But I was not able to voice that, so I lost weight. Then they had to notice me — but then I resented that attention.

As I’ve said before, I think the disordered eating served a function. So I will not blame myself. But something is of utmost importance: I needed to learn to look at the situations in which I could do something, over which I did have influence.

I started with my eating problems when I was around 13, and it took another 13 years to get rid of them. When I was 17, I knew I had a food problem, but I was not able or willing to stop. I missed the transition to adulthood — that point at which I could take hold of the reins and make decisions. It became a habit, and soon I knew no alternative for dealing with loneliness, emptiness, boredom, free time — and never mind feeling hungry or satisfied!

I began to recover when I realized I could do something. I could be active, make decisions, and influence things. Yes, I also had to consciously work on my relationship to food, but that was not the absolute top priority. Top priority was: ME!

All I can say is, if you have the opportunity for therapy: use it!!! I have had various therapies — eating disorder groups, individual, and general self-development. Just last year I turned to therapy to aide me through a crisis and gain clarity. Therapy does not offer healing like medication. Rather, a good therapist helps me to mobilize my own healing powers. Ability to heal and cope is within me, sometimes it just needs to be activated. That is true for all of us!

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: The eating disorder was only a symptom, a coping mechanism. My life was unbearable, and I was too young and powerless to do something about it. In later years, I learned to take action — that I could do something to deal with a situation. I developed more positive methods of coping, and gradually was able to give up the food.

As a teenager I went to therapy. But I didn’t even mention my food problem until nearly the end of our sessions — I was too embarrassed and ashamed. Or perhaps back then I realized the other problems were important and that I needed help in dealing with daily stuff. I had taken on responsibility for my younger brother, and was totally overwhelmed by this. My mother had gone back to work, and I worried about my brother. I couldn’t just leave him. In therapy I learned to give up some of this responsibility. After all, I was not his mother. As a young teenager, I needed a mother myself!

Life gives me a lot to handle — sometimes too much. But there is always a solution, even if sometimes it takes longer than I expect. Meanwhile I’ve reached the point where I can say: “I’ll sleep on it.” Or:”Even if I can’t find the solution today, life goes on.” Or: “I know I will not dissolve into air or nothingness if I don’t find the solution now.” I can wait. I can be patient. It’s not always easy, but it is possible.

At first, I had no idea what to call this post. Then “inner strength” came to mind. I always had that strength — whether sick or healthy. This strength kept me alive. It is a true gift that came with me the day I was born. At times it amazes me to reflect on what I was/am able to endure, tolerate, survive, change, produce and create — and it was never dependent on my level of faith. But with faith and (self)confidence, my energy is mobilized and centered. I seem to be better able to utilize it. I believe in my inner strength and the universe, and I trust that I can cope with all that life puts on my plate.

August 31, 2009 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

The crisp, cool breath of Autumn

It’s in the air. The mornings are crisp, even though the sun is shining. Summer is coming to an end. I love this time of year, which abounds with energy and promise.

The past two months were a time of rest, organizing, reflection, visiting, excitement and calm. I had the opportunity to get settled — both physically and emotionally. No, I haven’t totally figured everything out, but I have a good sense of where I’m at and what is to be done.

There have been long, lazy days, which is what summer used to be about. Omission of the annual visit to the States provided a long stretch of free time. It was a true blessing and exactly what I needed.

School starts for me next week — an extended weekend seminar. The children don’t go back to school until mid-September, so they still have some time. I am curious as to how it will turn out. My daughter starts in a new school, and my son is debating whether to switch schools or to see if he can find an apprenticeship. Time will tell.

After this much-needed rest, I am ready for the exertions of the coming year. I eagerly anticipate first change of season in my new home. There is a lot to be done. I have a few main goals, as well as a few smaller ones. And now I have the energy and optimism to pursue them.

Today I am grateful for this wonderful life and feel truly blessed.

August 30, 2009 at 7:56 am Leave a comment

A no-no here and a yes-yes there

Little ones seem to be more effective than big ones. Though I get impatient and want all the changes to happen over night, it takes time. I’ve tried the lectures and arguments with my daughter, but they are rather ineffective. Not that I expected them to work, but I was not quite sure what I was doing.

Mistakes and less than optimal behavior patterns take a while to establish themselves, so it will take a while to change them. On the basic level, I told my daughter that if she wants to be treated as a young adult, she has to act like one. When she doesn’t, she can’t expect otherwise. Little by little, I’m gaining credibility. I repeat that statement fairly frequently, especially when she asks a favor, and then say no.

Nor am I any longer taking promises for future behavior. If she doesn’t have time to hang up the laundry, then I don’t have time to drive her to her friend’s — even if that means changing trains and waiting half an hour. It’s not my problem.

So it’s just little things, but I am convinced that they will add up. She may not even notice the difference, but she doesn’t need to. As long as things change, I’m satisfied.

Today was a good example. She had to clean her room and take the old bed apart, because her father was coming today to bring the new bed they bought last week. It’s a loft bed, so she has more floor space. It took a while for her to wake up, and she suggested that I get started. When she was younger, I made the mistake of doing things myself because I could do it faster, more efficiently, and often didn’t have the time or patience to wait. Today I can wait. I calmly reminded her that it is her room, and if she doesn’t get it cleaned up, we’ll just stick the bed in another room and leave it there until she’s ready. That got her moving.

Unfortunately she also picked up the habit of yelling at me when I “annoy” her, as a way to shut me up. That she observed in her father. It was his way of keeping me in my place — just get loud. It is also unfortunate that I grew up with the idea that one should not make waves. But what would the ocean be without waves? So I calmly tell her that I don’t like it when she yells at me, or I suggest we continue the discussion when she has calmed down. If it’s about something she wants, she does manage to go down a few decibels.

It is a challenge, but we will get there. The ups and downs are part of the process. She is a good teacher. I am very good-natured and tend to trust that other people mean well. Now I recognize the need to take better care of myself. In the process, I trust that my daughter — and others — will benefit as well.

Does anybody out there have experience with this? Particularly with teenagers. I’d appreciate input!

August 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Puttering

Today is one of those days — tying up loose ends, sorting through old papers, getting rid of excess baggage. It wasn’t planned at all, but this is the kind of day I love — when it just happens, spontaneously unfolds of its own accord.

There was one more shopping bag full of desk supplies and sundry items that I’d stowed away in a cabinet when I moved here. I took care of a bunch of long due correspondence today, and there was an address I needed. I was pretty sure it was in that bag, so I dragged it out and took a look. Sure enough, it was there. And a collection of other stuff as well.

Some days the energy is there. It is easy to get rid of junk. There is almost a lightness about it. That’s why I can’t plan to do it — it just happens. Although I suppose it’s no coincidence. Yesterday was a trying day, and I feel the weight of unresolved issues burdening me. Clearing out stuff on the material plane is a relief, and helps me figure things out on the mental/emotional level. I’ve got a lot on my mind at the moment.

August 25, 2009 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

Understanding life

You understand backwards,
but have to live ahead
making those decisions
with a tiny touch of dread.

Soren Kirkegaard once said:
“You can only understand life when you look back,
but it has to be lived going forward.”

It’s not so bad to make a mistake. What’s really dumb is to make no decision — for fear of being stupid/making the wrong decision. Been there, done that.

August 25, 2009 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

Why I prefer to live in a city

In the city I can step out my door and disappear,
invisible if I choose to be.
Then back home again,
relax within serenity,
the quietude between the walls,
removed to my own little world.
A universe at my beck and call,
just beyond the doorstep.

August 25, 2009 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

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