Caring for or enabling? Good question. I have been dealing with my daughter's eating disorder (ED) now for about seven years. There have been many different roles I have played during this time.
Most recently I provided "rehab" in my home. We came to a juncture in her out patient treatment that her treatment team said this isn't cutting it--she needs to go into inpatient treatment. Problem, insurance won't cover it. To do it right, we are talking minimum 60 days in a facility, followed by partial and eventually back to out patient. Last time the cost was somewhere around 80,000$ (roughly, I never had the nerve to add it up!) Not a possibility at this point in time.
Plan B. Total bed rest in my home. She would go on FMLA. I would cook her meals. She was not able to do much of anything, except sit in the house, or out on the patio if a nice day, eat, rest. This was all done with the support of her team. I followed their directive, meal plans, etc. She was still going to her appointments with psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist (=team).
She packed up clothes, her cat and "guest room" her she comes. I was working long hours at this point. I had scheduled a week off to go on a little vacation right about this same time. After I got the call from her psychologist saying this is what I need to do, I returned back to my day at work. One of my coworkers asked what was wrong? What had happened with the phone call? I explained that my daughter would be coming to stay...... She asked what about your vacation?? I responded, postpone it for now. Will take the time off to try and take care of her. What happened next has stuck with me for months and I assume I will store away most likely forever. My coworker suddenly got an attitude with me. Informed me I was enabling my daughter. She needs to figure it out on her own or have someone else help her. I need to walk away and do my "own thing".
I stopped. Timing was bad as I had just received the news from the psychologist. My emotions were raw from all of this. First off all, this person giving me advice does not have children. She has no idea what it would be like to have a sick child that needs help. Secondly, I had not asked for an opinion, advice, or sympathy. I had simply answered a question that I had been asked. I questioned what I was doing. Was I enabling? After a brief recap of my role in all of this I thought to myself absolutely not. Enabling would be to allow my daughter to stay with me but continue her ED habits. Allowing her to stay and stick with a meal plan that her nutritionist had provided for her is caring for . I was doing what I could as a mother with a sick daughter. Ignorance and lack of education on the subject of ED is prominent. That is fine. But don't give me some shitty advise, making me second guess my actions because you are uninformed on the subject.
Over the years I have had all kinds of advise ranging from "I'll take her out for a cheese burger, then she'll be fine" to "You need to let her grow up and figure this out on her own". I think to myself with every ridiculous remark, if my daughter had cancer or diabetes or something that medically made sense to people, there would be no questions asked. I go back to lack of knowledge on this particular subject.
In the end, I know I am doing what I can when I can to help my daughter. When I have the time and energy to try and educate those giving me horrible advice regarding an ED, I do.
Side note, the rehab time in my home worked. She is back out in the world, trying to make her way. I am thankful for each and every day she is on this Earth. The struggle is real. So far, she is winning.
I found out the other day that a friend I made in treatment years ago passed away. This was shocking to find out. I honestly hadn't spoken to her in a long time but that doesn't make it any less of a surprise. Having an eating disorder or addiction is not a joke, a fad, or a lifestyle. These are serious illnesses that can literally take your life.
I don't want any sympathy, what I want is awareness. I want everyone to know how much mental illness can affect the individual suffering as well as everyone around them. The family and friends surrounding an person with these issues can hurt almost as badly as the one diagnosed with the actual illness.
Since finding out about my treatment sister, I have found an immense sense of gratitude for the fact that I am still alive. I could have lost my life many times throughout the years. I am lucky my body is so resilient and my mind never got to a dark place I could not find my way out of.
There were nights when I was at my worst that I would pray that when I closed my eyes I would not wake up to open them in the morning. It is shameful to admit this, but I do because it shows the reality of what having an eating disorder and depression did to me. This thought crosses the minds of more people than I think we all like to imagine. The lucky ones come out of it, while the others are taken over and can no longer fight. Its a truth that is hard to swallow but it is still the truth.
It is not my aim to bring anyone down from reading this. I, again, write this for awareness. If you or someone you know needs help, get it sooner rather than later. If you think you are not sick enough to receive treatment, think again. Early intervention can save your life. Too many have passed due to mental illness. Take the steps to prevent this as much as possible.
Remember brighter days are ahead. The things you are feeling will not last forever. You are strong, you are worthy, and you have people that care about you. Take each day one minute at a time, knowing you can make it through. I believe in you.
To my old friend, I hope you are at peace. I hope you have received the serenity you were looking for. You will be missed.