When My Mom Blames Herself for My Eating Disorder


“I wish I could have prevented this,” my mom sighs. “I wish I had noticed the signs, or that your doctors had picked up on this sooner, or that you had confided in me.”

We’ve had this conversation so many times. She berates the therapist who, despite my being a minor, never informed her about the danger my eating disorder put me in. She laments about the pediatrician who never contacted her after I had lost a dangerous amount of weight within just a few months, even though this doctor knew I had a history with anorexia. She curses the teachers and school nurses and friends and family who all claimed they “saw this coming” but never warned her.

She questions the inactions of others, but I hear underneath that she blames herself. She looks at the photos from the eight years of anorexia and wonders how she never noticed my sunken eyes, pointy cheekbones, and spindly legs. Of course she noticed these things but denial convinced her they were just a part of who I am or that I have a quick metabolism. Now, she berates herself for allowing denial to blind her. When she speaks about it, she starts to cry. “I could’ve prevented so much of your pain… I could’ve sent you to treatment sooner… The mental and physical effects of starvation could’ve been minimized… I am sorry I failed you.”

It breaks my heart to hear my mother say this. As I’ve told her, my mom did not fail me. For some people, being placed in treatment unwillingly can interrupt the illness long enough for them to eventually choose recovery. My family had tried to force treatment upon me at the beginning of my illness, around age 12, but I’d resisted and manipulated my way out, allowing the illness to grow stronger and stronger for years. Since childhood I’ve been stubborn as hell and unswayable in my convictions. To recover, I had to choose recovery for myself. Not only did I have to choose it once, but I had to choose it day after day after day — nearly two years later, I still have to choose recovery every time I sit down to eat.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

But here’s the thing — I chose recovery, and my support system helped me keep choosing it despite the miserable meals, years of treatment, and physical ailments. And when my mother says, “I failed you,” I want to cry. Mom, you did not cause this. My eating disorder is an illness caused by the perfect storm of so many triggers. I blame absolutely nothing on you.

In fact, Mom, I credit you with my recovery. I maintain that I chose and fought for recovery, but you raised me. You taught me to be a fighter. You raised me to make up my mind and stick to it. And that strength and determination is what lifted me out of the disorder. Mom, you didn’t fail me or save me, but you gave me the strength to save myself.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Kikovic

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Anorexia Nervosa

abstract picture of a woman

How Redefining 'Pretty' Helped Me Recover From Anorexia

The concept of “pretty” has puzzled me for some time. They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and yet it seemed that somehow everyone had agreed on what it meant to be pretty. I was led to believe that if one was pretty they would be successful, liked and most importantly, valued. [...]
woman writing in her journal sitting outside on a picnic table

Dear Anorexia, I'm Not Going to Let You Hold Me Back Again

Dear Anorexia, It’s been a year and a half, but somehow I still find myself thinking of you. Because even though you’ve left me, you are affecting so many other people. People who don’t deserve to have you in their lives. You treat them horribly. You make them question if they like themselves and make [...]
rear view of woman with cracked effect on her body looking the sunrise,illustration painting

When I Saw My Anorexia Diagnosis in Writing for the First Time

“Promise me,” my mom asked six years ago. “Promise me you’ll never do this again.” I nodded. “Of course. It was nothing, no big deal,” I said. Six years later… “You broke your promise,” my mom said. I looked at her. “What promise?” “You know which one. When you said you would never do this [...]
digital painting portrait of beautiful girl in striped robe, oil on canvas texture

When I Learned to Stop Minimizing the Mental Health Struggles of Others

In my experience, it seems like having a mental illness can do one of two things. You might become a more gentle and supportive person who uses their experiences to be more understanding or you might become harsher and resentful that others have not felt your pain or lived through your trauma. You can either [...]