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To My Dad Who Supported Me Through Eating Disorder Recovery

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

“I loved you when

you were small and hidden,

I will love you still

when you are strong.”

— “No Competition Between Flowers” by Michelle K.

Dear Daddy,

This year has not been easy for us. I’ve always been your little girl, your middle daughter, the one you saw yourself in. I know it has not been easy for you to watch me starve myself. I know you wanted more than anything for me to pick up the fork and put food into my body. Daddy, you haven’t understood, but my goodness you have tried. When I first told you I thought you might have a problem with eating, you didn’t know what to say. You shifted in the uncomfortable therapy office chair and said yes, you had noticed, yes you’d seen the weight loss. You told me we would get through this, I just needed to try and use my will power.

Daddy, I was angry. I didn’t want to use my willpower. I didn’t want to recover. I wanted to continue. I wanted to disappear. You wouldn’t let me.

Daddy, we argued. I know it broke your heart when I cried and said I would rather die than eat. I know you didn’t understand. I didn’t understand. Daddy, you didn’t always help me in the way I wanted. Sometimes, you told me to “just eat.” You said I was being rude and so many other things. I don’t fault you. You didn’t understand, but you are learning. You are asking me how to help and I don’t always know the answer.

Daddy, the first time you visited me in the hospital and said I looked “healthy,” I cried. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me. In what world is “healthy” not a compliment? Daddy, we’re working on our communication. It’s not something either of us are good at. We have work to do. But, we’re getting better. Daddy, I’m trying. I’m trying to learn that food is not a moral issue and fat isn’t a failure and eating isn’t optional. I’m living again.

Daddy, today you said my eyes looked brighter and I looked healthier and I heard what you really said. I know you didn’t mean that I looked “fat.” Daddy, when I was a child with freezing hands, you’d let me sit in your lap and you’d take my tiny hands in yours, until I was warm. Daddy, when I was a girl who cried in my bed about arguments I overheard, you’d sit next to me and talk to me until everything was better. Daddy, when I was a teen who starved herself, you learned as much as you could. You visited me in inpatient. You came to family therapy. You supported me at meals when I all I wanted to do was run. Daddy, I love you. You have given me the strength and courage to recover and I would not be where I am today without you.

Happy Father’s Day.

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.

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Thinkstock photo via Creatas Images