My daughter Kira developed Anorexia at such a young age after being bullied by others at school about her body size and weight. Anorexia is such a strange disease to wrap your head around. I have watched my daughter from the onset of this critical illness and often have not been able to understand how she doesn’t see her true beauty. As a little girl, Kira had always been on the small side of her age group, and she was always a fussy and picky eater. I sat dumbfounded as I stared at the doctors who just told me that my 12-year-old little girl was on the verge of an eating disorder. I was at a loss for words as I looked at my little girl across the table from me and tried not to fall apart and crumble. It’s been just over two years, and I’m now ready to talk about it.
Kira was 12 years old, 4 foot 11 inches and 116 pounds when she was diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses that include anxiety, depression, and anorexia. She had a trifecta of mental instability that feeds off of each other rendering her rational thoughts powerless against the bullies within herself. The anorexia was fueled by the growing anxiety to fit into the mold built by society and social media. The anorexia intensified the anxiety and the depression.
I blamed myself. How did I not know that my daughter was starving herself, crying herself after every meal and feeling so hopeless and alone? I wondered if I contributed to these negative thoughts with my body issues. I have struggled with weight issues for the last decade. I have terrible eating habits. The list could continue on and on – I think I just needed someone to blame and it was easy to place it over my head. But the truth is, it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my daughter’s fault. It is a disease that can completely take over your thoughts and your power. But still, one question that played on a loop over and over again was how did I miss this? How did I not see it? Now that I have had the time to sit and analyze all the small things, the warning signs were there – but they were masked as normal teenage behavior.
Here are three of the early signs that I missed.
- All the hidden empty packages of food in her bedroom. I would often find granola bar wrappers, empty pop cans and other empty boxes hidden under her bed. I asked her about these, and she would shrug it off saying she forget to throw them out of a period. I had no reason to doubt her.
- Kira wanted to eat more frequently in her room, alone. She would complain during dinner that she had an extreme amount of homework to complete before the next morning. We’d excuse her to do her homework while she ate her food.
- Kira wanted to eat healthier. She started reading the back of food packaging. Kira wanted to switch to whole grain bread instead of white bread. She suggested being a vegetarian, but she hates vegetables. As her parent, of course, I supported her decision to eat healthier. She was active in her dance school and with soccer – I thought this was all normal adolescent behavior.
It wasn’t. None of this was normal behavior. Kira was trapped inside her own feelings. She was depressed, anxious and worried that I wouldn’t understand and that I would love her less. I could never love her more than I did in that very moment as the tears streamed down her cheek and the doctors explained the very real outcomes and struggles that our family was about to face. In that very minute our life changed, it’s been challenging but every moment has been worth the fight to get Kira back to her happy self, smiling and healthy.
I won’t say that the path to recovery has been easy because it wasn’t. Kira has strayed from the path once or twice, but most importantly she found it again. Today she is healthy and that’s good enough for me. We will continue on the path one day at a time and one meal at a time.
Anorexia is a silent and shameful disease. Your child will not tell you they have an eating disorder, watch for the warning signs. If you suspect that your child has or may have an eating disorder, please seek medical attention from a physician.
In Canada, please visit The National Eating Disorder Information Centre for more info.
In the United State, please click here.