Today marks the one-year anniversary of my admission to an eating disorder treatment center in Chicago. I spent two months at the center where I was treated for symptoms of anorexia, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and rumination disorder. It was painful, it was traumatic, and it probably saved my life. I came home to Toledo last Valentine’s Day and nothing has been the same.
The hardest part about going to treatment was leaving my six-year-old daughter. I knew it would be hard, but it was even more difficult than I could imagine. During my stay in treatment, I couldn’t even talk about my daughter without uncontrollably sobbing. It was torture because as soon as anyone found out I was a mom they wanted to ask me about my kid. Around Christmas time my daughter drew me a bunch of pictures and sent them to me. I was so upset when I opened the package that they had a staff member follow me around for the rest of the day. It never seemed to get easier. I always cried.
Back up to fall 2021 – in the months prior to my admission I was engaging in eating disorder behaviors day in and day out, and unfortunately, my young daughter witnessed all of it. There was one night when I threw up during dinner and my husband and daughter didn’t even flinch or look at me. They continued to finish their meals while I cleaned up. That’s how frequent my behaviors were – my family didn’t even see it as out of the ordinary anymore.
Then I made the best decision I could for my little family by going away for treatment. It was inconvenient and I missed my family so much, but we felt it was necessary. I knew my daughter was in good hands and I was going to do my best to get better.
The other patients at the treatment center knew how upset I was talking about my daughter but they still took the time to commend me for doing what was best. I was told I was giving my daughter the best gift I could give her and that I was becoming a good role model. One young woman told me, “I wish my mom would have gone to treatment. Things would be different for me.” I cried so much but I found their words to be motivating. I wanted to get better for my daughter.
I came home a better mother. I used to be really distracted but now I am focused when I spend time with my daughter. I will do anything to keep her healthy – mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don’t ever want my daughter to go through what I did, but at the same time, I want her to know there is help if she is ever struggling.
Unfortunately, I’ve faced criticism about leaving my daughter. Just before going to treatment, a relative called me to tell me how horrible this was going to be for my daughter which made a very difficult decision even harder. I was so sick and I couldn’t believe with the state I was in that anyone would want me to not go to treatment. Since coming home my unsupportive family members have made a point to remind me how hard I made things for my daughter — and it really hurts. They have no idea what I went through — or even what my husband and daughter went through — yet they still have an opinion about it. Leaving my daughter was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I did what was best for all of us.
Despite the negativity and pain, I’m still here. Still focused on recovery – and motherhood. I know I made the best decision but I shouldn’t have to explain that to my loved ones. My husband reassures me that I did the right thing. I know in the long run my daughter and I will both feel the benefits of my time at the center. I went to treatment to show my daughter healthier habits so hopefully, she won’t end up where I was.
I was at the treatment center for only two months but recovery is forever. It has been a year now and we are all still feeling ripple effects. I am much happier now. I know what I need to focus on and I do it from a healthier place. I am grateful for the treatment center, but I really hope I never have to go back.