Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Interview - Nancy H.

Healing through the community support of group meetings, the twelve-steps, therapy and treatment centers.

Nancy H.:

  • What's your history with eating disorders and how are you working with your daughter to spread the word?
I was not aware of them (eating disorders) until she dropped so much weight.  Looking back at my own history there was something going on, but I'm not sure what it was. Not anorexia, but I was always on a diet in high school. I never threw up, but there was something. I remember the day after I got married, when I got out of the shower my husband said, “I didn't realize your legs were so big.” Well that did it, and I maintained an underweight weight for years. I weighed myself every day, and made make sure I weighed myself after I went to the bathroom and showered, and made sure my hair was clean and dry. I was little OCD about the whole thing.

  • Now, I have developed a website. It's called eatingdisorderhelp.com. Hannah is working on it with me and our goal is to get the word out, so people will be more aware. A lot of people with eating disorders are not aware they have one, like me.
I didn't know what to call it, but I do remember a certain point where things were really falling apart around me. My marriage was falling apart, my parents were both dying, Hannah was sick.  I remember not wanting to eat, at all, and I was losing too much weight. I was down to 106 and I was 5'5. I thought, “This is not good. 109 is is okay, but 106 is too little.” I remember trying to have some candy bars, and they just tasted like paper. My taste was gone but I still had some control in my head, I wasn't totally gone. It was truly an emotionally eating thing.  Having a great body is not the issue. It's a side show, but it's really not the problem.  I do think that we are all a little preoccupied with our weight and what we eat.

I talk to mothers, trying to help them understand that it has nothing to do with food, and no sooner when I finish that and ask for questions and they'll say, “How can I make sure my daughter doesn't have a an eating disorder?” I explain, “You need to talk to her and find out what's going on, it's not about food.”  Mothers will say,  “But she doesn't want to eat!” It's not about food, you need to talk to your children and listen to them.  

  • Did you remember a time where you felt that you hit rock bottom? Something that triggered you into disordered eating?
It kind of all came at once. I had trouble in my marriage all the way through. My husband had an affair, I knew it was going on and he wouldn't come clean. That was the same time that Hannah was finally down (?), which was the same time my parents were getting sick.

I remember that we had made a plan that my parents would help us with $20,000 and his parents would help us with $20,000 and we would do $20,000. My Dad could just never remember to get it, and he really wanted to do it. One day I spent an hour and half driving around the city for a bank and we finally got there, and he came out with a $20 bill. I thought, “Oh crap...” It was really hard. He couldn't get it, he couldn't remember, process.

  • How were you led to recovery?
I found my own (recovery) in Hannah.  I went to see Hannah (in treatment) every week.  When she had reached that level that she could eat out, I had to eat too. I couldn't restrict in front of her, I knew that would be bad.  It was my love for her that I had to get out of whatever I was in. As I recovered, crossroads started to happen.  She would get to the other side and so would I. I saw her determination, and of course I was determined that she was going to be well.

When I decided to get well I'd be showing her how to get well, and I'd be helping my other kids. As much as it was great to love her and want to help her, I needed to be committed to draining my brain of all that other junk that was in there. (I needed) to start living an authentic life the way I knew I should be living.   I needed to start doing what I felt inside was right thing to do. If the marriage fell apart, it fell apart, but I'd be saving myself and my kids in the long run.

  • You have a younger daughter. Do you think it helped to see what you and Hannah have gone through, and to avoid that path?
Absolutely. She is the healthiest one of all my kids. She is able to express herself... and Hannah as well, She is doing great too! 

  • What is the mission and goal of your website as well as working with Hannah?
Our goal is to be supportive.  My goal is to help the supporting arch, the supporting members of those with eating disorders like roommates, family and parents.

Most people, and I don't mean this insensitively, really don't understand eating disorders.  They don't appreciate the disparity of the disorder and how many parts of this persons life it has affected. When you are (dealing with) that many parts and that many people, it's naturally going to take a while to get over. They don't come out and say they want a magic pill, but that's kind of what they want, something that's quick and easy like a cold to get over.  My goal is to help them see that's okay not to be perfectly recovered in three months, and it's okay not to be perfect in three months and to help them figure out what needs to change in order to recover.

  • When you talk about what “gets you through” a lot of people refer to a higher power, whatever that may be. Is there a higher power for you?
Absolutely. It's God for me, which the twelve steps believe in, they may call it a lot of different things, but when you boil it all down it's about letting some body else take the burden for you.

This road doesn't have to be gone down alone. You'll have less success if you go it alone. Part of the issue is that the eating disordered person has become so isolated because they think no body else understands, no body else can feel the pain, and that's just a bunch of rubbish. There are people that care. There are people the do understand, more than they would ever imagine. Whatever it takes to get well is worth getting well, because there is a great life waiting for them to be had.

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