Hi all! So I’ve been incredibly busy lately. Work has been beyond stressful, hence less writing. But I’m now on a little mini vacay visiting my parents for my mom’s birthday and being back in my hometown, with my mom, is immediately stress relieving.
Stress-relieving, yes, but also a little bittersweet. I’m really close to my mom. I’ve always been very close to her. While I did shut her out a bit during certain phases of my life, and while we had some very HUGE arguments (still do!), it was never to the point where we weren’t, well, close. It’s interesting, though. As I continue through recovery, there are days, weeks even, where I feel really great. But eating in front of my mom has always been another thing. No matter how comfortable I may now feel with eating past fear foods, I usually have some trouble when I’m around her. My nutritionist, Carol, pointed this out years ago. Her and I used to have food challenge days where we would snack on my fear foods in an attempt to make them less fearful. Eventually she mentioned having my mom join in.
I had originally thought that was really freakin’ weird. “Why does my mom have to be there?” It didn’t really make a difference, did it? When it came down to the moment, the story was completely different. I remember the first mom-attended fear food challenge was ice cream. My mom and I met my nutritionist at an ice cream parlor. I had a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream (a flavor I had never enjoyed, but it felt “safe”). As soon as I stepped up to the counter my eyes welled up with tears. When I got my cup we all sat down at a round table and my mom and Carol engaged in small talk, which I always assumed was to make the day feel “normal”. After a few minutes Carol asked me how I felt and I completely broke down. I felt everybody in the ice cream shop staring at me crying as I slowly let my vanilla scoop melt into a puddle. The ride home was stressful, my mom wondering why I couldn’t eat a single scoop of vanilla ice cream, exclaiming, “you’re not getting better.” Harsh, but we were both incredibly frustrated.
At our next session, alone with Carol, she brought up the ice cream outing. Her and I had done a few food challenges prior to this one, some of which were very rough, but nothing like this. Was it the ice cream? Yes. But more so it was my mom’s presence. She told me that it was fairly common for Ed to “play up” around those who are invested our in recovery. Throughout my recovery, I’ve learned that in my case, especially with my mom, she was completely accurate. Today, I can distinguish this.
Looking back, as I inched closer and closer to recovery, Ed became much more judgmental of who could see me eating and exercising normally. If we just met or were acquaintances, I was allowed to indulge more. I! Was! Normal! But if you knew about Ed and had any stake in my recovery, it was played into. I couldn’t be seen *recovering*. I had to be an excessive runner, a restrictive eater.
Fear foods eventually became “fun foods,” as coined by my psychologist and nutritionist. While they weren’t necessarily something that I had to have everyday, it was OK to have “fun” every once in a while and indulge. But first, I had to get used to eating them outside of my nutritionist’s office. I was given the homework of having one “fun food” of my choice per day. My mom made it a date to go to the grocery store and pick out a “fun food” that we could snack on together in the evening. I always opted for the same Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men cookies. They were easy, small, and portioned. I remember my mom being so excited to have these damn cookies with me at the end of the day. Cookies definitely weren’t a fear food for me. I was never crazy about them and so I didn’t feel like I would ever possibly go overboard. Still, they definitely fell into the “fun food” criteria.
Some nights these gingerbread men went down easily, others, it was a fight. Throughout the entire phase of anorexia, my mom and I were at a constantly battle. Last night I was reading through some old Ana-era journals and one particular entry stood out. It discussed how my mom made me eat a slice of cake that I made for her birthday and how much I despised her in that moment. Furthermore, she forced me to still eat my regular afternoon snack of “almonds and dried apricots”. I remember feeling so angry: she was being forceful and demanding and not helpful. Now looking back, it wasn’t so much force as it was encouraging healthy eating habits – continuing to eat normally even if you had a “fun food” that day.
My relationship with my mom had and continues to have a large role in my recovery. She always plays the protective mom role, asking how I’m doing, if Ed has been present, why I’m “looking so thin”, etc. but she’s learned how to ask these questions in a positive way, so as not be judgmental or… seemingly jumping to conclusions. While I still have some trouble eating and exercising normally around those who are invested in my recovery, it is much less so. I’m usually able to distinguish that it’s not me trying to be restrictive – it’s Ed. Despite the horrible arguments, the tears, and the breakdowns, I definitely would not be anywhere near as recovered as I am today and I certainly wouldn’t be the person that I am without the support of my mom.