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Letting Go: What Parents of a Child with an Eating Disorder Must Know

The once blue sky laid buried underneath a mound of thick black clouds as I sat at the kitchen table, my brain throbbing as I attempted to finish the last pieces of my calculus homework.  When I was young, this wasn’t how I imagined celebrating my 18th birthday. I had once had this fairy tale-like fantasy that on this momentous day, both of my parents would be home and I would have a mountain of birthday cards and gifts to open.

But fairy tales never come true, that why they’re called tales in the first place. As usual, my mom’s job had kidnapped her and whisked her away to some other part of the country. My little sister was in her room spending her hours watching sub par YouTube makeup tutorials, like every other vanity-obsessed teenage girl. Oh and my dad, he was sitting on his leather throne in the living room, his weary blue eyes glued to the pages of my old photo album and his face taken over by grief.

“I want Claire back” my dad said, the mournful tone of his voice weighing heavy in the air.

I turned my gaze away from my calculus book and towards him, my heart aching from the painful blow I had received from his words. I wanted to become defensive and shout back at him that his little “Claire Bear” had never left, that she had always been right here!

But my friends, that would be nothing but a lie.

The happy, adventurous Claire my dad’s heart thirsted for had perished many years ago, when a ruthless brain disease raged through her mind like a vicious cancer. With each passing day, the disease took more and more of her. Her personality began to fade away, her social skills weakened until she morphed into an emotionless hermit, her creativity and intelligence vanished into thin air, and her ability to eat  . . . well that was just completely lost.

That barbarous disease, known to the world as anorexia nervosa, had left just a shell of my dad’s beloved Claire . . . it had left just a shell of me.

Like many other people stricken with anorexia nervosa, I could have let that shell of mine perish just like every other part of me did. But I didn’t. Instead, I started the slow process of filling my empty shell with the things anorexia had robbed me of.  I began to rediscover my likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams and with that new information, I gradually pieced together my personality.  My social skills began to improve and I started forming relationships. And bit by bit, I began to rely less on tube feeds and Ensures and began to regain my ability to eat. Grant it, I have a hell of a long way to go. Every single day, I still struggle to fight against my anorexia and there are many days when that damn disease seems to win.  But despite all the psychological agony anorexia puts me through, I continue to rebuild myself and I don’t plan on stopping until I can finally say I am no longer under construction.

What I don’t think my dad realizes is that the pre-anorexia Claire that he remembers is no more. Now he has a new Claire. Sure this new Claire may be a tad bit broken. She gets anxious and keeping her weight up is still an everyday battle, but I can guarantee that she has a hell of a lot more strength and courage than the old Claire ever did. She made it through multiple hospitalizations and came out the other side ready to fight and advocate for other ED patients.

So many other parents of a child with an eating disorder seem to go through the same thing my dad is going through right now. They want their child back, the child that never had an eating disorder.  Because of that, they push their sick child way beyond their limit. They force them to tackle tasks they are not yet ready for (like eating a piece of cake or pie for example), causing the child to slip further into their disease in order to cope with the horrific amount of stress that task caused. These parents fail to accept where their child is at and hold the past in a death grip.  What these parents need to do is throw all of their expectations in the trash and let go of who their child was.  Right now, all they should and need to  focus on is the present and supporting their sick child as they battle a misunderstood disease that kills far too many people.


The Day of the Visit

You may notice the beginning of this post is rather similar to one that was published recently (I have since taken that post down). This is because the post you saw was actually an accidentally published draft. Here’s the real thing :) :) :)

When I submitted my college applications, I was already mentally prepared to be pelted with rejection letters.   In fact, maybe there was a little part of me who longed for that.  I wanted colleges to deem me as unworthy for their institution, not because I wanted to discontinue  my education, but because for all of my life I have seen myself as nothing but a housefly – annoying, bothersome, and a waste.

So when I got my first acceptance letter as well as a pretty hefty scholarship, I was in a state of shock.  I had in writing that someone actually wanted me to teach me, to watch me grow, to watch me make something of myself.

It wasn’t too long after that, that more acceptance letters came rolling in and with each kindly written letter I read, the reality of the situation began to hit me harder and harder. It finally dawned on me that within a few months, my little ranch-style abode would no longer be my home.  Instead my home would be a dreary, outdated dorm room with thin-walls allowing any noise to seep through.

Reading these letters was already stressful enough, but obviously my mom and dad didn’t recognize that. Instead of seeing that I needed a break, my parents insisted I visit one of the schools that accepted me. I agreed. Not because I wanted to, but because I have been cursed with the desire to please others before doing anything for myself.

Hesitantly, I emailed the admissions counselor and scheduled a visit to meet with a faculty member as well as the school’s pre-health track adviser.  My mom happily got reservations for my dad and I at a hotel near the school and for the days leading up to the visit, my dad couldn’t stop talking about all the things we could do while in that area.  I honestly just wanted to curl up in ball and cry until I had no more tears left.

When the day of the visit finally arrived, I held back tears as I threw a day’s worth of supplies into a small suitcase and changed out of my mismatched pajamas. By the time the clock struck 6:30, everything was packed and my dad stood in the living room with a smile on his face, ready to take me.  He seemed to have this idea that the next 24 hours would be jammed with joy and memorable father-daughter bonding experiences.  Yeah . . . because spending a day just thinking about nothing but my future sounds like an absolute blast to me (I hope you sense the immense amount of sarcasm there).

After 4ish hours in the car, we made it to the college.  Now I am not going to get into the nitty-gritty of all that happened while I was there, but let’s just say I had some massive panic attacks .  The bone-chilling fall air, the seemingly endless sea of students, and the very idea of my future caused my heart to beat wildly and my breathing to become shallow. As we drove to our hotel after the horrific visit, I begged God to show some mercy by getting rid of me. I didn’t care how God went about doing that, I just knew that this next stage in my life was a burden that I didn’t believe I could carry.   I should have known better though than to plead with God because believe me, I have tried it before. Throughout my entire battle with my eating disorder, I have desperately asked Him to pull the plug on my life. Either He just doesn’t exist or the requests of a mentally-ill adolescent female usually go out His back door, because obviously I am still here.

Honestly, I wish I could write something better for all of you – something that will put a smile on your face. During this transition period of my life though, things have been beyond challenging. I feel like every waking moment of the day is a battle and to be quite frank, I am truly exhausted.

Maybe I just have to hang on and keep fighting.

Maybe all this emotional bloodshed will be worth something in the end.

Fighting to Stay Afloat

It’s been awhile now hasn’t it?

The last time you heard from me was in August,  a couple of weeks before I was officially dubbed a high school senior. Now the oceans of green summer grass that once stretched across my town have been suffocated by a thick blanket of damp, dead leaves and the heat of the sun has been replaced by relentless bone-chilling wind. I have found that harshness of this changing weather is mirror-image of the hell that has now become my life.

After this summer, I really thought things were getting better. I challenged myself and by doing so, I got the best gifts I could have ever imagined – friends, one-on-one time with my grandparents, and a stronger relationship with my parents. But once school came around, all those beautiful gifts were stolen from me.   The friends I had meant had returned to their own lives and my parents and I grew farther apart.

Now my hours are spent fighting with my parents or racking my brain as I attempt to understand basic calculus and physics concepts.  I go to school everyday pretending I am alright. I act like I am happy, like I am not struggling, like I do not think of purging and restricting every waking hour of the day.  I wish someone would just help me because I really do not know if I can handle this much longer.

No.  I have a correction to make.

I KNOW I can’t handle this much longer.

Eating Disorder Question Answered: What Role Do Parents Play in Their Child’s Eating Disorder Remission?

If Only I Had Known

The first thing I did when I came home yesterday afternoon was collapse on my rat’s nest of a bed. Though I had done nothing but sit in a cramped Ford for eight long hours, my body felt like every ounce of energy had been drained out of it. My muscles felt as wobbly and weak as jello, my brain felt cloudy, and my eyes fluttered like the delicate wings of a baby robin as I fought to stay awake.

As my exhausted sunk into the comfort of my mattress, memories of the past eight days played like a film in my mind’s eye. There were images of summer sun dancing on my grandparents’ crystal clear pond at their farm, images of my aunt’s face beaming with excitement as she fed a llama at the zoo, and images of my grandparents waving goodbye at the crowded McDonald’s where my mom picked me up to take me home.

With each beautiful memory, I could feel myself drowning in an ocean of regret. For far too long I hadn’t any one-on-one time with my grandparents at their home in the serene Michigan countryside. Why? Because my eating disorder kept me locked in my house –  a place where everything consumed could be under its strict control.  My eating disorder was well aware that if I were to go to my grandparents’, I would be forced to eat at unfamiliar times and ingest items it had forbidden to enter my mouth.

Now that I have grown older and stronger, I wish I never let my eating disorder keep me away from the love of my grandparents. Every moment I spent trapped its prison, was a moment I could have spent with listening to the song of my grandma’s laughter or seeing the infectious smile that always lights up my grandpa’s wrinkled face.

Please take it from a girl whose lost more than half her life to an eating disorder and go and see your grandparents. Don’t let your own eating disorder scare you out of it because if there one thing I wish I would have realized, it is that life doesn’t last for eternity. One day the flesh that has been loaned to your loved ones will have to be returned to the Earth  and their souls will vanish into an unknown realm, their presence only to be seen again when you too must go.

Controlled: A Guest Blog Post by Neesha Arter

This blog post is written by Neesha Arter, a survivor of an eating disorder as well as sexual abuse.

neesha arter

When I was fourteen years old, I struggled with anorexia after being sexually assaulted by two people I had no reason to mistrust. My ordinary teenage life went from volleyball practice and sleepovers to an unwanted legal case and loss of identity. In my memoir, CONTROLLED, which comes out on August 11th, I write about how these challenges consumed my life.

For me, it was never a matter of being skinny or fat—anorexia was the remnant of my sexual assault and a vehicle to satisfy my wish to simply disappear. Fourteen is already an age where you don’t seem to know anything about the world. In many ways, losing my innocence made me lose my identity entirely. I couldn’t figure out if I was a teenager anymore or an adult. I thought it I could look like a child again, I could be the perfect little girl I used to be before that night happened. However, I learned after months of starvation, numbers, and calories that I had only lost myself more.

I am now 24 years old and after ten years, I have learned that perfection does not exist. But I’ve also learned that you can’t get to the other side on your own. I now know how hard it is on family and friends to watch someone they love suffer and I wish I had confided in them more at the time.

No matter how dark things seem to be, they can always turn around. I believe in second chances and giving them to yourself. I know the hardest thing in the world can be forgiving yourself for whatever it may be, but I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the past decade was how to be my own best friend.

I give a very honest account of my eating disorder in CONTROLLED, which I hope helps anyone who can relate to my story. A dear friend of mine told me during the publication process that I should focus less on it all being perfect and in the end, focus more on liking myself. And the truth is, no one is perfect. I will always be a perfectionist and have flaws but it’s all learning.

I now know that the power doesn’t lie in killing yourself, but it lies in letting yourself live.

If you are interested in reading Neesha Arter’s eye-opening book, you can now order it off Just click here!

I’m Back Home!

Two weeks ago today, I was dropped off at UW-Oshkosh with a suitcase, a fan, and a heart filled with worry. For the next 144 hours I would be one of two delegates representing my high school at Badger Girls State, an intense program meant to immerse young women in the complex science of American government.  The program was both physically and emotionally demanding. Every girl was expected to wake up at the crack of dawn, dress to the nines, and then proceed to drag to their sleep-deprived bodies to meetings that lasted well into the night.  On top all this, I had my own set of challenges I had to overcome. No longer could I eat meals comprised of my “safe” foods, eat at the times I preferred, or isolate myself from others. If I wanted to survive this 6 day challenge, I had to let go of my obsession with control and break free from the chains that have been holding me back for so many years.

With sheer determination, I not only survived Badger Girls State, but I thrived. I meant girls who were nothing short of amazing and who will probably be my friends for many years to come.

In this video, I explain my experience in greater detail and I hope my experience will give you the strength to also overcome your challenges and live the life you were born to live.

Taking selfies with the governor (he's still not getting my vote after what he's done to our schools)

Taking selfies with the governor (he’s still not getting my vote after what he’s done to our schools)

I was chosen to be POPPY PRINCESS!

I was chosen to be POPPY PRINCESS!

Acting silly during a LONG county meeting!

Acting silly during a LONG county meeting!


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