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Inhale, Exhale. Inhale Exhale…….

“It is not my fault. Why didn’t I see the signs early on? Will she get better? She will get better! I feel so helpless! Is there hope? There is hope. What can I do? What can’t I do? She can’t do this alone. But she has to take this journey on her own. She needs to want to recover. I can’t do this alone? Who do I reach out to? “

Inhale, Exhale. Inhale, Exhale……

To many, this internal dialogue is all too familiar. My name is Robin. I am the parent of the most remarkable daughter. A beautiful kind, loving daughter with an eating disorder. With ED, a serious mental illness. Sarah’s eating disorder began in middle school. A male friend of Sarah’s, on the way to class shared in casual conversation that “you can tell a girl is fat if their thighs touch.” Looking into the mirror that evening at home, her thighs touched.

Inhale, Exhale. Inhale, Exhale…

The ED journey began. That journey has taken my daughter with me by her side to four residential treatment facilities, 2 psychiatric 72 hour holds for self-harm and suicidal ideation, numerous trips to the ER, and currently to an a treatment I0P program. This eating disorder journey, that began around the age of twelve , is now soon to be 20 years old with my daughter’s birthday in October. While the journey is not linear, recovery never is, an eating disorder can be managed, recovery is possible and resources are available! It takes time, hard work and dedication to life…..It takes accountability from the individual, the family, the community and the necessity of intervention.

Inhale, Exhale. Inhale, Exhale……

I want you to know that this insidious mental illness has changed my outlook on eating disorders, my role as parent to an adult child with an eating disorder, and the way I advocate for change in our mental health system today. I strive to understand all I can about eating disorders, I take classes, participate in parent groups, ask questions, confront my own past journey with an eating disorder, volunteer, seek answers and develop my own toolkit to assist others through mentoring and mindfulness work. Currently, my journey has allowed me to serve on the Board of Directors for ANAD, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide free services, supports, resources and referrals to individuals suffering with eating disorders and their families. I also volunteer with the Anti-Defamation League, ADL, sharing educational curriculum and resources that assist in identify bullying, hatred and body shaming in our public schools. Eating disorders can start at a very young age with body image and peer pressure.

Inhale, Exhale. Inhale, Exhale…..

I am not quiet when it comes to advocating for the restructuring of our mental health care system. We don’t treat ED and mental health issues equitably in our society. In fact, we often ignore and even mis-diagnose them. If one is fortunate to have medical insurance, eating disorders are not regularly covered in a way that insures proper long-range opportunities for recovery. The band-aid approach does not work for mental illness or eating disorders. Restored weight does not mean a restored mind. And if insurance companies do not cover care, families are forced to use much or all of their financial resources to pay for treatment.

Inhale, Exhale. Inhale, Exhale……

What I have learned through this journey is that there are resources available out there and organizations that can assist families in getting the support they need. Reach Out! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Eating Disorders do not go away with time. In fact, left untreated, they can be deadly. Eating disorders, as well as all mental illnesses span all socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic populations. And with the pressures of social media, COVID-19 and isolation, their prevalence is increasing.

Inhale, Exhale. Inhale, Exhale……

My daughter is a warrior. She is working hard develop the armor of mental and physical supports that will allow her to exist in this world. I am part of her army along with organizations like ANAD www.anad.og and NAMI

Inhale, exhale…inhale, exhale

As my daughter says, “I am tired yet I am a warrior! “ If you are the parent of a loved one with an eating disorder or mental illness, you will be tired at times. Use your experiences to advocate for better resources! Support their recovery. Take care of your mental well-being and above else, never lose hope.

Inhale, exhale….inhale, exhale.