"Keep asking yourself questions," my therapist Kirsten encouraged me, find the one that takes you to your edge. Makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s where the work is.”
This was the approach used during treatment to keep me moving forwards with recovery. But there was one question. One I skirted around and stuffed down because the mere thought caused me so much distress. One I was certain if I acknowledged would take me, not only to my edge, but up and over the top of it.
Have I been a good mom to my kids?
The reality is, from the time they were very young, my boys have had a mom who has struggled with an eating disorder. Since I didn't recognize I had a problem, it never occurred to me they would sense something was off. Even as I began to toy with the idea I might have an issue, I took assurance that they were too absorbed in their own little lives of Pokemon and Star Wars to notice what might be going on in my own. But they noticed.
It began in little ways. When the boys were young it was easy to incorporate my healthy eating habits into their lives but as they hit mid-grade school they started to push back a little. They became more vocal about their dislike of my green smoothies, the homemade whole grain power bars, and the overabundance of steamed broccoli that crowded their plates. But ultimately, I still had a lot of control over what they were offered. Anxiety kicked in when things came into the house I didn't plan for. Gooey brownies from grandma Sally, chewy frosted sugar cookies from grandma Sandra, and, leftover birthday cake from a friends in the neighborhood. I told friends and family the “kids didn’t need it." In truth, its not that I didn’t want the kids to have that stuff, it was that I wanted it. Badly. Just looking at a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie or whipped frosting loaded cupcake could set my heart pounding, the saliva pooling in my mouth like a starving dog in front of a T bone steak. I wanted to devour one but feared I would ultimately end up eating the whole plate. So much of what came into the house went either into the trash or wrapped up and tucked into the back of the freezer out my sight.
I did enjoy cooking. Recipes for easy, healthy, family friendly meals were one of the most popular requests from my clients so I experimented. On the boys anyways. As a result I found myself making two or three different meals every night. For example I would make the boys a meal of cheesy ground turkey tacos or baked parmesan chicken tenders. I steered clear of making them anything that might tempt me, so lasagna, burgers, and pesto anything were a rarity. For myself each night, I prepared a safe meal of steamed fish and roasted veggies and Marc, being a man with a very picky palette who prefers to snack throughout the day would often times just request a small salad for himself. Slap on an apron and call me Flo, but I felt if they were happy, I wouldn’t get any flack about what I was (or wasn’t) eating. It worked for awhile. I knew my body felt good when I ate my light, simple, clean meals and I convinced myself if I ate a bowl of pasta or, God forbid, a juicy burger, it would make me feel full, bloated, and uncomfortable. And I needed to feel physically comfortable because emotionally I was anything but.