This Is How My Mother Supported Me During My Recovery From My Eating Disorder

photo courtesy of Brianna Kwasnik

My mom was a prominent role in my recovery from my eating disorder and is a prominent role in my continuing battle against depression.

When I first started showing signs of relapse with my eating disorder, everyone close to our family urged that my mom take action fast. They told her if anyone could, she would be the only one able to pull me out of the darkness and away from my demons.

No pressure, right?

My mom was all too familiar with my cycles of depression. I would become moody, withdraw from those around me and slowly drop out of things that I loved to be a part of — I would stop writing entirely, have trouble getting up and ready for work, start skipping a class here and there and so forth.

When things got really bad, I started losing weight. Fast. 

Before the start of my last semester of university, school officials and my doctors told my mom that in their professional opinion, it would be best for me to take a semester off from college.

I was adamant that it would never happen.

School is and has always been one thing that brought me immense pride. I love to learn.

My mom went against what “professionals” were saying because she knows her daughter. She knew that if I were forced to give up school, I would have nothing to fight for. School kept my mind occupied and kept me from further withdrawing into my dark state of depression.

With her help, I started my last semester of university like I was supposed to.

I was determined to prove the doctors and the professionals wrong and show them that I was strong and well enough to finish out the semester.

I would worry about treatment later.

That plan worked out alright for approximately one month. After class one day I had 20 minutes to get to my next class across campus. I knew the strength in my body was declining but viewed it as something that was frustrating rather than an actual problem. Halfway across campus and already five minutes late, I was covered in sweat and breaking down in tears.

I knew I wasn’t well, but I was determined. I couldn’t fathom the thought of giving up school.

And then I thought of my mom.

I thought of everything she put on the line for me because she knew how important school was to me.

And I kept walking.

I made it through my next class and had two hours to kill until the next.

I walked up to my professors office and broke down crying.

“I can’t go to class,” I told her. “I need to go back to the hospital.”

I told her everything, because I had previously skipped class, claiming that my stomach hurt and I needed to go home right away.

My professor was extremely encouraging and said that if I promised to drive myself to the hospital right then, she would excuse me from class.

I thought about driving home instead and telling her that they didn’t need to admit me.

Then I thought about my mom. And I thought about how long it would take me to walk to my car. How I couldn’t walk up five flights of stairs to get there. I was only 21. I thought about my heart and how I could barely feel it beating. I thought about my mom and how she tried to hide the fact that she was crying every time we hung up the phone. I thought about the fact that she told me she was scared that the last time she saw me would be the last time she would ever see me.

I drove myself to the hospital.

And I was admitted right away.

Not long after I was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, my mom drove four hours across the state to be by my side. She had no choice. Due to the disorder, the doctors declared me unfit to make decisions that were in my own interest.

I don’t know if I will ever forgive myself for the first words I said to my mom after she made that drive.

“Why are you here?”

The part of my brain that was consumed by the eating disorder wanted her to leave. That part of my brain was trying to consume the part that was still healthy. The part of my brain that called my mom every morning to catch her up on the things that happened in the last 18 hours since we last spoke. That part of my brain had been working for years to take over and shrink me into nothing. That part of my brain knew that my mom would make decisions to make me well again, and that part of my brain was pissed.

During the last year, my mom put her life on hold for many weeks to sit by my side in the hospital.

During that time, she had to hear countless doctors tell her that if I were to be released right then, I would most likely die. They told her of the possible permanent damage I did to my heart and my liver.

During that time my mom had to be a bystander to the disorder. She was by my side as I refused meal after meal, making up rules as to why I couldn’t eat them, or why I couldn’t drink this or that and why I wouldn’t take the medicine the doctors were bringing me.

During that time, my mom kept her composure as I cried, asked her to leave or refused to talk to her.

Regardless of what I said, my mom was able to distinguish the part of my brain that was the disorder trying to take over and the part of my brain that begged her to stay longer at the end of the day. And she came back to visit me in the hospital every day for six weeks. She brought me the newspaper and emails from professors and friends and sat by my side, encouraging me to write and forcing me to get out of bed and take walks and wash my hair every day.

My mom offered conversation as distraction during meal times because she knew how stressed out it made me. She calmed my fears and talked me through them as I attempted to finish meals like I once did without hesitation.

During this time, she tried never to let me see her cry.

My mom came back day after day, regardless of what my mood was like, regardless if I didn’t feel like talking or if I was tired and wanted to sleep during our entire visit.

During this time, she had to help me do things a mom shouldn’t have to help their 21-year-old daughters do.

She helped me stretch my legs when I couldn’t hold them up on my own. She helped me walk laps up and down the hallway as I worked to regain my strength, she helped me get in and out of the shower, standing nearby just in case I fell.

During this time, my mom still knew how important school was to me. She brought me my books, pens and paper every day to work on my homework.

At the end of the day, she would take home my work, type it up and mail it to my professors.

We kept in contact like this throughout the semester so we could ensure I would graduate on time.

I made dean’s list that semester.

During this time, my mom never gave up on me.

To this day, I know I can call my mom and tell her my struggles and we will talk through them together. She lets me know to raise any red flags as soon as I can if I feel myself sliding backwards, and she checks in with my sister.

I am so grateful for my mom and her unwavering love and patience with me during this time.

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