As if the fact that statistically 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder that is considered clinically significant in their lifetime isn’t enough to worry about. Or that every 62 minutes someone dies from an eating disorder isn’t scary enough. Let’s also keep in mind that these statistics only include the people whose eating disorders have been not only diagnosed but ALSO deemed “clinically significant.” Which means, there is also an unknown number of others suffering and even dying from an eating disorder who’s lives and deaths are NOT EVEN COUNTED in these statistics!
As if knowing this alone wasn’t significant enough to absolutely terrify and haunt me when I so much as thought about having children someday, I couldn’t neglect to acknowledge what I know is especially true because of my own history: eating disorders run in families. And I want to have a family. But the last thing I want is for eating disorders to run in MY family.
One of the most beautiful gifts being in recovery from my eating disorder has given me is the ability to take my dream of one day having a family and turn it into a reality someday, now that I am healthy enough to do so. But of course, there’s a catch. There’s always a catch.
I fought like hell to recover from anorexia, so I could have healthy happy kids someday, and so those kids would never go through what I went through. But it’s not that simple, is it? The sole fact that I myself have struggled with an eating disorder could put my children at a much greater risk of developing one than having a mom who didn’t.
Those who have a relative with Anorexia are ten times more likely to have an eating disorder themselves. TEN TIMES. And it’s not like I would just be some relative they barely saw, I’m their mom. The person they look to for safety and comfort, and just being myself could put that safety at risk.
They run in families for a variety of reasons. First off, my children could potentially model after my behaviors and develop the same nasty habits that led me down the path to self-destruction. But I’m not quite as concerned about that, because I vowed I would never have children until I fully recovered, and until I was ready to be a healthy example who’s behavior wouldn’t become a negative influence. But then there’s genetics. Something I have zero control over. Now of course, there is no proof thus far of any certain gene causing an eating disorder, but we DO know that there are common core characteristics that people with eating disorders tend to have. And these characteristics if not learned through modeling, are usually genetically predisposed. Therefor there is the possibility that my wonky set of genetics could be inherited by my child and make them more susceptible to having an eating disorder.
I remember one afternoon when I was seventeen years old and living in a residential treatment center for my eating disorder, a therapy assignment that helped me get where I am today. We were told to make a list of all the things we wanted to do but we wouldn’t be able to do if we stayed sick. Amongst my list of having several dogs and a fairytale wedding someday, was the number one thing on my list; kids. I wanted kids.
And then it hit me.
I couldn’t find a single reason to get better for myself, I didn’t care enough about myself. But I did care about my future kids. And if I couldn’t save my life for myself, I was going to do it for them. Because although I deserved to be miserable and sick, they deserved a healthy, happy, and amazing mommy, and I was determined to give it to them.
Statistics are raw, they a real, and they are petrifying. But one thing they aren’t, is certain. I know, because I used to believe I was one. I knew wholeheartedly that I would be one of the lives lost every 62 minutes and I would be a sad young obituary in the newspaper used to raise awareness for other kids so they didn’t end up like me. And yet, here I am.
I am not a statistic. I very easily could have been one, but instead I am here. So, while I may have every odd against me when it comes to having healthy children, I’ve had the odds against me before… and that never stopped me, so why should it now? Statistics are meant to be broken, and lives are meant to be lived, not counted. So that’s what I’m going to do with mine. I am here, I am happy, I am healthy, and someday I’m going to be a mommy.
And no matter what my children may go through, no matter how much of it is completely and utterly my fault, I will never regret choosing to have them. Because the moment I chose my children, I no longer choose my eating disorder. You see, if I were to refrain from having kids because of the fear my past has placed in me, then my eating disorder would still be in control of my life. I would still be sick. But it isn’t, and I’m not. I will do everything in my power to try to keep the grips of an eating disorder from ever touching my precious children, but even if harm ever comes their way, I still will have won. I still will have chosen them. Because there would be no life to protect at all, had I not chosen to see if I would fly instead of fall.