What You Can Do About It

Girls with eating disorders characteristically are unable to express themselves. They can't talk about what they feel, because they usually don't know how they feel. I (Melissa) met with a fifteen-year-old with anorexia whom I asked to keep a daily journal of her feelings. She came back to me a week later with a list of what she had eaten each day and how she felt about it. All her feelings had to do with food and her body. Why? It was safe for her. It was easier for her to feel disgust for her body than disappointment over her relationships.

The first step we would take with a girl struggling with an eating disorder would be to help her reconnect to her feelings. We would help her learn to talk about her sadness, anger, grief, shame, and all the other emotions that flood our hearts each day. We would help her reconnect to her longings for relationship, because those longings have been numbed by her preoccupation with food.

We would also help her see that her value goes beyond the boundaries of her physical being. Girls with eating disorders need to see that they have things to offer besides their physical appearance and their perfect performance. They can be good friends . . . they can volunteer with younger children . . . they can be artists who don't have to color inside the lines.

Most importantly, any girl struggling with an eating disorder needs to be overwhelmed by grace. She needs your grace as a parent when she causes her soccer team to lose or makes her first C on a report card. Consequences still apply, at times, but she needs to know that your love for her is not related to her performance.

Ultimately, she needs to know the grace of a loving God. She needs to see that God's love reaches down into her weakest and most insecure places. He loves her as she is and not as she believes she should be.

As a parent, this probably feels overwhelming. Eating disorders are that way . . . for her and for you. They are highly addictive and become all-consuming for your daughter. If you suspect that she might be struggling with an eating disorder, seek professional help. Take her to someone who can help her work through the deep issues involved, not someone who will just give her a list of "healthy" and "unhealthy" behaviors and give her advice about food. That just creates more anxiety. As we have said before, make sure that person is one that you trust spiritually—one who will help be an instrument of God's grace,

Find her a good nutritionist too. You don't need to be her food police. She will only fight you harder for that control. We recommend a nutritionist to help with the food and a counselor to help with the emotional and spiritual components of eating disorders. You can't do this alone. You need other adults who can be on her team, encouraging and challenging her to be the wonderfully imperfect girl God has created her to be.

Eating disorders are a terrible battle to fight for any girl. They are complicated addictions because, unlike alcohol or drugs, she will have food as a part of every day of her life. Eating disorders are also frightening for a parent, as you often watch her disappear before your eyes.

In all of these areas, you and your daughter need support. You need other voices to help and to walk alongside you both in this process of your daughter becoming who she is meant to be. With the effects of media, technology, school culture, drugs and alcohol, cutting, eating disorders—girls today are under attack from within themselves and from the world around them. As Mary Pipher said, "They are young and vulnerable trees." And these are strong winds blowing against them.

PART THREE

How Can 1 Help?

This page is intentionally left blank

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 10

We determine by our inner dialogue and predispositions —fears, angers, and judgments—much more than we'd like to admit. We determine what we will see and what we won't see, what we pay attention to and what we don't. That's why we have to clean the lens: we have to get our ego-agenda out of the way, so we can see things as they are.

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

We determine by our inner dialogue and predispositions —fears, angers, and judgments—much more than we'd like to admit. We determine what we will see and what we won't see, what we pay attention to and what we don't. That's why we have to clean the lens: we have to get our ego-agenda out of the way, so we can see things as they are.

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

Although Father Richard Rohr was talking about prayer, he could have just as well been speaking of parenting. In many ways, parenting is the least egocentric job in the world. Your time—at least a good majority of it—is spent doing things for your daughter, listening to her, talking with her, and thinking about her.

But our own ego-agendas always seem to creep in to cloud our vision: our fears, angers, judgments, and various other unresolved issues. A mother who struggles with her weight is harder on her overweight daughter than on her thin daughter. A father who excelled in sports pushes his daughter to run cross-country, when all she really wants to do is dance.

Ego-agendas are rarely on purpose. You would not purposely rely on your daughter to take the emotional place of your ex-wife. You would not fulfill your own unmet adolescent needs through her. But parents often do. Counselors do, as well.

Countertransference is a word that bounces around every graduate school for therapists. It is defined as "a process that sometimes occurs in therapy where repressed emotions in the therapist are awakened by identification with the experiences and feelings of the patient." What this means is that the girls that I (either one of us, actually) have the most difficulty counseling are the ones who bring up my own issues, who remind me of parts of myself that I don't like, or who have opportunities that I could only long for in my past. They awaken my feelings, whether I know it or not.

As it applies to parents, countertransference could thus be defined as "a process that happens often in parenting where repressed emotions in the parent are awakened by identification with the experiences and feelings of the child."

In graduate school we weren't told what to do if countertrans-ference happened, but when countertransference happened. Parents, teachers, counselors—anyone who cares for girls—will have emotional awakenings. The lens then becomes cloudy, and our ability to see the girl we love becomes blurred.

Dealing With Sorrow

Dealing With Sorrow

Within this audio series and guide Dealing With Sorrow you will be learning all about Hypnotherapy For Overcoming Grief, Failure And Sadness Quickly.

Get My Free Audio Series


Post a comment