My Silent Temper Tantrum
My eating disorder came back with a vengeance after the birth of my second child. I was diagnosed with anorexia in college, and at that time, I received inpatient treatment and then a lengthy course of therapy. Yoga was the most empowering therapeutic modality, however, and it saved me from relapsing several times over the 18 years before I had children.
My first daughter, Demetra, was born July 1, 2011. My husband and I were in our mid 30s, and even though we were elated to become parents, we were also shocked into broad sweeping life changes. We both had successful careers, a vibrant social life, a variety of athletic activities that we enjoyed together and individually, and practically no limitations on our time. Now, with a baby girl, our hearts and lives were changed forever. Sleep deprivation, overwhelm, and a general sense of disconnection with myself began to settle in. I no longer went to yoga, very rarely did I see friends, and I was too tired to spend quality time with my husband. But, that was all OK, I told myself, because now I was a mother, and my soul/sole purpose was to nurture my child.
Just as life began to ease, as my husband and I had a better grip on parenting, we were blessed with a second pregnancy. Although I modeled nothing but joy about this news to the world, internally I was unclear about my feelings. Did I truly want another baby? I was finally sleeping all night again and beginning to feel less overwhelmed. I did not utter these thoughts for fear of sounding selfish and ungrateful. And so, as I carried my baby, I also carried a secret—I was not full of joy about having a second child.
Zoe was born July 3, 2013. My relapse began the very next day. My anorexic belief system reclaimed my brain, and it took merciless root. Although my eating disorder had never entirely disappeared over the years, it had been quiet enough not to monopolize my life or jeopardize my health like it had in college. As I held Zoe in the hospital, filled with all the mother’s love possible, a sinister drive to drop the baby weight as fast as possible rang in my head.
While on maternity leave, I walked with the girls twice a day, an hour each time—Zoe strapped to my chest and Demetra in the stroller. I found the hilliest, most challenging routes possible. I slowly began to eliminate foods from my diet and cut my intake. The responsibility of nursing Zoe kept my restriction in check, as I would never risk jeopardizing my daughter’s health and growth. When I stopped nursing Zoe at eight months, however, all bets were off. I spiraled into severe restriction and was hospitalized before her first birthday. I spent one month at the Renfrew Center, and then continued with the day and outpatient programs. A little over a year later, I am still in therapy, see a dietician, and go to group regularly. Yoga is an essential element to my healing.
My illness is a silent temper tantrum, a quiet way to express unhappiness, sadness, anger, hurt, pain, and disappointment. Recovery is the process of learning how to use my voice instead of my body to express feelings and emotions. This is a tall order, as the daily demands of life are relentless, with little time to catch my breath, hear my thoughts, or be present in my life. When I feel lost to myself, anorexia threatens to eat me alive. My recovery journey, therefore, has been about learning how to stay connected with myself.
Thanks to the unwavering support of my husband, I have finally given myself permission to build in time and activities that nurture my soul’s purpose. I am also learning how to hold the truths that motherhood is the best, and the hardest, the most rewarding, and the most challenging, the most fulfilling, and the most draining. I am learning to let go of guilt and not starve myself for the dichotomy that mothering represents for me.
Perhaps, not so ironically, motherhood is my greatest trigger and motivator. I dedicate my recovery to protecting my two girls from this evil disease. I do what often feels uncomfortable and impossible to be the best role model I can. Still, the daily stressors of parenting bring on my silent temper tantrum, and I am tormented with urges to shrink.My healing is an ongoing process, as is my journey as a mother. I welcome both, because together, they are my path to wholeness, contentment, and a rich and confident voice.