Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By: Margie Paulino

My 18-year-old daughter suffered from bulimia for four years. She was at the Center for 3 ½ months and has been home for a little over one month. Fortunately for us, and for her, her recovery is going well. She is using the tools she was given at the Center to fight the eating disorder, and so are her father and I. There have been some small bumps in the road along the way, but nothing scary or too big to handle.

I asked her recently what were some of the key factors that helped her in her recovery at the Center and since she has been home. Her response was immediate. She said her faith sustained her, then and now. She also said she wanted recovery for herself and has seen the difference it has made in her life. She then told me how fortunate she felt she was to have the parents she does, because we are her strongest support system, always ready to listen, encourage her when needed, communicate openly with her, accept her for who she is, and validate her feelings. She then said because we were dedicated to her recovery, and changed what we needed to change, it made a world of difference for her.

My wish is to convey the right words of hope and encouragement for other parents with recovery. To do so, I thought it would be helpful to write about some of the most important key factors which I know aided our daughter in her recovery, in our recovery as a family, and recovery as parents.

For our daughter, it was her willingness to diligently work the program at the Center. Having a strong desire to get well helped her to do so. She was able to recognize the part she had in her eating disorder, owned what she needed to own, and was committed to changing her life for the better. In doing so, she learned to believe and trust in herself. Her forgiving spirit and strong faith in the Lord has helped her to move forward, but most of all, she was able to make peace with herself, with us (her parents), and with God. In making peace, she was able to let go.

I truly believe we all experience trials in our lives for a purpose. We have certainly learned a great deal and grown in many positive ways because of this one. I am thankful for what we have gained and learned through the process, painful though it was. We can now look forward to a brighter future.

It was important for my husband and I to recognize that our daughter’s eating disorder wasn’t just her problem, but a family problem. We had to muster together all the courage and strength we had, especially in the beginning stage of treatment, to keep our daughter at the Center for the complete program, even when she thought she was ready to come home. It was necessary and helpful for her recovery to know that she could self-soothe, and important for us to realize that she could do this without our constant presence. We were committed to her recovery.

We learned to identify, admit to, and own the mistakes we made which contributed to our daughter’s bulimia. We then were able to apologize for these mistakes in very specific ways. This validated her pain and let her know how much we loved her. She knew we would be there for her through it all, no matter what!

We had to accept the situation, rely on our faith in the process, and be willing to do whatever it took to improve the situation for the past, present, and future. That meant doing every assignment in every phase of the program that was in the workbook given to us from the Center. As we did, we were able to take a personal inventory, look deep inside ourselves, and take responsibility for the part we had in contributing to our daughter’s eating disorder. We were able to see what we needed to do to change things for our family in order to have a better family relationship, daughter and parent relationship, and even as husband and wife. The assignments gave us a clear understanding of the eating disorder and all the complex reasons behind it. We gained a deeper respect for our daughter and for each other, learned that patience is a virtue, and found the gift of unconditional love for our daughter and each other.

Participating in the weekly family phone therapy sessions was another important key factor in our daughter’s recovery. These sessions benefitted us a great deal by teaching us healthier ways to communicate as a family. Going to “Family Week” showed us we were not alone and neither was our daughter. Having a support system for ourselves was crucial. We decided with our daughter from the very beginning to be open with our friends, her friends, and family about her treatment at the Center for her eating disorder. This helped each of us get the support we needed outside of the Center. Telling friends and family was a freedom for all of us, because there weren’t any secrets and no stories to make up as to where our daughter was and why.

My hope and prayers go out to all of those parents who are, and will, experience the pain of having a loved one with an eating disorder. I hope you will embrace and use the tools that the Center gives you. They are a gift that we will always treasure.

Using the tools will help you and your daughter to be whole again. The genuine love and care given from everyone who worked at the Center was crucial in my daughter’s recovery, and was a blessing.

We are thankful to have learned to let go. In our letting go, our daughter is happy and enjoying life once again. She now has her wings and is soaring towards greater heights. What more could we ask for? Will there be more challenges ahead for us? Yes, but I know that our daughter will eventually triumph over each one, and so will we. Our lives have been enriched and we have become better people because of the challenges we have already faced. The journey wasn’t easy, but the end results were worth it. Hold on to hope and never let go.