Make Mother's Day a Healing Day


Can a child understand her mother's experience?

*pix Why do you suppose I selected this picture for this Mother's Day post?

Mother's Day is upon us. Does this day affect your recovery work?

If it does, do you know why and how to take care of yourself?

 What emotions come up in you that relate to Mother's Day? 

  1.                   -Love?
  2.                   -Regret?
  3.                  - Anger?
  4.                   -Hope?
  5.                   -Gratitude?
  6.                   -Resentment?
  7.                   -Fear?
  8.                   -Defiance?
  9.                   -Nostalgia?

    What does the day mean to you?

    1.                  -Happy celebration with family?
    2.                  -Grim and dutiful effort to go along with the day?
    3.                  -Retreat and isolation?
    4.                  -Defiance?
    5.                  -Eating challenges?
    6.                  -Gift giving?

      Limitations of Eating Disorder Thinking

      Please remember, an eating disorder gives you a limited but structured way to experience your life.  You will follow that structure blindly unless you make a concentrated and continued effort to maintain and increase your awareness. This is not unique to someone with an active or past eating disorder. Human beings in general face this fundamental challenge so necessary to meet in order to achieve life long development. eating disorder in the mix makes this challenge particularly acute.

      What's Normal

      So let's look at Mother's Day.  Your past memories and feelings, your perceived responsibilities of today and your vision of the future, plus how you wish past, present and future could be all pile into your psyche and create powerful feelings.  This is normal!

      Your Awareness Task

      An awareness task is created by this normal experience.  Your eating disorder may block the task, leaving you with a pile of powerful feelings you do not understand or misunderstand. You may act out.

      Your task is about sorting, reviewing, clarifying and bringing yourself to the here and now with self honesty.  If you can do that you can give yourself what you need in a realistic and caring way.  Then you can be present as daughter and mother in the here and now. 

      Mothers Here or Not

      You may or may not have a mother who is alive or in communication with you. If you were alone on a mountain top far from your native land, you still couldnt' escape from your memories and emotions that relate to your mother.  This is so even if you never knew her.  These are your feelings, wishes, dreads, hopes, fears and yearnings. And if you are a mother, these feelings get all mixed up with expectations you have for your children, i.e. how they should be with you and how you may be with them.

      Mother's Day Your Healing Day

      You can make Mother's Day a special healing and growing day for yourself.  Know that you have an awareness task before you.  (Your eating disorder mind will not allow this knowledge. So once again, as part of your recovery, you need to rebel against eating disorder commands.)

      1. Review your feelings. Review your memories. Review your wishes. Review your perceived obligations.
      2. Sort through your feelings on paper or through art making.
      3. Give yourself or arrange to have what you need to be supported and cared for in the present. One important caring support is your own awareness!
      4. Work to be in your Mother's Day as it is now without past or future images interfering with your experience.
      5. And, as always, be kind to yourself and others while, at the same time, you say, "No," to what is not good for you and, "Yes," to what is good for you.
      Guiding Questions
      1. What are your feelings about Mother's Day?
      2. What are your quick eating disorder thinking commands?
      3. How can you discover how to sort and review so you can be honest and whole with yourself?


      (Hint:  The exercises in Healing Your Hungry Heart are all about how to do this.)

      Joanna Poppink, MFT, Los Angeles eating disorder psychotherapist


      0 # when I first looked at this painting,mymylifex2 2012-05-12 13:01
      when I first looked at this painting,my initial take on was the following: a mother, alone with a child, braving harsh weather and LEAVING the area where there is the safety of a it hers, a neighbors? a strangers? is she traveling?
      Then I thought, well perhaps she is heading TOWARD her home, carrying with her things necessary for warmth (twigs to burn) and nutrition (goat milk for her and her child)....and my inital thought on the goat was that she was dragging it as somewhat an afterthought.
      She must be tired and appears to be dragging under the weight of her responsibilities. Her daughter looks like a trooper. The weather looks rough. I hope they are heading inside their own home, I don't think they will make it very far if they don't get to shelter. The mother looks resilient, however, and tough. I think she knows what she is doing.
      I am looking foward to Mother's Day. My kids have always done the sweetest things for me. I love the handmade gifts and the picked flowers they arrange for me. Their innocense in thinking I don't know what they are giving me is sweet. (afterall, I took them shopping and they used my credit card :-)
      I love to watch how happy they are when they see how much I appreciated what they are doing for me. I love the "little things"...but really, they are the biggest things to me.
      I have recently (in the past year or so) begun to resolve my relationship with my mother. I cant change her, only my response to her. She is miserable, depressed, and generally hates her life. She does nothing to improve her situation. I love her, and I spend the amount of time with her that I can handle. Then, I leave. It gets easier everyday.
      I am trying not to think about food as an issue tomorrow. I am going to enjoy my day. My brother is making brunch for the mothers in my family (he is a chef), and he makes deserts like you wouldnt believe. I am going to have a bite of this and that...he is a wonderful cook. i am going to savor and enjoy, not fret or rush or gorge or regret. I spend enough time thinking I am a bad mom and this is one day I try to reflect on the fact that I really do a great job and the best I can. I love my kids. I hope my older daughter gives me a back rub like last year :-)
      0 # Brava, Tracy. Sounds great. Your chpinkjoanna 2012-05-12 13:30
      Brava, Tracy. Sounds great.

      Your children are precious! Shopping and credit cards are far removed from their creative and loving experience of making something for you. :-)

      I'm going to hold off for a week before I talk about my reasons for selecting that painting. Thank you for your impressions!

      Happy Mother's Day. :-)
      0 # I really like this painting, it seems toshh 2012-05-12 14:40
      I really like this painting, it seems to have a positive feel about it. Even though the characters are obviously not wealthy, and working hard for their existence, it has a bright, cheerful kind of energy about it... but then I suppose that is the spirit of motherhood isn't it? No matter how much you have or don't have in life, you can still bring a positive, nuturing, optimistic outlook to life as you care for your family and go about your duties as a mother.

      Mother's Day in the UK is in March, so it has been and gone this year for me.
      I love the time I spend with my own children, and how my husband helps the girls to lay a tray and bring me breakfast in bed, chosen and prepared by them, and not always consisting of breakfast-like items...but always wonderful,and always adorned with small home-made gifts, and I never fail to feel loved and appreciated by them - not just Mother's Day, but every day.

      With my own mother, things are slighty different - I struggle to find a card that doesn't make me feel hypocritical, but I scour the shops until I do - in fact I probably spend more time on her in that way, than I would do if we were close and I could send a "how wonderful you are, you raised me so lovingly, and I would be lost without you" style card.

      This year for some reason, when I was at her house, I picked up the card my sister had sent, and inside it she had written "...I love you so very, very much" and it made me wonder whether my mother writes similar things in cards she sends to my sister too... I figured that she probably does, and felt a bit sad and hurt for a few moments, but then brushed it aside and got on with things.

      I am after all "the mistake" (unplanned pregnancy) and she has never made any bones about expressing her view of "don't have children, they ruin your life"...and my sister never has done and says she never will.
      (apparently having my sister was okay, because I'd already ruined her life by then, so there wasn't anything left to lose)

      And I look at them both, and I actually feel a bit sad for them, that neither of them knows how it feels to enjoy a fulfilling role as a mother.

      And maybe, without being conceited, although nobody is ever the perfect parent, and I am probably far from it, maybe it's okay for me to feel a little bit proud of how hard I have tried to ensure that I broke that fact my T says it to me sometimes, that she thinks I'm a good mother...and maybe I'm finally starting to take it on board and believe it.
      0 # Happy Mothers Day to you to Joanna and emylifex2 2012-05-12 14:43
      Happy Mothers Day to you to Joanna and everyone :-) Enjoy your day with your families, and for those departed, blessed thoughts.
      0 # As I sit here on Mother's day this yearBrande 2012-05-13 14:19
      As I sit here on Mother's day this year I have wanted to rebel through anorexia partly because the craziness of a neighbor causing drama, court trial coming up, and the stress of juggling so much on my own, but also because I simply miss starvation as means of coping. This painting speaks volumes to me as she struggles in carrying the "weight of the world" on her back while still having to "drag" the animal, and while having to "depend" on her own child to help with her younger child all while walking through the snow in what appears to be thin clothing for snow weather. I feel all this metaphorically through my semi accident, daily pain, court ongoing now in the 70,000 range, juggling the boys wants and needs, while working a triggering job with abused children and maintaining a small apartment. And let's not forget that I am in recovery after 23 years of bulmia/anorexia.Anorexia All that aside this article is triggering in the sense that I was pretty much on my own growing up. No one to hold me, tuck me in, brush my hair, read to me, allow me to have princess dresses and feel pretty. We were locked out a lot and left without food, with abusive neighbors, and with my mom's abusive boyfriends. I had no sense of belonging (and still don't)but could never be mad at my mom so I starved and purged and exercised. Whenever there was mother's day, her birthday, or Christmas she never liked what we got her and let us know it. I never felt good enough and that I was always a disappointment. Still do. So for me, Mother's day is about my boys making me something at their school's and the muffins with mom I went to with my oldest and tea with mom with my youngest. I don't need or want gifts. I desire my kids not to live in fear, to feel my safe arms around them daily, to be able to be kids and enjoy the simple things. To be real and be able to come to me. I am just now learning this and embracing it because I need and want recovery~ Time to "do" your book! Hugs Joanna!
      Laura R
      0 # I'm looking at the painting and the wordLaura R 2012-05-13 19:09
      I'm looking at the painting and the word that keeps coming to mind is "balanced". Both mom and child are each carrying their load. It doesn't look easy, but nothing bad is happening. Everyone is moving forward together...well the goat maybe not so much :-) I'd like to think they are heading home to a warm fire.

      In my family we used to have a family gathering for mothers day. Now that my mom is gone we don't do that and it's kind of sad. This year my little sis called me the night before and said let's go have lunch together. So we ditched my hubby had a nice lunch and got our nails done. We decided it was our mothers day since we are mothers of cats.

      Shh - I really like what you wrote: "although nobody is ever the perfect parent, and I am probably far from it, maybe it's okay for me to feel a little bit proud of how hard I have tried to ensure that I broke that mould". That speaks to me two ways. First it makes me think about my mom and how even though I loved her and miss her very much, I don't want to live my life the way she did...constantly in fear, disparaging her body and denying herself the ability to accept a non-perfect life. It also reminds me that I don't have to be a perfect parent to myself. That I can be proud of the way I'm learning to mother myself even though I'm far from perfect. Thanks for sharing.

      Hope everyone did OK today.
      0 # I like reading these posts here becausemylifex2 2012-05-13 20:01
      I like reading these posts here because despite our setbacks with our mothers, our families, etc., everyone is trying to find a way to move past the traumas and difficulties in our past. The insight on this thread is amazing.
      I hope everyone had a good day whatever the day consisted of :-)
      Mine was really nice. I spent some nice quiet time with my big drama, no fighting amongst family members.
      Food was a moderate issue for me, but I am not going to beat myself up for it.
      My mom did make it a point, however, to bring out an old picture of me at a much heavier weight and talk was centered around how good i look now. She showed everyone who came over. I am not quite sure where her head is or what she is thinking in doing this. Does she not realize that just a few months ago she was concerned because i wouldn't eat? Fat or skinny? what do you want? I don't think it needs to be brought up at all.
      but,'s ok...this is my issue not hers. And she is always forgetting things anymore, so maybe she forgot how sick I was getting before. I am truly ok, she doesn't understand eating disordered thinking. I won't let this incident mess up my progress.
      (But I did steal the picture lol)
      0 # I love that you stole the picture Tracy!shh 2012-05-14 08:18
      I love that you stole the picture Tracy!
      0 # I'm glad you took possession of that phopinkjoanna 2012-05-15 00:08
      I'm glad you took possession of that photo, too, Tracy!

      0 # Thanks guys! I really am doing so much bmylifex2 2012-05-15 20:57
      Thanks guys! I really am doing so much better this past week.
      0 # i want to share a proud mother's moment.mylifex2 2012-05-19 20:19
      i want to share a proud mother's moment. My four year old has been chosen by her gymnastics staff to train with the competition team. She will start competing after she has trained for one year. I am so proud of her accomplishment, especially with her diagnosis of Aspergers. She is amazing!
      0 # Fabulous! I'm so happy with you, Tracy.pinkjoanna 2012-05-19 20:57
      Fabulous! I'm so happy with you, Tracy. :-)
      0 # I chose this painting to accompany my Mopinkjoanna 2012-05-26 14:50
      I chose this painting to accompany my Mother's Day post because, as the viewer, you can see both mother and child contributing, from their own experience and abilities, to the requirements of the moment.

      Each is stalwart. They may or may not be aware of the other's efforts and emotions. It looks like the challenges they face are great and the stakes are high.

      We all have experienced some form of this experience in our lives. Maybe the people in the painting are accustomed to this kind of hardship. Maybe they don't know the stakes are high because they are always this high. Maybe the mother knows and the child doesn't or vice versa.

      Looking at this painting with an eye to our own experiences, memories, judgements of ourselves and others in the past or present
      can help raise possibilities of new interpretations of how we perceive our lives.

      Maybe you as a hardworking child had no way of appreciating what your mother was going through. Or maybe you are the mother who is not appreciated - or not appreciating your own effort.

      Maybe you as a hardworking child, took on too much and felt your mother's work was too much of a burden because you were not doing enough.

      Maybe you and your mother - or you and your child - are in a greater partnership than you realized.

      And, the internal mother and internal child you carry with you as part of your psyche can dialogue and integrate as you appreciate the many and complex possibilities in the mother/child relationship.

      I chose this painting because I think it holds endless teachings.
      0 # struggling with motherhood and being ovemylifex2 2012-05-29 16:02
      struggling with motherhood and being overwhelmed with my special needs child. trying to find ways to detach from her meltdowns and screaming that are daily. I don't like taking medications to feel calmer. I can't find those special relaxing moments nor can I find a moment for a PAM when she is screaming. My stomach is in knots every afternoon when she comes home from school. I love her. I need to find a way to figure her out. You would think I would know by now. I have really begun to figure out my issues and settle down. But this issue befuddles me. Need a huge hug today...
      0 # Open yourself to the support opportunitipinkjoanna 2012-05-30 00:59
      Open yourself to the support opportunities around you. Ask for help.

      AND please remember, when we expect our well being to improve after someone else changes we have given away our power and remain helpless
      to our emotional reactions stimulated by the behavior fluctuations of someone else.

      We need to practice our breathing exercises so we can breathe into stressful situations and function from a state as close to peace as we can achieve. Over time, with practice, we can achieve more inner peace during times of challenging stress.

      You have a special needs child. I appreciate the challenge of this.
      At the same time, your child is a child. Children pick up on the emotional state of the mother and live it out.

      Instead of putting the focus on figuring her out, try really putting the focus on you. Do you breathing exercises to release the knots in your stomach.

      Work on being with her (screaming or not) while you are in an increasingly more relaxed, calm and accepting state. Work on becoming the calm and sturdy presence she can't create within herself. Then she can lean on you emotionally and draw from your calm and loving strength.

      I know this is not easy to do. It might not be easy for you to even consider. But please open yourself to the possibility that you could make this happen - gradually, with practice and intention, over time.

      0 # Thank you, Joanna. I have gotten bettermylifex2 2012-05-30 06:45
      Thank you, Joanna. I have gotten better at asking for help, but it is still a huge challenge for me. I have always felt that I should be able to "do it all". I need to find a support group. I do need to find a way to incorporated serenity into these moments. Last night, for instance, my solution to her screaming was to turn on the dryer, the dishwasher, and the air purifier to drown out her noise. Then I ate a piece of cake. (!)
      I realize too, that because I am currently on steroids for a tendon issue, I am more edgy and irritable to start with.
      I dedicated my entire session with my therapist this morning to talking about ways I can work better with both of my children.
      I will start working harder on breathing excercises. I know it will be a challenge to pull that out of my pocket successfully at first, but I know it will be a better solution than just trying to ignore the screaming.
      I think it is possible. I just need to be patient and practice.
      0 # Oh, Tracy. Sounds like you asked your mapinkjoanna 2012-05-30 13:55
      Oh, Tracy. Sounds like you asked your machines to scream louder than your child while you evacuated the premises by going into the cake.

      Do you know Dore Previn's song, "Screaming in the Night." ?? I suggest you find out about Dore Previn and listen to that song. It might help you appreciate both you and your child's screaming.

      More and more screams just stimulate and already over stimulated person or animal for that matter.

      Please work on finding, creating and building peace within yourself as your supportive and stable "home" within. That place can be your "serene and stable home" for you wherever you are. And that "home" within you is your child's home. Our children need to rest and feel secure in the stable peace and serenity of their parents until the children can create their own.
      0 # sounds like, it , yes. I think at themylifex2 2012-05-30 20:39
      sounds like, it , yes.
      I think at the moment it was the only thing I could think of because I felt so frustrated. I deal with adults having tantrums at work all day, then I come home to a child who has them.. I am truly working on finding ways to have more inner calm. I have written about my successes recently with finding ways to soothe myself and hobbies that I have found that I enjoy. I do feel I am moving in a positive direction in many parts of my life...but this issue does need a lot of attention. I think it also demands specific and different soothing methods, because these methods need to be things i can grab in an instant..i am working on finding ways to prevent my own meltdowns by seeking support from experts in working with her in therapy and also by having respite evenings out with friends. (working on getting more of these!) I know she feeds off me to some degree, that she senses my frustration. Thanks for the feedback!
      0 # This picture must have held some signifishh 2012-06-16 14:11
      This picture must have held some significance for me, maybe becuase I feel like I was the only person to see it in a positive light, not sure... but it turned up in my dream the other night, I was that mother, I lived in a similar house and similar conditions, and was trying my best to build a fire and make the place feel warm and homely because my therapist was paying me a visit?
      (bit peculiar, but thought I would share)

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