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Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


Tracy-- I have a twelve year old daughter too. I was also adopted as a child so maybe there is something I will say that you will be able to relate to. My oldest daughter is twenty seven and my youngest daughter is five. My youngest child, a boy, was stillborn. He would be four now.

Sometimes twelve is an uncomfortable time for mothers and daughters. I felt like I lost my best friend when my oldest turned twelve. She developed into her own person and I struggled because I couldn't see me in her anymore.

I didn't see what I valued in her choices, in her words. I worried so much about who she would become and what people would think if she wasn't perfect. Years later, I see me in her. I see her beautiful loving soul. I see what she values. I see everything I worried I wouldn't see when I was busy lecturing her.  

I now see those past lectures as my fear speaking. I've always been so afraid of losing what I love. She was my first true family member. She meant everything to me and still does. I didn't like her choices very much between sixteen and twenty four. I wouldn't accept them even though I always loved her.

I think what saved our relationship is honesty. I was blunt about what I thought and how I felt. I expected her to communicate in the same way--even when I didn't like what she was saying.  

Now, do you think I could transfer all that learning to my current twelve year old? No! Apparently not. My current twelve year old really needs me, but I find her exhausting to deal with. She's different from her sister. Nothing I say to her  stays in her head and I have to remind her about everything.

She loves to argue, and so do I. I won't let her win which means that I am not really listening to her. I don't want to argue about nonsense. I believe that is wrong on my part. I keep asking myself how would you feel if someone treated you that way? I would hate it.

The thing is, she doesn't hate me. She just wants to be with me and doesn't know how. She doesn't know how to get there because I haven't told her. I've been in my own pain/grief/ED and I haven't shown her what to do with hers.

I must change. If I make anything a priority, it has to be this. I sometimes hate myself because of this. My five year old is what saves me. She sees what is valuable about me and she sees what is broken. She speaks the truth at all times. She is my gift and I am so thankful for the way in which she reminds me to come back to the present. She always says "Mama I love you more than anything, except God." This is who she is.

 Monday night was rough. On Tuesday, I let both of them have it verbally. They frequently engage in trying to manipulate my husband (because they can) into turning against me. I then have to listen to him more or less punishing me for not being a better mother, even when there was no real offense. He can't seem to see that he is being manipulated, and he can't seem to see that I am the same person from one day to the next, not so different and unrecognizable as the children are making me sound.

I told the twelve year old that I was exhausted from having the same conversations every day and that if she took some of the responsibility for taking care of herself (i.e. brushing her teeth, getting ready in a timely manner, picking up after herself without being verbally reminded) then I could focus on talking to her about more interesting things. I might enjoy her company more if she weren't arguing with me about things as mundane and delicious as english muffins. I told the five year old that it wasn't fair for her to jump on that bandwagon just for the joy ride. It isn't fair to mommy and it isn't fair to do that to daddy who loves them very much. So far, so good. 

When I was twelve I was living on my own mental island. I felt little connection to my adoptive parents who felt little connection to me.  I think that I'm often on that island, afraid to swim anywhere else. Inside I have strong voices telling me that they would really like for me to do something different. Inside I know that I am beloved. It's my practice that's funky, that needs to be worked out.

I still haven't done the bulk of what I was supposed to accomplish this week. In my silly mind, I think that I can cram it all into the next three days. Hopefully, I won't use that choice as justification for a binge. I've made some positive steps though.

After posting the other day, I made myself leave my room for the afternoon. I did some cooking/cleaning. Yesterday I didn't go in my room at all once I was awake and dressed. I made myself stay downstairs. I paid the bills and moved some furniture around. I went to a store to help my twelve year old pick out a birthday present for a party she is going to this weekend.

I might add that going shopping has been hard for me too since the death of my son. I don't really like going out of the house on these type of errands. I get too anxious about getting sick in public. I used to use Bach's rescue spray when I had to go in the store. Now I'm finding that I don't have to reach for the spray right away. I keep it with me, but I try to do it without it. I didn't even have to use the restroom while I was there (Miracle).

I also took my twelve year old out to lunch today. I had to cue myself mentally to make eye contact and conversation, but it was what she wanted to do. I also only ate half of my sandwich because that was all I wanted (Miracle). I brought the other half home and it is still in the fridge (Miracle). It has taken four years for me to only eat what I am hungry for....and I did it, just for today.

I read the post about manageable steps and that is what I am trying to do. I could start up the hate machine if I focused on all the things I haven't done that I am supposed to, but hey, I'm typing this from the first floor.

Maybe that's all I had to do, was give myself permission to leave my room and then the props for actually doing it. Maybe I will plan something else to do so that I can feel good when I go to bed tonight.

Tracy, thanks for sharing your questions. I find it helpful to think about how I might answer them. I truly understand how you feel, how your body feels and how tired you are. I'm sending you a hug and a smile.

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