Bulimia and Mothers: Taking Care of Others but Not Themselves
Article Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Eating Disorder Hope
Motherhood is the epitome of selflessness. From infancy though adulthood, mothers strive to meet the needs of their children, often sacrificing their own wants and desires for the betterment of their family. As beautiful, fulfilling, and joyful motherhood can be, the demands of being a mother can also be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally.
For a mother who is trying to raise a family while also dealing with an eating disorder, the struggles encountered are much more intense and forceful. The effects of a severe psychiatric illness, such as bulimia, are wearisome for any individual who may be suffering with this disorder.
However, mothers who fight this battle while attempting to care for their loved ones bear an overwhelming burden. What are the unique struggles that mothers may face?
Ordinary on the Outside, Struggling on the Inside
Mothers who suffer with bulimia may attempt to live as ordinarily as possible to maintain a sense of normalcy for their families, though the internal battle they may be facing is raging uncontrollably.
Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, mothers may find meal times the greatest struggle for her family. Planning and preparing a cohesive meal for the family can seem a daunting task when the only relationship she has with food is chaotic and frenzied.
Problems with Demonstrating Normal Eating
Demonstrating normal eating habits to children can be far-fetched when thoughts of purging are taking over. Planning the family’s schedule likely revolves around bingeing and purging episodes, which are attempted as discreetly as possible.
As much as a mother may want to “stop” these episodes from occurring or resolve to discontinue in the eating disorder, the truth is that recovery from bulimia happens with comprehensive treatment and not self-will alone.
Putting off or Putting Aside Treatment
Many mothers who struggle with bulimia may push aside their need for treatment for many reasons, such as fear of leaving their children in another’s care, fear of appearing as a failure to her children, or concerns of what may happen to her relationship with her children if she is not present.
It is common for mothers to go years silently suffering with an eating disorder due to the many reservations she may have with receiving eating disorder treatment.
It’s the Eating Disorder, Not the Mother
The reality of the matter lies in the nature of the eating disorder itself. As noted earlier, eating disorders, such as Bulimia, are severely debilitating diseases that must be treated professionally in order to find healing and recovery.
In the case of bulimia, one cannot simply “stop” bingeing and purging successfully without the assistance of a supportive team who can treat, educate, encourage, and sustain through the recovery journey. In the same way that a serious disease, such as diabetes or cancer, would be treated holistically and promptly, so the same should be true with bulimia.
Not Getting Help Is Hindering Her Family
A mother struggling with bulimia may feel that she can adequately maintain her family life, even in the midst of this battle. However well-intentioned a mother might be in putting off her treatment, the bulimia will actually hinder the growth of her family and prevent her from caring for her children and loved ones as she so desires.
Though her motherly instincts may decline doing something for herself before the needs of her children and family, the truth is that children cannot be properly cared for in the competing presence of an eating disorder.
Give Yourself the Help You Need
Are you a mother who is struggling with bulimia while simultaneously attempting to raise children and care for a family? It is crucial that you give yourself the grace, permission, and time to heal from this eating disorder.
Trying to continue on in life while intertwined in the throes of bulimia is not really living at all, and the hopes and dreams you have for your children cannot be furnished in the blur on an eating disorder.
It’ll Be Tough, but It’s Worth It
Will it be difficult to leave your family for the treatment you need? Yes, of course. Remember that this time is not permanent, and that by taking the opportunity to heal from bulimia, you are giving your family the greatest gift you could ever share with them.
Becoming whole again, experiencing a life of freedom that is not bound by the chains of bulimia – this will allow you to fully love and care for your children as you desire to. You deserve to heal and be well, and your family deserves a mother who loves herself completely.