Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Supporting: What I Thought Would Be Easy...

OK, so I think maybe I should chime in with some words here.

I have no intention of stealing Annie's thunder, but I wanted to try and provide something else that is sorely lacking (in my mind) today, and that is help for those that are trying to support someone with an eating disorder. a.k.a "Learn from when I fucked up".

I've had a relatively normal upbringing, with semi-normal parents, a normal teenage life, and a normal adult life. I've not always thought this about myself.... I used to think I was perfect. I'm not. I'm a stubborn, insensitive grouch, with stupidly high morals.

So when Annie first told me she had an eating disorder, I took it all in my stride. "No problem Ian", I said to myself. "You can fix this."

I was so totally wrong.

I thought it was just a case of "managing" the situation. Taking charge of things and watching what she ate. Making sure she ate properly and just "stopping" with all the non-eating nonsense. Telling her lots of wonderful things, and making promises that I had no clue how I was going to deliver. Most of all, I thought I could handle it all. With ease.

I was wrong on that one too.

That bullish attitude and arrogance caused more problems than you can imagine. My lack of understanding, and conditional love, was to hurt Annie more than all the things she has spoken about in the past. She stopped talking to me about it. Tried to hide it away. But in a family of four, that's not so easy, and I knew something was wrong. The problem was that I really didn't know how to talk about it, and was frustrated that I couldn't fix it. I didn't quite believe that it was as bad as she said, and that, dear reader, was my greatest mistake of all.

So I started to think it was me. In reality, I was part of the problem, but I wasn't the problem. "Annie was OK before I pitched up... Now she's not. She's cutting herself, not eating, taking tablets from the doc. The girls are worried, what if they think it's my fault too?"

I did what I thought was best at the time. I left. I left because I thought that would make things better. I left because I was frightened of the responsibility. I left because I was too scared to love my Annie the way she needed me to - unconditionally.

It's funny you know. Looking back at those times with hindsight, I really didn't like me that much. I probably wouldn't like the old me if I met him in a pub. But then it takes experience to learn. It takes mistakes to learn. And this time... This time I'm trying my hardest to understand and support.

I'll close for now, but I don't want to end this on a downer. Every day with Annie is a joy. I'm sure she would laugh bitterly at that, because that is the nature of the motivator behind an Eating Disorder (ED). However, the truth is that Annie is a wonderful, caring and beautiful wife, as well as an exceptional mother. She's a bit witty too.

Love, and love alone has given me the strength to stand beside her these last few months. I don't pretend to know how it feels to suffer as she does. Neither do I proclaim that the way I'm doing things is the right way. But I've told Annie I'm with her all the way, and I wanted to add maybe a small insight into supporting someone with an ED. Most importantly though, I want to show that I am not afraid to stand beside her wherever she chooses to walk.


Mars said...

i hope it works out for the both of you.

Linda and her Twaddle said...

That unconditional love is pretty important. If a person has that awareness of that love, then they can work a bit more on facing their own deep rooted problems and take some control. It is hard to explain why it is like that. As though the knowledge of a big emotional safety net is there to catch you if you fall off the wagon (so to speak). Feels safe to have that support.

Keli said...

I think this is an important blog and I especially admire you, Mr. P, for suggesting your lovely, witty, clever and extraordinary wife start this. With you at her side, how can she not conquer her ED?

Karen ^..^ said...

Ian. Well, now that I know your name isn't really Charles Parsnip, I'm both releived AND disappointed. Releived because Ian is one of my favorite male names, and disappointed because I LOVED your nom de plume. Cute and funny.

I feel so torn...

Anyway, I can relate also to how YOU feel. As someone who watched the ravages of this horrific disorder upon a loved one, I can definitely say I know the frustration, terror and even anger that we can sometimes come up against. My sister was almost obsessed by being perfect back when she was first married to her first dipshit husband. He was a total pervert, and always made her feel as if she were lucky in some way, to be with him, when in fact, he was WAY over wifed. Way.

Which is the same for Agnes (Annie?)

Unfortunately, I did not react well to my sister's bulimia. I actually thought I might be able to "put my foot down" with her, and order her not to vomit up the delicious dinner I had made for her. Yeah, right. I could not understand this mentality of hers, me being phobic about vomit, how anyone would ever willingly make everything they just ate, come back up. She of course, alternated this with simply not eating, and exercising like crazy. I do not know if she ever used laxatives, but she may have. I remember seeing her go down into the high eighties, and crying at night because I was worried she would die. She developed several mental disorders, having her brain chemicals all out of whack, and was later diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. She developed Mitral valve prolapse, and weakened her heart considerably. Later in her life she developed Lupus. I do not know if that is related to the eating disorder or not, but I don't rule anything out. Starvation and malnutrition messes with every body chemistry imaginable, and I know how messed up my poor sister got in her twenties. I would feel like bashing my head against the wall in frustration that I couldn't help her. Nothing is worse than wanting to take someone's pain from them, and not be able to do a thing for them. I wanted to fix my sister's poor self image so badly, but I couldn't. she had her negative stories to unlearn, same as I did.

The saddest part of all of this is that the sufferer of ED would give anything in the world not to have this. There are very misguided people out there that believe this is something our loved ones do to themselves. would they feel the same way about someone with obsessive compulsive disorder? Because I beleive they are very closely related. It starts out as someone wanting to lose weight, (when all she should have done was lose the loser she was married to-that would have been a really nice weight loss)and becomes the bottomless pit in which every evil thing anyone has ever said against the sufferer becomes magnified and THEN beleived. I applaud you for encouraging this blog. I do feel it will help in many ways. There will come a time when the posts will slow down, as the cure of group therapy sets in. Such horrific memories will not come rushing to the surface with such startling regularity, but only from time to time. I have found that to be true of my blog, Five little kids named Larrow. Cathartic, helpful, and has an expiration date of sorts.

Keep doing what you are doing, and look for a possible group for yourself, as a loved one of an eating disorder sufferer.

Agnes Mildew said...

It's not for me to answer any of your comments, but I would like to say thank you to all and for the kind words. Greatly appreciated.

Charles Parsnip said...

Now I know how scary it is to write things down and hope to god I don't get lambasted for them. Fear of failure? Me? Yep.

Thanks for your words Mars. It really does mean so much to hear words of support.

Linda. Annie didn't always have that support from me, and it is still something I have to keep on showing every single day. Lots of hugs are the order of the day, as words cannot often ease the pain.

Keli: I have faith in Annie. You're right; she is extraordinary.

Karen: It seems to be a common theme amongst those supporting someone with an ED that they have failed at some point. If I had a penny for every time I regretted saying something, doing something or even feeling something I'd be a rich man. The key thing to remember is that if you can look at yourself in the mirror and say that you tried your best, no-one could ask for more. Everyone has 20-20 hindsight.

Your later comment that a sufferer of an ED would give anything not to have it is an important one. Annie hates it with a passion. Realisation that as a supporter, you are not under a personal attack all the time (often it is quite the opposite) is so very important.

As an aside, there are no groups in our area. It's one thing we are going to change should we win the lottery...

Thanks all.