Over a cozy dinner, a friend asked Addy how she feels about her mom writing so much about her and her eating disorder.
Good question. Right?
How could I expose Addy’s secrets? How could I write about my children and their private lives?
I am certain that I have lost friends and even some relatives because of this exact issue. Some well meaning and and principled people avoid me because I tell about my family’s private life in this blog or on social media.
I can admit that they are partially correct. I am extremely vulnerable and I share my truths. I write about situations and feelings that others swear are taboo for general consumption.
Before I started the blog and before I was separated from my husband, I can remember women gossiping about other women who post toooo much. Who need to learn what to keep private. I remember listening and not knowing how I felt. Most of the time that was in regards to women being vocal about their ex’s shortcomings or the break up of their marriage or the wounds that were refusing to heal.
The funny thing is, I do keep somethings private but the reader doesn’t know those things so they assume I am a blabbermouth. Mouth of the South.
My sister once scolded me for talking about people and I was not in agreement. What is more important to talk about than people? People are where the life is. I do not gossip. But I talk about people because people are what I care about. I’m bored of almost everything else. I tell stories about my memories of people and I talk about my friends and old neighbors and strangers walking by. I love people watching and people talking.
…I waited for Addy’s answer. (I’m not using quotes because I don’t remember word for word.) My mom has been writing on social media and talking to everyone we know and even those we don’t know about my eating disorder since the start. The eating disorder started 11 years ago. I have had lots of time to become accustomed to my mom’s sharing. I have been surprised how much my mom has focused on me and my eating disorder in her blog. I actually don’t remember a lot of the events surrounding my disease, and it has been interesting to read about my mom’s memories. I only read her posts when I am in a good head space. I can’t read it as it comes out. I read when I am ready. I’m proud of my mom and her writing.
She’s right. I have been writing about her eating disorder from the start. I had a flip phone when Addy fist got sick. I would attempt texting my cousins, sisters and mom but I couldn’t find the punctuation or the space bar on my flip phone so it was a mess and it took me for-ever. My family could interpret my encrypted messages. The Christmas when Addy first got sick, Chad gave me an iphone. Completely overjoyed. The perfectly precise packaging. The slimness and coolness of the glass and metal. The future in my hand. Now the world that I hid from- bundled up with baby Mim while the kids went to elementary school and middle school from the hours of 8am and 2:15 revealed itself from the pocket of my favorite pilled cream cardigan. I joined Facebook. And found that everyone I knew was already there. I was late to the party but I snuck right in. And when it got too much, I could just spy on others or put it back in my pocket.
My entry into the pocket world coincided with Addy’s disease. I was so new to this universe that when I did see or talk to real people, I told them about what was on my phone. And I marveled when they already knew because they had the same access. Connections. Surprises.
That Christmas was when the cousins came and I remember the kids or I posing a question such as I wonder if this is the first white Christmas in Atlanta or I wonder how old Robert Pattinson is? Mesissa the youngest adult present with the most technology experience would pull out her phone and answer with a definitive fact. Genius. The weather. Movie times. Recipes. Childhood playmates. Just right there. Spellbinding.
When Addy was away in Wisconsin for treatment at an eating disorder hospital, I researched. Tell me all the facts. Tell me I’m not an over-controlling mother who is causing her daughter to starve herself. From neighbors and friends, I kept hearing this was about control and some tidbit about a college roommate they once had or Karen Carpenter. But these well meaning disciples of Dr Phil were wrong. This wasn’t about choice and control. This wasn’t about fashion magazines. I started fighting the secret keepers. The women who came to me on hushed sidewalks or whispering school pickups. They whispered behind their thin fingered diamond studded hands about trying to desperately stay thin since sixth grade. While in a tennis skirt or running shorts they told me how shocked they were to hear of Addy’s disease because she always looked so beautiful.
Why didn’t they see her fear? Her eyes were either frightened or dead. Her frame came unwrapped. There was nothing left. This wasn’t about whether she played with Barbie as a little girl or if she considered modelling. This was life or death and their secrets infuriated me and I began to hate the tennis skirts and the lululemon leggings. It was everywhere. I like individual women. I harbored disdain and fear and hate of our culture. Be skinny or go home.
Meanwhile Chad was losing weight and running with Addy. Addy loved running. It was the only thing that brought her joy. The only thing that lifted her dead eyes. And at the same time it was the thing that was killing her.
I would run into the moms at pick up and they would say “I saw Chad and Addy running way over in Morningside. Wow. That is so far from your house.”
And I hated. I hated their secrets. I irrationally hated their taking of my child. This culture full of secrets and diets was deadly. And I knew it was a disease that took her not a culture, but I hated them anyway. This disease was biological. Not a choice. Not about control. This was a disease started in her genes and tipped off in her brain that caused her body to starve itself.
What I needed were facts like Mesissa found on her phone and I needed the tennis skirts to eat a brownie and shut up. So I took to the pocket world and made sure they knew I had no shame.
My smart phone held research and groups of Eating Disorder moms who had become advocates and I could read and find truth away from the tennis skirts driving Suburbans and the runners passing my house smaller each time they circled our block. The pocket world was easily accessible and enlightening. I could catch up on brain research while I waited for a doctor or a carpool. I could find likeminded parents scared of loosing their child but armed with science
I hated the scene of normal families with a mom in lycra and dad in in running pants with healthy children who did not have anorexia. How did their children escape and mine didn’t. I felt shame about my own body. This miraculous body that could birth 5 children and love and care for them 24 hours a day and I felt shame. The shame turned to anger. And I found truth in advocacy and information. Science became my friend. My chubbiness didn’t cause anorexia. It was genes. And Chad’s loosing weight wouldn’t heal her. Only food would heal her brain.
Secrets were my enemy. Addy hiding the ffod I needed her to eat. Addy hiding exercise. Addy hiding screws and bolts in her bra to fool us at weigh ins. Addy’s brain telling her she wasn’t wonderful as she was.And my brain taunting me that I wasn’t a good mother if I couldn’t even feed my child. And unwritten secrets of our time- eat less, exercise more and you are unlovable if you are fat.
I needed truth and I wanted everyone to know science. Our culture isn’t causing eating disorders but our culture is making it harder to recognize the disease. And the disease needs quick recognition and longterm intense treatment. While people thought Addy looked like a model she was sick. I knew her sick wasn’t attractive. I knew it was disease and I wanted the tennis skirts to know how wrong they were. But I doubt they heard me. They just saw a pudgy mama struggling to pick up from soccer, speech therapy and the hospital at the same time. She didn’t have cancer so people didn’t know how to help. Some friends attempted but I was lost and angry and it was a mess.
I could set up my blanket at the soccer fields away from their new REI chairs and snuggle Mim and buy snow cones for Dolly and George while cheering for Tuck and BeBe. I am good at looking busy so you don’t approach me for more than a quick “Hi” and then I wonder why I don’t have friends that understand me.
Writing and my pocket world fit in those tiny spaces. I could observe humanity, look up research to support my thoughts and type away with my one finger on my sleek new Iphone. And in response I got a tiny bit of response and understanding and love. Validation. I needed validation. I still do. Writers who post on their Iphone or publish a glorious novel mist somewhat want validation. The secrets were no longer hidden. Her eating disorder was like any other disease that a child might have and that neighbors could sympathize by bringing lasagna. I didn’t need to feel shame and hide. My daughter had a brain based illness. People don’t understand how to help when the disease is perceived as mental health. They hid from us. I sought to make everyone even the tennis skirts see us and understand that we needed love and casseroles in tupperware. I refused to post pictures of our Christmas tree without explaining that New Year’s would suck with Addy away at a hospital before she was even a teenager. I put it out into the pocket universe because I believed it was important.
My talkative nature (My sisters missed me when I went to college but they were relieved that they finally got to talk at the dinner table) the arrival of my gift wrapped Iphone and my need to connect and understand Addy’s disease became either an alignment of stars or a perfect storm.