I am not quite sure when my niece was sucked under by this horrible eating disorder and anxiety. I think the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ was when her university colleagues decided one day that it would be acceptable to demolish my niece’s confidence by telling her she was ‘fat’.
She has never been fat, she was healthy and happy. Nobody has the right to make another human being feel so devastated about themselves. These girls were more than nasty; they were cruel, vicious and not worthy of my niece’s attention. However; the seed was planted. It has been painful and frustrating to watch this once confident and vivacious, intelligent, funny and kind hearted young lady turn into a shadow of her former self. I know a little bit about anxiety as my own daughter suffers from this and has done since she was a very little girl, but my niece’s anxiety escalated and the ED monster took control of her.
She has always been very hardworking; a perfectionist in everything she does from her studies and her sports as a child, which is no doubt why she is so incredibly hard on herself. To know that she feels that she is ‘not good enough’ and maybe, just maybe, if she had the perfect body and was skinny people would love her, hurts so much. She can’t see that people love her for the person she is; she has the kindest heart of anyone I know; she is thoughtful, loving, funny, clever, motivated, dedicated, generous, just all-in-all a beautiful person. Does she have flaws? Of course she does, don’t we all? But the problem is she only sees her flaws and not all the other good stuff. She can’t take the word of her family because she feels we are biased because we love her and as a consequence the slightest criticism from anyone other than her family has catastrophic results on her anxiety; that little niggling ‘other person’ in her head dragging her down and defeating her.
Am I angry with ‘anxiety’? You bet I am!
It isn’t ideal living so far away and not actually knowing how to help. I am always afraid of saying the wrong thing and upsetting her and I hesitate before sending messages and panic if she doesn’t reply. It has been hard keeping her secret from the rest of my family and only being able to talk about it with her mum. I check how many calories she has eaten daily, more than daily actually as I have an app and check this 5 or 6 times a day; worrying myself senseless if her calories are low, which they usually are and wondering what magic words would encourage her to eat but failing miserably as I know nothing I can say or do would make a difference. When she has eaten quite well I am elated but then self-doubt creeps in, wondering how much exercise she is doing to compensate that. I find myself wishing that she could be a little more forgiving of herself when she has a bad day, less hard on herself, less devastated by the smallest things. I wish she could look in a mirror and see what her family see and not this warped image she has of herself. I feel intense anger towards the ED and anxiety. How dare they do this to my niece?! Go away and leave her alone!
I am constantly looking for words of encouragement; I find myself googling repetitively the same things again and again looking for answers that aren’t there. I am dismayed by the limited support for any mental health issues and secrecy around it but am determined to find the help myself and my sister needs to help her.
We need guidance and support as I feel totally out of my depth and don’t want to fail her. I worry for my niece and I worry for my sister but also relieved she is so close to her mum and I know between us we will face these monsters head on and we will challenge them!
We will not give up ’til my niece has recovered and yes I know this will be a lifelong ‘thing’ but her mum and I will always be on her side, fighting for her and with her. I know she will never be completely free of self-doubt/anxiety, but I am hopeful she will look in that mirror and accept her flaws that all human beings have and like what she sees, be proud of herself – not because her family tell her to, but because she can! I am optimistic that my niece’s strength of character will prevail and conquer this.