Trust Starved

4 Sep

Dear LetterBalm: From ages 12 to 14, I had anorexia. I got a lot of treatment and counseling and feel much better. I don’t want to feel that bad again. My therapist is really helping me to understand why I did it and how I can cope with low self-esteem and anxiety. But my mom is having trouble believing that I’m eating healthy. Every day she interrogates me about what I eat at lunch at school, and she watches me like a hawk at dinner and every day if I cough or sneeze or don’t want an after-school snack. She has a big job and needs her sleep, but she wakes up early to cook me a huge breakfast and makes me eat it. (I’d be happy with a nutritional energy drink and yogurt and a banana.) My therapist says she’s fixated on my health – she doesn’t notice how well I’m doing. My parents are divorced, and my dad isn’t around. What can I say to my mom to tell her she’s hurting me when she doesn’t trust me to take good care of myself?

–Not Hungry

Ms. L.B. applauds your return to mental and physical health. You’re a strong young person, and you should be proud of your successful ongoing struggle. Remember that your mom loves you very much and doesn’t want you to be as ill as you were. To see one’s child so sick is terrifying for a parent, and this is having an impact on her ability to trust you. Your mom would benefit from some family counseling sessions with your therapist. In the meantime, sit down with her and have a quiet talk. Something like this:

Mom, I want you to know that your support during my illness really means so much to me. You were there when I needed you during a bad time, and it helped me a lot. But you haven’t told me that you recognize how hard the struggle has been and how much you admire me for beating my demons. I’m fighting every day and getting better every day, and it would mean a lot if you told me you’re proud of me. I know you don’t want me to go back to what things were – believe me, I don’t want to go there, either. So, when you grill me about what I’m eating, it hurts me because you don’t trust me. You ask me all the time, and you get up early to make me breakfast when I know you can use the sleep. It’s very nice of you, but can we talk about all this?

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