Dear Beckett, Sophie and Sammy,
You know I'm a psychotherapist (yes, emphasis on psycho) and I help people with eating disorders. I haven't talked to you much about my work because it can be hard to understand. When I come home tired you seem confused: "You just sit and talk to people all day! What's so hard about that?" My work must seem sort of invisible when all you see is an office with comfy furniture.
Since you guys are getting older, I wanted to tell you something important about me. For many years I had an eating disorder. I was very sick, mostly during college. When I married daddy I was slowly getting healthier. Finally, I had something way bigger than my eating disorder to motivate me -- I wanted to be a mom.
You see, I had been praying real hard to be a momma. It was my biggest dream since I was a little girl. But I was scared that because I had been sick for so long, maybe my body wouldn't work right anymore. I promised myself that if my dream came true, I would lay down my eating disorder and fight as hard as I could, once and for all, to stay well for you guys and for myself. The day I found out I was pregnant with Beckett, I committed to the promise I secretly carried in my heart. I've kept the promise for 13 years and I'm really proud of myself, because it means I can really be here for you.
Even though it was hard being sick, something beautiful came from it. I learned that I have another meaningful calling. When I had an eating disorder I couldn't find anyone to help me who really understood how to do so; this illness is tricky to heal. I wanted that to be different, even if only in a small way for other people. Daddy and I moved to the college town where I was sick, so I could help people recover. I feel so blessed that I get to be your momma AND help other people get well.
I've made some new promises along the way:
1. You will never hear me order a "Skinny Latte" from Starbucks. It's just too silly to say out loud and brings up unnecessary questions.
2. When you want to order pizza and have a picnic in the living room, I will help you get it all set up and eat with you. Always. Because pizza is delicious!
3. If you want to throw on swimsuits on the first warm day of summer and run through the sprinkler in our front yard, I'll do it with you! I don't feel the need to hide my body anymore. In fact, I'm really proud of the body I have, it helped me grow and feed you!
4. You will never hear me complain about the way my body looks. The way I feel in my body and how I talk about it has an even bigger impact on you than what I say to you about your body. I wish more moms knew this -- maybe they would talk more lovingly about themselves.
5. I refuse to be the mom who orders a salad, "Oh, and hold the croutons and cheese and put the dressing on the side." (If salads like this feel satisfying to you, great! For me, it's restrictive.) Nor will I ever go on a cleanse, detox, or diet. I spent years doing that, and it's so NOT FUN! What I eat communicates a lot more to you than what I feed you.
6. We will talk about "sometimes" foods and "always" foods. I added this as a new promise when you came home and told me one of your friends said that McDonald's makes people fat. As a mom, you have to do some deprogramming because other people and the media don't always convey the truth. There is no restaurant or food that can "make you fat."
7. I promise to show you that it's important to move your body in ways that are fun and feel good to YOU. I won't spend my time running away from myself in the form of over-exercising. But, when I leave to go to yoga, I want you to know that it's important for me to love and take care of my body, just as I do yours.
8. I will share with you what a powerful messenger your body is and encourage you to listen to it -- like when it tells you to rest when you are sick or hurt, and how hard it fights to get well, all on its own. Our bodies are pretty cool!
9. You will be surrounded in this lifetime by conversations about weight/shape. We all have unique body types and comparing ourselves to others (really in any way) just doesn't feel good. I will teach how to turn the conversation away from this kind of talk and move on to topics that relate to your friend's insides, rather than their outsides.
10. We will talk about messing up. Get cozy with the idea of imperfection! I want YOU to know how special you are, even when you make mistakes. It's not enough for me to think you are amazing, you need to believe it too.
So, my sweet loves, those are some of the promises I hold in my heart. I'm not going to get it right all the time. And that's okay; I never promised to be a perfect mother. When I recovered, I realized perfection doesn't exist. But then I had each of you, and wondered if that was really true. As I got to know you, I realized that much like me, you are perfectly imperfect.
I'm so grateful to be your mom and that I'm all BEDR (pronounced better, Beautifully Eating Disorder Recovered)!
Angie Viets, LCP
Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist
Providing inspiration and hope for those recovering from an eating disorder.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.