Yesterday I was watching a documentary on YouTube called “Perfect Illusions” and one quote in particular caught my attention. The quote states that “Children with eating disorders sometimes feel they are the ones who have to hold the family together. They don’t want to cause anymore problems in a family that is already under pressure” (11 minutes, 50 second mark approximately).
Until hearing this I never fully realized why I have been so afraid to tell my family about my struggles. There is a war in my mind; a part of me demands to be heard, to be understood; another part of me demands silence and secrecy. I didn’t really realize it until now, but the part of me that demands secrecy is trying to protect everyone from the reality of my illnesses.
My parents have already got a lot to deal with as a result of one of my siblings’s struggles; I can’t bring myself to add my own problems to their burden. It’s really hard for me to deal with this on my own, but I have to protect my family. If I told them about the abuse, about the PTSD, the cutting, the eating disorder and my other mental illnesses I don’t know if my family would come out of it in one piece.
I’ve been protecting my family since the age of 7 or 8. I’ve been carrying this burden alone for so long because I am not sure that my parents could handle it. How could my Dad ever look at me the same again? How could I tell him and risk him blaming himself? How could my mom handle the stress of being torn between supporting me through the struggles that are a result of her son’s actions? How could I possibly make her choose? Isn’t it just easier for me to keep the secret?
For so long I have believed that the answer to that question is yes. But now I’ve started to see the truth. The cost of keeping the secret is a lack of support, a lack of understanding among my family, and an increase in my own suffering. I’ve felt so withdrawn and alone over the last two years as my illnesses slowly gained a stronger and stronger hold on me. Therapy has helped, but I think the only way that I can ever truly start to heal is if my family knows about everything. After all, how can they support me in my healing process if they do not know that I was damaged and shattered to begin with?
I want so badly to hear a story from the parental perspective. I know it will be hard for my parents to hear about my struggles and I just want to know what exactly it feels like as a parent to learn that one of your children has been abused by another.
I’m terrified that it will tear my family apart and I desperately want everything to be okay. I don’t want them to abandon him. I don’t want to destroy their relationship with him; but I need them to understand that I don’t want anything to do with him.
On Christmas morning my mom started to cry because she was so happy that we were finally all together again as a family. She said that she wanted us to heal and be whole again. She said that she knew things had been tough but that she wanted 2015 to bring everyone closer together again.
I felt so angry sitting there listening to her cry. She thinks she knows that it has been hard on everyone but she has no idea. She has no idea that I’ve got scars all over my body. She has no idea that I’m struggling to make it to my 8th day free of self-harm. She has no idea that I secretly struggle with bulimia and that I am relapsing into my eating disorder. She has no idea that I have nightmares, flashbacks, and an overwhelming feeling of discomfort in my own skin. She has no idea how hard it has been. She is so naive.
She also has no idea that 2015 is not going to heal my family. 2015 just might tear my family apart. But maybe we were destined for destruction all along. I need to share my secret and I need to focus on healing myself before I think about healing my family. They have no idea what I’ve been through and what I continue to struggle with today.
I feel guilty that my Mom’s wish for a happy and healing 2015 is doomed before it has even begun, but I think it is time that I break this perfect illusion that has been my life for the last 10+ years. It is time for my parents to meet the girl behind the mask; it is time for my parents to really see who their daughter is.