this is a continuation of my conversation with joanna poppink about adults recovering from eating disorders, with an emphasis on how that impacts relationships. joannna poppink is a psychotherapist with a private practice in los angeles specializing in eating disorder recovery (you can see her blog at stop eating disorders.) yesterday i said i was going to present it in two parts; actually, i’ve decided to present it in three parts because … well, you’ll see why in the last instalment.
here joanna talks about how women with anorexia or bulimia (and, by extension, with any kind of eating disorder) relate to their mothers.
isabella: women with anorexia or bulimia often have complicated relationships with their mothers. when that is the case, how can these relationships become a little easier?
joanna: this is a huge question with, in my opinion, some wishful thinking attached.
first of all, women without anorexia or bulimia have complicated relationships with their mothers. the mother-daughter relationship is one of the most complex relationships of all. so please, all women suffering from bulimia or anorexia, take a breath and ease up on your self criticism, your judgments and your desires for wish fulfilling ease with mom.
that said, what is an approach that can bring some ease to the relationship?
the fast answer is the simple and straight forward one. get well.
eventually, if you stay on your recovery path, you will get well. as you gain more health and emotional stamina you will be able to use your emerging creativity along with your strategic thinking and core of love you have for this woman who is your mother to negotiate your relationship.
what does this mean? well, it means you can’t have what you want. your mother may change. she may not. but you are changing. so it’s up to you to find a way to relate to her as she is, not as you wish her to be. it can be a shock to your system to look at your mother as a woman.
if you always argue about certain topics, don’t try to win. as you would with a friend or acquaintance, sidestep the subject and bring in a topic that is pleasant and interesting for her. give her the gift of peace and ease. it’s a gift to you too.
let go of your need to win and your need to be seen in a particular way by her. focus on conversation and activity areas where you are compatible or where you can be patient and generous.
your great gain in life is recovery itself. you get a healthy life that you live with more responsibility and satisfaction than you ever had while living with your eating disorder. with your increased health and life energy, you can afford to be generous with this woman who is your mother in all her imperfections.
you are an adult now. you can extricate yourself from situations that go against your health and your values. you can accommodate with generosity when the situation brings no harm to you and brings space for peace and ease with your mother.
to do this, you have to let go of many wishes and hopes for responses you felt you were entitled to. but that sense of entitlement may be a leftover from your eating disorder. if you drop those entitlements from you psyche (not so easy) or drop them into your journal (much more doable) you can free yourself and your mother from the past and be with her as she is.
you may discover a woman you didn’t know was there. you’ll certainly discover more about who you are and how you can be increasingly present and competent in this world.
stay tuned for part 3!
image by deederdoll