~Toni Morrison, Beloved~
I'll never forget the day I knew.
It was early morning and I was lounging in my corner of the couch, with my first cup of coffee. Down the hall, I could hear the shower running in the boys' bathroom, and knew that Jorge was getting ready for school.
Eyes still heavy with sleep, I barely gave it a second thought as I heard the bathroom door open. Even in the semi-darkness of the living room where I sat, I could make out Jorge's figure as he walked across the hallway to his bedroom.
I don't remember a lot about that morning, or that day, or the days that followed. But I do remember the panic that seized my heart in that one, fleeting moment, and the image of my son and the immaciated figure he'd become, will forever be burned into my memory.
Because we were in the middle of the winter months, it had been a while since I'd seen his legs and he very rarely, if ever, went around the house without a shirt. In hindsight, I realized that he was always layered, usually wearing his gray hoodie, even over pajamas & t-shirts.
This particular morning, Jorge had no idea that I was up, and certainly didn't know that I sat a few feet away in the darkness, with an open mouth and a pounding heart. Clothed in just his underwear and towel, I glimpsed the legs, the ribs, and the collar bone of a virtual stranger. Certainly not my son.
In that single, fleeting moment...I knew.
We were dealing with an eating disorder.
This ugly monster that invaded our home, our tranquility, became my worst enemy. It not only did its best to take over my son's body, but it infected his mind and his emotions as well. As we traveled to the doctor's visits, endured various tests, and tried our best to reason with Jorge, it became obvious that - although he conceded that he'd lost some weight, he didn't see it as a problem. Even when he stood on the scale at our family doctor's office and the nurse announced that he'd lost 60 pounds in the past ten months - nothing. No emotion. No shock. No nothing.
As I'm sure most mothers do, I spent so many hours beating myself up for not seeing the signs earlier. How could I not have KNOWN that my son - this boy that I gave birth to, that I nurtured, that I still hugged and kissed good-night - had become just a shell of the boy he'd once been? What kind of mother would miss clues that could very well make the difference in their child's health? In their future?
- turning down food he'd always loved before
- not wanting to eat with the family
- reading the labels on everything
- dressing in layers
- taking showers right after eating
- fine, downy hair on arms, neck, and face
- being constantly cold
These were a few of the signs that I'd noticed off and on, but had never stopped to add them all up. While I certainly knew that eating disorders were not confined to girls alone, I'd never stopped to consider that my own teen-age boys could be potential victims. In hindsight, I should have seen the writing on the wall. But the truth is, that this is a silent, deadly enemy that slithers in and takes over before a parent can even take guard.
Our journey to recovery was slow in coming, and in future posts I may write about it. But for today, the concentration is on healing. As you know, healing has really been on my mind lately, and Jorge now knows firsthand the healing touch of The Promise Keeper.
While the recovery may have been slow in coming, the healing - once begun - happened very quickly. I wish I had words of advice for other parents out there that are facing similar things with their own children. If I could, I'd list the do's and don'ts of handling this very vicious, very hateful disorder.
But the truth is that Jorge was healed. One Wednesday night in church, during a song, I saw our pastor walk off the platform and straight to where Jorge was seated with the Youth. Worn and defeated by the long weeks of battle, I could only hang my head and allow the quiet sobs take over. I didn't watch, but I knew that our pastor was praying for Jorge, pleading the blood for his healing.
The road to health was slow in making a full return, but I do know that from that next morning until now, the process has been steady and sure. While his body eventually regained some fullness, it took his emotions and his mind a bit longer. But he began to open up more, to talk, to share. Today he is once again the picture of health, a bright, busy boy making college plans for after graduation.
I realize that our family is blessed and I almost feel guilty at times for even sharing our story because there are so many other families who are still held tight in the grip of an eating disorder. At the same time, I would be doing an inservice if I didn't give glory to the God that still heals. My Promise Keeper. While I don't know if our story will ever be able to help another family in crisis, I know without a doubt that this healing experience is one that Jorge will remember all the days of his life.
And me? I'll never forget the morning I knew we had a problem.
But, even more importantly...
I'll never forget the Wednesday night I knew we had a solution.
This photo was taken of Jorge during this difficult time.