October 1, 2020


Ok. Here it goes. At the request of my brave beautiful daughter—in an effort and hopes to educate and bring light to an otherwise secret dark battle—I have been asked to be her voice in sharing her journey of anorexia. 

We didn’t even notice there was a struggle until about a year ago—though she has opened up lately that it started slowly long before. People started to ask—clear back then—if she was ok and mention how thin she was looking. I would reassure them that she was fine and that her whole life she was long and lean and was just having another growth spurt. 

But then even I started to notice more changes than just her physical body looking frail and weak. Her old pants that she had outgrown years ago and passed down to Kaleeya began to show up again in her wardrobe. Meals that were once her favorite began to be something she no longer liked. She began to stop eating sugar, saying it made her feel sick. Little things started feeling off. At the time I didn’t take too much notice, but looking back I wish I would have recognized all these signs. 

She began to love cooking everything and for everyone. I couldn’t complain...it only helped me keep up with other things I had on my list of to do’s and I loved having her hang out in the kitchen with me. I didn’t even notice for awhile that after slaving away for whatever everyone needed and wanted she would quickly munch on a few pieces of spinach and reassure everyone that she was too full to eat because she was snacking on all of the food she had cooked all day. 

For a long time I just watched, not wanting to accuse her of anything, but skeptical that her words and actions were not matching up. After a while, I began talking to her a lot about my concerns and she always reassured me—in the sweet way she does everything—that she was fine and she had never felt better. Soon her siblings—one by one—began asking what was wrong and if she was doing ok. Then they began begging that I do something. 

One afternoon—about six months ago—I was heading out to the store and Bailey mentioned that she needed some female products. I looked over at Bostyn and asked what she needed in that department. Everything in the room got weird and quiet. Bailey finally blurted out, “she is good.” With more questions I came to learn she—the one who had matured early...5th grade to be exact—hadn’t had her period in 6 months. 


The more I watched her, and the more late night pep talks we had where we set goals and put plans in place...the less her words added up with her actions. The more I forced her to eat, the more she pretended and reassured me that she was just not hungry or she had eaten while I was not around. Quarantine came and went and her once tight workout pants began hanging off her like skater jeans from the 90’s. Day and night I monitored and begged and forced, not knowing how to get help when everything was shut down, and not willing—or not wanting—to really see how bad things were getting. 

Sometimes I would find her at weird hours downstairs running on the treadmill, her frail body shaking as I pulled the chord and demanded she get off. She would be trembling so bad and her eyes would practically roll into the back of her head, all the while telling me she had only been on there a few minutes. 

Every day there were more secrets that she thought I was buying. Every day I was winning more battles. In hind sight the only battle I was wining was forcing her to get about 300 calories in a day. Looking back, it wasn’t really as much of a win as it felt in the moment. We would end each day with promises and goals for a smoother tomorrow...but put into action, she would have panic attacks about eating anything more than a few bites of vegetables and spend most of her time worried about what everyone else was eating. 

I kept thinking, “get her back to school, she just needs her routine and friends...then I will get my girl back.” (Besides Teage, Bostyn has always been the biggest social butterfly in our house. Witty and funny. Full of life and making friends everywhere she went.)

School began and the shell she had been living in just got more frail. She didn’t want anything to do with her friends. Bailey would have to practically drag her out of the house, because if she knew was going to be somewhere with food, she would make a thousand excuses why she would have to just stay home, or go late...or come home early. 

If depriving herself of food was not enough, she was even harder on herself with her grades (the last few years she has always been a 4.0 student). She spent quadruple the time than any of the other kids on her homework, going over and over each assignment to make sure it was perfect before turning it in. 

Speaking of homework...I started noticing that she was always STANDING (never  sitting) even when working on her assignments or watching a movie. She didn’t allow herself any down time. She was always looking for more ways to burn calories and—what she described later—would punish herself for “being lazy”(AKA sitting when standing was an option) 

For months I had been talking to an eating disorder hotline and getting referrals for a therapist. Every time I mentioned it, Bostyn shut down and said how she was fine and didn’t need help. I would leave messages for everyone on the list, and nobody would call me back. A few of them ended up texting me and saying they were full and weren’t taking clients. 

For a few weeks, every time I prayed about what to do I kept getting this feeling she was going to end up in the hospital. Teage even came home from school one day after learning about eating disorders, begging me to do something...worried that like Karen Carpenter, one morning we would wake up and she would be gone. 

About two weeks ago...after a battle of wills, Bostyn walked out the door victorious having worked out all morning, eaten nothing for breakfast, and refused to pack a lunch. Moments later, I got a strange text from her saying how she just wanted to give up and she couldn’t do this anymore. After that text I left a long winded, scared message for the last therapist on my list. 

She called back the next day. 


I poured it all out. I explained every detail of what I was seeing in Bostyn and cried for the little girl I felt was falling through the cracks. She asked me a long list of questions. Bostyn checked every single box. She was losing hair, her skin was scaling, she never felt hungry, she was pushing everyone away, she hadn’t had her period in a whole year, her circulation was so bad her fingers and toes were constantly blue and purple, plus she was over doing workouts at all hours of the day, and she was cutting out all food groups but green vegetables and an occasional small bite of chicken. She was lying about it all. She was even chewing up food and before swallowing it...she would  spit it in the sink. She was a perfectionist at school and cooking for everyone. She had lost 40 pounds and looked like a skeleton. All the while she was still having break downs about her belly being too fat causing her to hide her “fat body” in baggy clothes. And the list of checked boxes continued. 

The sweet lady on the other end opened my eyes and for the first time I actually saw how bad things had gotten. She said, “Ok Ashlee...your daughter has anorexia and body dysmorphia, so the next step is that her body is going to eat her uterus so she won’t be able to have children...and there is a possibility of her going into cardiac arrest or having a heart attack. This is not a little struggle at this point that can be fixed by weekly counseling appt...sounds like you have tried it all. Your daughter needs to be admitted to a recovery center...not soon...but like months ago. You could take a gamble with months of counseling and hope something sticks, but I think at this point she will end up hospitalized.” We talked for an hour. She sent me referrals and all of her recommendations to save this girl. 

After our conversation I was in shock, but I knew she was right. I felt peace about what to do for the first time in months. 

Scott and I told Bostyn that night, before we even had any real details of when and how or if we could even get her in to one of the the centers...but that she would be going into a recovery center for anorexia. She cried tears of relief and told us even more of the struggles she had been facing and the timeline of when everything started. She told us about things said to her that triggered and fueled her beliefs about food. She told us about being Anna in the play, fearing she would be “a fat version of the Disney character”. She told us how she was always comparing every meal she ate with what everyone around her—including her one year older sister Kennady—was consuming. She shared the belief that she had to be shaking and about to pass out to feel like she had done enough working out. She talked about nights of getting little sleep, stressing about how to cut more calories and get in more workouts. She told us she would get anxiety attacks if she knew she was going to be at a party or out to eat where friends—or family—might pressure her into eat something she hadn’t planned. She told us stories of days when she almost passed out on stage, or walking up stairs.  She told us about afternoons where she hid in the bathroom during lunch so she didn’t have to eat or see people. For an hour she cried tears of relief...excited to get help. 

The next few days were rough because she began realizing what it meant to get real help. Her panic attacks became more about her fear of actually having to get better and gain weight. She got angry a few times as the reality of having to leave—and to start the work it would take to overcome this disorder—set in. She went through waves of denial and shame...followed by relief and acceptance. 

After a series of miracles, specialists and doctors agreed it was where she needed to be. Bostyn entered the recovery center 6 days after that call with the therapist that Friday night. Drs squeezed her in for testing (and nurses almost hospitalized her when they couldn’t get a drop of blood, not even from finger pricks and needles in her arm) Monday morning we found out that someone was leaving on Tuesday and she could be admitted into the recovery center on Thursday. 

It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I have never been filled with more peace, guilt fear, and reassurance all at the same time. I have been haunted all day and night—since Thursday—by her scared, sad eyes that reassured me, and broke my soul, as I walked away.  I cried so hard on the drive home I had to stop a few times in parking lots to catch my breath and sob in the silence. 

I miss her so bad it hurts. I cry a lot, even though I know it is where she is supposed to be...and though I couldn’t continue to watch her slowly kill herself here...I can’t imagine not having her home each day. 

It’s hard during these kinds of trials to not try to find something to blame. I have gone through moments when I have tried. I have found myself looking at her timelines , people’s comments that triggered her, people in her past who have failed her, patterns on both sides of her family, social media (I wish I could blame this one, but she has never been allowed much time online), and traumatic experiences. 

I truly believe that Bostyn is healing 8 years of pain in her own way. I always knew that each of my kids was going to have to work through trauma in their own time. I feel peace knowing Bostyn is getting that experience now. 

Trauma doesn’t even begin to come out until you are in a safe place. Scott gave her a blessing as she was leaving our house on Thursday. She was blessed with many promises. One of the main ones I remember is that the Savior would walk with her and it was through His grace that she would find true healing. 

Though I have always known that, it was so reassuring (to my mom guilt) to know that even my daughter...who for so long I tried to save, has a Savior who is going to do just that. Trauma shows up in many forms. This  time it is showing up emotionally and physically, but there is hope. She will beat this. I know it. 

The last thing I asked her as we got out of the car to walk into her new temporary home was, “What do you want me to tell people?”

Her brave reflective answer was, “Tell them the truth. Tell the family, tell my friends...the truth. This is real, and it almost beat me. I want to help people when I get out of here know they aren’t alone. I need you to do something for me...share this story and help other moms. There have to be more girls like me who need help...too afraid because nobody will talk about it.” 

So here I am, a mother humbled by her daughter’s bravery. A mother scared, aching, and grieving. A mother proud watching her little warrior—who has always brought me joy—not only put on her armor to win this battle...but put on the shoes of others who are walking this road. A mother in awe...watching her do what I—too many times—have been asked to do...be brave, be vulnerable, and share truth. 

After hours of sharing stories of her past, and her current struggles, I asked the team (of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, counselors, and therapists) how long they expected her to be there. Having walked in there that afternoon with the expectation in my mind that she would only need the 30 day minimum...their answers startled me. Every single one of them responded the same, “for how deep she is into this most girls at this level stay around at least 5-6 months.” My heart fell out of my chest, and my tears got even more hot as I pictured having this baby girl in 12 weeks without Bostyn home. I struggled picturing tucking Bailey in every night with an empty bed next to her; decorating our house for the holidays...without her; Christmas morning without her; starting a new year with a new baby, without all of us together.

And then I had this calm come over me. And these words came into my mind...”You get this Christmas, or you get many more to come. Which is more important to you?”

Why is it that the right thing is almost always the hardest thing to do? 

I was stuck in asking a whole lot of “whys” on the long drive back home. I was yelling and crying and begging. All of a sudden this little quiet alarm was sounding. I finally figured out what it was. Bostyn’s phone—she wasn’t allowed to take with her—was going off. I picked it up and looked down at the screen. A “don’t forget to pray” alarm was beeping. I pulled over and looked through all of her alarms. There were 5 to be exact set to go off throughout the day...all reminders to pray. 


So that is all I did the rest of the day and every moment since. I have payed for peace for each of my kids....especially that little sunshine girl who is now safe and working on being free from so many things, but especially the pain of the past and a disease that threatened the future. 

It has been a humbling journey, one where I learned—yet again—that is it not my job to save another person’s soul. It is my job to trust in our Savior, whose mission is just that. I must put my trust in Him even when it is hard, to hand over my will—and my daughter—and willingly follow His plan. 

Like she was promised that morning in her blessing...”You are not alone. He will walk with you”...I too have been holding on to that promise that we can do hard things, and we are never going to do them alone. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder....please don’t wait. There is no shame in being sick, no matter what kind of sickness is battling you. Anorexia is not just a desire of the body to be more thin, it is a disease of the mind. It is not a struggle of choices....it is a powerful struggle that takes away your choices. It is not just a disorder full of secrets and darkness and hiding...it is a sickness of the brain that tortures and haunts. It needs attention and help and healing. It needs truth and a team that will give you all the tools to not only fight...but to win. 

These battles we face, we don’t have to do them alone. Ask for help when you need it...and pray for light. He is always there. 

I don’t know what the next months are going to be like for Bostyn, but I can’t wait to get my girl back. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, and back in her bed where I can hug her every day. I am so thankful for others who can do what I have not been able to do, and angels who are going to be watching over her while I cannot. 

You got this Bostyn—brave, beautiful, sunshine—girl. I will never forget the fight you gave for your life when you sat in your hospital bed during your eye infection all those years ago. You are a warrior. Always have been...always will be. We are proud of you and know with all our hearts you can win this one too. 




Roberta said...

I am glad that you found out as soon as you did. I have a very dear friend that found out her daughter had the same problem as they were rushing her to the hospital from school as she was going into cardiac arrest. This mother felt the same way--why didn't I see it, why didn't I do something sooner, why didn't I force her to eat more, why did I believe she was telling the truth about eating? Her daughter entered a recovery center and was there for six months. It was a hard six months, but in the end it was just what her daughter needed. I wish Bostyn well, and her and your family will be in my prayers.

heather said...

My momma heart hurts for you and my heart hurts for B. My eating disorder journey started at age 12- I became anorexic and lost a ton of weight but my parents were dealing with their own battles so I was unable to get the help I needed. She is lucky to have you and she is so brave to tell her story and get the treatment she needs now instead of years down the road. Prayers for you all!

Kyra Marie said...

I know many things must be on your mind right now, but if you remember, please tell Bostyn thank you for asking you to share her story. I have a blog myself, and I know the thing that means the most to me is When people say that my words made a difference. I want to tell you tonight that your words mean a lot and have made a difference in my life.

I admire you as a person and as a mother as I know that the decision to say goodbye for her for 6 months was probably very difficult. I admire you that you love her so much as to allow her to get help even though she won’t be home for a little bit.

I cried at your story, so thank you for sharing. Tell Bostyn thank you too for being brave and strong and kind. I hope the best for her and for you and for your family. Thank you for using your words to help others.

Take care :)

Kyra Marie said...

*for loving her (not “you that you love”)

Sheri said...

Thank you for sharing and your beautiful words of strength and faith in the Savior. You all have been through so much and continue to fight so bravely.

Ananda said...

My beloved niece walked this path when she was in high school. Residential treatment is what saved her. She then did a step down out patient program every day to support her transition back home. She is in college and healthy now. There is a path back for your brave girl!

Deb Hite said...

Wow just wow . Your writing is phenomenal !!!! Sending love , hugs & prayers for you and your precious family

Shelley Moore said...

My daughter is fully recovered now, but she went through anorexia as well. She had outpatient therapy and did the hard work. It is something now that is in her past. She is 17 now. I’m sure you’ll sweet girl will make it too

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