I am sure many of us have regrets from our long ago childhoods. Of things we wish we had done and things we never want our kids to find out about. Some youthful indiscretions can be easily forgotten while others carry a penalty that we cannot erase. Take smoking, for example. The damage from casually taking our first puff as a teenager can stay with us the rest of our lives, especially if that first puff turns into a lifelong habit. And we all know the Big C is linked to smoking. There are other consequences to teenage angst that carry serious consequences, consequences we were oblivious to at the time or simply did not care about. For those of us seduced by the lure of an eating disorder, our bodies can carry the scars for the rest of our lives. A childhood spent watching what we ate, threw up, and exercised away can lead to health problems later in life. At a time when our bodies needed as much nutrition as it could get to help us grow, we starved it down to the bare bones. Cartilage and joints that needed nutrients were denied the ability to prepare for middle age. And now, as a thirtysomething, my body is falling apart. Arthritis is wrapping itself around every joint it can, reaching out its painful and destructive tentacles. I can often be heard joking about how I have the body of an eighty year old. Oh, how I wish it were only a joke! I have had to give up activities I love to do, like crocheting and doing cross-stitch and skiing and long walks. It doesn’t seem fair that my body should be so frail. I, theoretically, have decades left to my life but I am trapped by the consequences of my ill-spent youth. How I wish I could go back to my teenage self and shake some sense into her, get her the help she was crying out for.
I accept full responsibility for what I did then and the consequences I am forced to carry now. I wish I had had the courage to ask for help sooner but I was just a child then. I could not fathom even having a future at that time. I only lived in the moment like every other foolish teenager. I wish the adults in my life at that time would have paid more attention to me and had the courage I lacked, the courage to help a desperate teenage girl lost in a maelstrom of emotions dragging her into a bottomless pit of despair. I spent the better part of my childhood trapped in a black hole, looking for hope and finding only indifference.
If nothing else, my own childhood taught me what NOT to do as a parent. No perceived stigma will ever stop me from asking for help if I see my child spiral out of control like I did.