Father’s Day is almost upon us. And as I was flipping through my inpatient journal earlier this week, I came across a letter that my dad wrote to me while I was in treatment for anorexia, and I was so touched, and wanted to share part of it with you.
“Please just be Caralyn. She’s really a great person. We love her just as she is. Be happy. Be healthy. I love YOU!”
And reading that, it sparked me to reflect on the huge role my dad played in my recovery.
I don’t think, as a society, we talk enough about the importance of fathers.
Every single one of us has a need for that rock in our lives. A protector. A provider. A role model. A dad.
After all, fathers are the earthly examples of our Father in Heaven — the closest thing we can experience to the “abba” relationship we all have with our Creator.
During my stay at inpatient, I was able to go on “Family Pass” for an afternoon. This happens well into the second month, when you’re “stable,” and you have the option of going on a day trip somewhere with your parents. You leave after breakfast, and have to be home before 8pm. It’s after “Family Week,” where your family comes to visit, and you go to family therapy together to heal. And Family Pass is the final bow on the package, finishing off a week of healing and forgiveness.
Anyway, my brothers had to leave right afterwards because they were in college and medical school. But my parents stayed, and for Family Pass, we drove the rental car to Sedona, Arizona for the afternoon.
We stopped at the Church of the Holy Cross — which is this interesting church that’s built into the side of a rock.
We got ice cream, went to little artisan shops in town, ate at Olive Garden for dinner, and just kind of, enjoyed being together with all the cards on the table. There was no more deception. No more lies. I had come clean, and for the first time in about two years, we were together without me carrying this huge secret, while actively destroying our family.
And it was really really beautiful. It just felt right.
When we were driving back to the facility, I remember I was sitting in the back seat, my parents in the front. And my dad pulled out this cute little crystal figurine of an owl taking flight. He had picked it up, unbeknownst to me, at one of the little shops we visited earlier in the day.
He gave it to me, and he told me that got it for me, because, in his words, “I believe you will fly.”
My dad and I have this special connection with owls. Growing up, when I was a little girl, every night, my dad would tell me a bedtime story — and the main character would be an owl. And so these “Owl stories” were our bonding time. He said he’d be sitting at work, and would be thinking up that night’s storyline. Every night it was something different, always with a moral or lesson at then end, and he’d always let me be the one to pick the owl’s name.
“Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away, there lived a little owl named…..”
So for my dad to give me this little owl figurine, as a token of his belief in me — it meant so much.
There I was, right on the cusp of a new beginning. Just starting out on my recovery journey, like a baby fawn learning to walk. I was scared, unsure of the future, uncertain of my own strength and ability to live this new -scary- way of life. I still had fear, body image issues, terrified to reach my weight range, and college and thereafter was still one giant question mark.
I didn’t believe in myself.
But my dad did.
“You will fly.”
And as per usual, my dad was right.
My dad has taught me a lot of things throughout my life – from his dadisms, like “Perturb to learn,” or “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Or the most recent: “Advocate for yourself.”
But that day in the car, driving through the desert of Arizona, he taught me, not only to believe in myself — but he reminded me that — despite the astronomical setback of anorexia I was currently smack dab in the middle of, trying to get my head above water — he reminded me that this wasn’t “it” for me. It didn’t define me, my worth, my value. And this certainly wasn’t the end of the story, but rather just the beginning.
He saw the good, even despite everything I had put him through during my anorexia.
And I’m crying as I write this, grateful for such an incredible man I have the privilege of calling dad.
So, dad, Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for always being my rock, and believing in me, even when I couldn’t do it for myself. It is because of you, your love, and your confidence in me that I am who I am today. I love you.
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