This is the first of several posts relating our family’s Eating Disorder Journey — originally posted in August, 2014.
I wish I had a punching bag with the letters “ED” on it. I’d punch the snot out of it several times a day; after struggling through another meal with my anorexic daughter.
I knew nothing about eating disorders before my beautiful daughter stopped eating. At 16 she had always been slender; and after a puzzling choice to become a vegetarian her weight plummeted. She told us she was eating at school and/or with friends. She told friends she was eating at home. In truth, she wasn’t eating much at all. I learned much later that her goal was to be under 200 calories a day; which is less than our brains need to minimally function each day.
She couldn’t hold still, she was in constant movement. She couldn’t sit as she watched cooking shows on TV obsessively. She prepared treats for school every day–treats she never ate; although the act of preparing the food helped fool her brain into thinking she had eaten.
She was officially diagnosed with anorexia in June of 2013, in a horrific series of discoveries and appointments with her woefully ill-informed doctor. Thankfully, at the time I did not know that 20% of anorexics will die from the disease; I (and her dad and stepdad) were already awash in fear and uncertainty.
The summer became a blur of doctors, labs, psychiatrists, counselors, hospitalizations, therapies, nutritionists and meal plans. We were driving her 150 miles (round trip) each day to her program, and I was working remotely in the offices of a former employer in the area — as much as I could.
Despite all this, she declined dangerously throughout the summer. By August, her life was in imminent danger; we admitted her into an inpatient program over 250 miles from home, where she was treated by one of the only psychiatrists in the Midwest who is certified in Family Based Therapy for Eating Disorders (aka the Maudsley approach); Dr. Julie Lesser.
By this time, our daughter was critically underweight and severely depressed. She slept. She cried. She ate. We did puzzles. She slept. She went to therapy. She cried. She ate. We played cards (LOTS of cards). She ate. We read books. She slept. She ate. She received dog therapy, massage therapy, daily psychiatric visits, group counseling, aroma therapy, family therapy, baby-niece therapy; along with her essential medicine: three meals and two snacks a day. She was closely monitored at all times; there were no gaps for the eating disorder to sneak in undetected. I was with her every day- spending the nights with my oldest daughter and her family.
Eventually…. we were able to see occasional glimmers of her former self: she smiled and even laughed now and then. Her medical condition had improved, although she was still underweight. In September, she was well enough to go home to continue her re-feeding under my care. I was scared… but determined.
The immediate crisis was behind us, but there was a very long road ahead.
See Eating Disorders Suck Part 2 to read more about our journey.