Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Need Your Help

My friend,jane, just discovered that her daughter, liz, has begun starving and purging. jane learned this by reading liz's diary. to make matters worse, fourteen-year-old liz has begun dressing trampily to get attention from boys. her self-esteem has always been low.

jane doesn't want to tell liz she read the diary, and Jane's therapist agreed. i think Jane needs to tell liz she read her diary. She can say she read it because she's been very concerned and she loves liz so much, and now she's ready to help.

but jane's stuck on this privacy thing -- she and her therapist thing it will feel like too huge a betrayal to liz. so jane thinks she just really can't do much of anything at this point but watch and wait.

i say liz needs to go to a medical doctor now AND to an eating disorders specialist therapist. i sometimes find that the most wonderful regular therapists don't often understand our disease.

i'm really worried about liz. she was always a chubby kid. now she thinks the only way to get boys is to be really thin and dress promiscuously. will she submit in a sexual way to boys, so they'll like her and pay attention?

jane is distressed and loves her daughter, but i don't think she sees the big potentially awful picture.

some questions:

what can one do for a young teen who's developing an eating disorder?

should jane tell liz she's read the diary?

do you tell a teenager ALL the repercussions of anorexia and bulimia? do you try to sort of scare her by sharing the physical side effects?

do facts and information dissuade someone from developing an ED?

what can we do for out daughters?

do you have other thoughts and ideas on the topic?



  1. I'm not going in order here. First Facts might help but I don't think they will. It's a mental illness after all. I know what I'm doing is wrong, I know about proper nutrion (now) and still find it hard to do cause I want to be thinner.

    She's her mother! I would ask her to go with her for a "family" therapy visit. Talk about how worried Jane is about her ED affecting her children - IF she has an ED. If not she can just bring it up, maybe the kid will admit it. If not then I would come out and say it. The kid will hate her for a while but this is your kid! You have to protect them from themselves. You wouldn't leave your child with a pedaphile if you knew about it don't let her binge and purge!

    Sory this is too important. Forget about the trust issue, this MUST be handled. Purging can KILL! Oh I trusted her right to the grave!

    Ok, calmer now. Sorry this is very personal for me. Screw the kid trusting them, she can get over that. Sorry I can't think rationaly about this, or comment. I guess that's a good thing, kind of funny I can get so worked up over someone else but find it so hard to stand up for myself the same way.

  2. Maybe I'm old fashioned but i think when a childs safety is involved there is no such thing as privacy!
    Studies show that early intervention results in the best prognosis for eating disorder recovery. Liz may not be scared by or care about the facts and risks of eating disorders, but she may benefit by working on the issues BEHIND the symptoms. Also, It may be easier for her to get her symptoms under control before they become ingrained as a way of life and an identity.
    When I look back on my teenage years, I desperately wish that I had been treated like more of a child and less of an adult. I made so many poor choices because I had so much freedom. Once you make a choice, like losing your virginity, you can never take it back. It will be with you forever. I wish my mom had invaded my privacy, kept close tabs on be, enforced a curfew, insisted on knowing where I was at all times and who I was with. I mmight have hated it at the time, but i would be thanking her for it now.
    Just a little bit of my perspective as someone who has "been there".

  3. I agree with the previous commenter. My gut reaction was that if a child's health is involved, privacy goes out the window. Teenagers always feel violated. There's no way around that. If I were a mother, I expect I may have some maternal instinct that may lead me to "investigate." Maybe she should have talked to her daughter directly about the goings-on in her life, but what's done is done. She knows what she knows and I don't think it's smart to pretend not to. Early intervention is really important. I don't know if sharing the scary facts about EDs would be all that helpful. For me, when I was a teenager, it helped most to hear that a loved one was concerned. When they said that, my face went flush. I felt like what I was doing was serious and that I didn't want to worry others. That was enough for me to want to get some help. It's a tough issue to discuss, but I think it's very necessary.

  4. I think family therapy with an ED specialist would be good for them. The mother doesn't have to tell her daughter that she read her diary, we moms have lots of ways of knowing when there is something wrong. Sometimes it is just intuition. They should start getting help now though, the quicker the better. How kind of you to help your friend and be so concerned about her daughter. I hope they get help.

  5. Well, my initial reaction was that the mother should let the daughter know and then work towards getting the girl better. I know that I would.

    Then I asked my son (aged 12) what he thought.
    He said that if I read a diary of his and TOLD him I read it he would feel betrayed. He would feel angry about it at first. But also said that it depended on what was in the diary (drugs, sex etc.) and if it was bad then the mother should take control.

    I think if the mother is aware of what is going on, she can approach it with that knowledge. She can still tackle it without allowing the daughter to feel that her privacy is being invaded. It may backfire terribly if the daughter felt betrayed, could make her more secretive.

    The thing is, why is the daughter so secretive? There must be something in that relationship that creates that secretive behaviour. ED's usually have a root source and that is often something in the parenting or perhaps something bigger going on. Not always of course. The mother has to be prepared for what follows - she has to be prepared to accept some responsibility if need be.

    I am trying to think what would have helped for me all those years ago. Perhaps if I had been more involved with things that were enjoyable it would have helped. Had my self confidence been higher it would have been great. There is no way known I would have listened to a therapist or my parents telling me what to do - I would have seen that as interference of the highest order and rebelled even more.

    The main thing is that the mother now knows. My parents never knew and still have no idea. I would never discuss it with them.

    Even if the mother goes to therapy to start with to get thoughts on how to handle it. Then she can work on things.

    No answere really. Just thoughts.

    Hope she is okay - both mother and daughter.

  6. I think that Jane should tell her daughter that she read her diary. Like you said, she can point out that she did it out of concern, etc. Her daughter probably will be mad, which is understandable. But, in the long battle with an e.d., an environment of total honesty needs to be developed, and Jane has an opportunity to model that. She also has an opportunity to model the fact that anger and other emotions can be held and dealt with productively. All of that will be crucial to successful recovery. Yes, mom's do have intuition and a way of knowing things, but that is not what happened here. She read her daughter's diary, and I think she needs to be honest about that.

    I agree that she needs to get her daughter professional support right away. She could give her daughter a choice about this - for example, does she want to go to the GP first and see what she/he says, or does she want to try meeting with a counselor and/or nutritionist? That way her daughter will still have some form of control. I think that her daughter definitely needs to get into therapy with an e.d. specialist and probably see an e.d. nutritionist as well. I also agree with the others that family therapy (often this is done w/ a separate therapist) would be a good idea.

    As for repercussions, she could ask her daughter what she knows about it. I think, overall, she might want to leave this part up to the professions. Her daughter might not believe her anyway, as she's "just mom," you know? Also, e.d. professionals can often gauge how much information is helpful and how much is overwhelming.

    Facts and information may dissuade some from developing e.d.'s. I'd like to think so. Once an e.d. has developed, though, it usually takes more than that. Keep in mind that most of us with e.d.'s know A LOT about our illnesses - far more than the average person! We have the information a lot of times, but eating disorders are an illness with a very strong hold.

    I think the best thing we can do for our daughters (and sons!) is develop from the start an open, honest, and trusting environment. I also think that we need to be models of healthy behavior in regard to food and our bodies. I think we can question the media with our children, too. That said, even if we do everything "right," people will still develop eating disorders, because they are usually about more than the family. When an eating disorder does develop, the best thing parents can do (in my opinion) is support their children is seeking help, avoid anger, and educate themselves on the illness.

    If it would be useful to your friend, here's some info from my treatment center geared specifically toward loved ones:

    Especially have her click on the link that says "The SHAIRE Model;" I think it might be helpful to her.

  7. I agree - let the doc give her the scary facts. It's easy to roll your eyes and mutter "whatever, Mom," but that white coat conveys an authority that is less easily challenged (for good or bad).

    The sooner your friend can get her daughter professional help, the better. No parent can do this by themselves.