Monday, April 27, 2009

Raising ED-free children

In this press release, Dr. Stacy of Every Woman Had an Eating Disorder, lists concrete ways parents can help develop positive body image and healthy eating in children. I won't type out the entire list, you can go to the link above for that. What I do like about what Dr. Stacy says is that even if you do all the things right, your child can still develop an eating disorder. (hint biochemistry here and cultural pressure) She says:

"What is most important is that parents need to recognize the signs and trust their instincts. Oftentimes, parents ignore early signs because they feel that this problem would be a bad reflection of their parenting and love for their child. If parents witness the signs and jump in early, they can get their child off a dangerous path. It can be a matter of life or death."

I think this is so true. I'll use myself as an example here. When I first began the wrath of an eating disorder, less than a year later (somewhere between 8-12 months, I can't remember the exact time), it was me who reached out to my mother, saying I really needed to see a doctor in an e-mail no less. She obliged my request. I saw a Dr., was honest, and then headed to see a therapist. Even though I acknowledged the problem and was uncertain of really getting better, the problem was at least out there. Later, my mother would tell me she suspected a problem but never said anything. Why, I don't know. It's such a touchy subject to broach, and even when it is, the likelihood of a teenager (or any eating disordered person of any age) giving a truthful answer is pretty bleak.

After awhile in therapy and leaking my guts out, talk of inpatient was mentioned. I was against this but a part of me knew it could have turned me around too. Essentially, my dad guilt-tripped me out of it (it would take all my savings, and only you can get better if you really want it), and thus, I never went. I don't blame my parents or anything for my eventual demise of ED hell for another 10+ years, but I do think had there been more push for intensive treatment at that particular time, (and this is of course not to say that inpatient would have cured me) just maybe my ED descent would not have lasted so long.

All those what ifs. That's all they are now. I rarely think about it honestly, knowing the past can't be changed. For now, I can only live in the moment and make choices for today.


Cammy said...

Very similar experience here. I had always been a "picky eater" as a kid, so my parents were able to easily rationalize my increasingly disordered behavior away for months, until I was really, really in the danger zone. They took me to a therapist (a family counselor with no ED experience), but balked at all recommendations of in-patient treatment because they just couldn't believe it wasn't something we could "manage" at home, they were good parents, after all . . . we lived in a very small town, and everyone would have known I had been sent away. It must be tough to be in that position, and I put no blame on them, but the "what if" issue has crossed my mind as well.

I am really glad that early intervention is being promoted, because I think one of the dangers of EDs is how they just become a way of life, and the longer they are allowed to become ingrained the harder it is to get out. Thanks for sharing!

Lissy said...

i'm with both of you -- intervention is key. unfortunately, my parents thought i looked great skinny -- truly fashionably thin. i'm sure this helped spark thirty years of bulimia.

great post, tiptoe. hope some parents read it !

Gwen said...

Good for you for asking for help. I know how hard that must have been. I was originally diagnosed with bulimia at 16 because my mom discovered me purging. She was horrified and angry, truth be told. I was put into therapy but I never really felt like I was ALLOWED to be sick, or that I deserved the care I was receiving. I hurried to put up a front of "I'm all better", even though I really wasn't. My eating disorder spiraled out of control and morphed into anorexia when I was in my early 20's (I think it always was anorexia purging subtype, because I never did any real binging). At that point, I had to ask for the help I needed - people were concerned but nobody insisted I get help the way I secretly wanted and needed them to. When I started in outpatient treatment at Renfrew, inpatient was recommended and I refused to go, because again I felt unworthy of treatment or not sick enough. Like you, I do regret not going inpatient because I think that I would have gotten better so much quicker than I did. It took me a LONG time to recover, and I still deal with ED thoughts on a fairly regular basis.

Anyway, I admire you for asking for help and for your couragous struggle to recover. I've been reading your blog for a while now and I am so inspired by your smart mind and your sweet soul!

Gaining Back My Life said...

I almost didn't make it past the first quote. I've only recently deducted that what you quoted was the exact same reason my parents brushed both my sister's & my ed's under the rug. They were very involved in my school, the church - they controlled I mean permeated every aspect of my life.

Ergo, my congruent fear of making a decision; be it the color of a fly swatter or a $3,000 couch.

What if I make a mistake?

I would have still loved my parents if they admitted they made a mistake! It's terribly sad - that's how I console myself now. That, and speaking honestly to others about my ed.

Dr. Deb said...

You are right, we can't change the past. And it's important not to lay too much blame as that goes. Today and tomorrow are things we can tend to and change.

Tiptoe said...

Cammy, I've known several people who had very picky eaters in childhood. Some developed EDs, others did not. The the ones who did not still developed some disordered eating. I remember friends in high school I knew woh had never had a lima bean or a pickle or even full fat ice cream (her mom never allowed it, later she did develop AN)

Lissy, you're right early intervention is so important. I hope parents start looking at the signs and stepping in. So sorry how your parents reacted to BN. It unfortunately only reinforced the problem.

Gwen, thanks for sharing your story. I think there are probably a lot of us who needed more intensive treatment than what we received or chose to receive at that time. It's kind of sad to think that just *maybe* we might not have headed down the dismal path for so long.

Thank you also for your sweet compliments. You have some great stuff on your blog too.

GBML, sweeping it under the rug does nothing really, but just keep an image that all is fine when it is clearly not. It's sad when we can't face it. I know it is hard as parents with EDs, but I just think there are better ways.

One thing I've learned is that many people will never admit to their mistakes and it is best to learn to let it go as much as possible.

Dr. Deb, looking forward is the best option of the two. We're responsible for the here and now.