Tuesday 1 May 2012

But I will not back off altogether and here's why...

My dear friends on the ATDT forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders) pointed out this sad link to a report about a beautiful 19 year old girl who lost her fight with anorexia. To me, the bit that stands out the most is where her mother says: "...Beth was not a child so I could not force her to get help." As I say on the ATDT forum: "I live in dread of my 18 year old son relapsing and me being unable to do anything about it because of the law."

This is why I won't back off altogether and why I will continue to be discreetly super-vigilant to do my best to ensure the eating disorder never returns.

The thing is, as we all know, getting your child to do anything positive about recovery when they're neck-deep in an eating disorder is impossible. For a start the chances are they won't even admit they have a problem. And even if they do, they are powerless to do anything about it.

This is a serious mental illness we are talking about - an illness where the latest evidence-based research shows that the best success rates are where the parents are involved in the recovery process. Even if the adult child does receive treatment, I would argue that the parents still need to be involved, just as they were before the child was 18.

And if the adult child is so sick that they can't "be persuaded to seek professional advice", as Bethany couldn't be persuaded, then parents, carers and the medical profession need to be able to step in and take action - without the law telling them they can't, because the young person is over 18 and needs to make the decision themselves.

Crazily, there are circumstances where the medical profession wouldn't hesitate to step in to treat an adult in mortal danger - for example following a serious car crash or similar. I don't hear any doctors saying "Sorry but I can't intervene and save this person's life because they're over 18 and I need their permission". They just go ahead and do it.

Yet with anorexia, an illness whose very essence is about keeping its victim in its clutches until every ounce of life is squeezed out of them and where the victim can often refuse treatment quite violently, no-one is allowed to do anything until the illness is so far advanced that it can, sadly, be too late.

In October 2010 when Ben was hospitalised with Bradycardia (pulse rate of 29) for the second time, he tried violently to discharge himself, insisting he didn't need any treatment and nothing was wrong. In the end hospital security and the police had to be called. He underwent the tests he hated so much, presumably because he was still a minor and what I said went.

Like Bethany's mother I said something similar to: 'I tried to warn her that her organs would fail but she just said: "Don't be silly"'.

Ben said "Don't be silly", but because he was under 18 I was able to enforce treatment.

What would have happened if he'd been over 18?


  1. Harsh reality....
    I don't think you as a parent can stop his eating disorder returning, no one can but himself, but you are aware of the dangers signs and can support him. Bev, sod it Im going to message you my phone number. Up to you if you call me. Jackie xx