Tuesday 29 May 2012

“Get help before they turn 18.”

This is what one mother said when her (recovered 20-something) daughter asked what the "biggest piece of advice she would give another parent" going through what she and her daughter had been through together. "Get help before they turn 18."

Although the article focuses mainly on what Joanne would say to parents of other eating disorder patients in a clinic waiting room, this was the bit that hit home hardest for me.

Ben is now 18 and, without his agreement, I am legally excluded from making any decisions about his treatment or recovery. And, should he refuse to cooperate and choose to starve himself close to death, or even as far as death, then that is his decision. I am powerless.

Just because it's the law.

Thankfully Ben and I have built up the kind of excellent 'working relationship' that Joanne talks about in her article. Also, Ben's treatment started when he was 16, so Mama Batty was in charge.

But hopefully all this means that, unless something terrible happens, we can come to a mum-friendly agreement on what happens next on his road to recovery from anorexia. Also, because I hold the purse strings for his university education and he particularly wants to go to university, that's another 'carrot' I can dangle in front of him if necessary.

However, as I've said before, this isn't the case for so many families and the result can be devastating. And, at the moment, it looks as if the law doesn't plan to change in any way.

People who are totally trapped in a dangerous illness that's hell bent on destroying them, right down to their final breath, are allowed to 'choose' whether or not they have treatment.

And, meanwhile, their parents and other people that love them and want to save their lives are faced with taking a ringside seat to watch the destruction take place.

Like being gagged and tied up, forced to watch your own child being fed to the lions in some hellish Roman arena.

Just because it's the law.

Like many parents of children in their late teens who are battling with an eating disorder, I live in mortal dread of Ben relapsing seriously, then the 'anorexia demon' kicking in and refusing point blank to get any treatment, because - as we all know - that's exactly what ED, the 'anorexia demon' loves doing best. I have nightmares about fighting to save my child's life yet being powerless to do anything about it.

Just because it's the law.

So, any parent of any teen who is battling with an eating disorder and approaching their 18th birthday, please please please put your foot down and follow Joanne's excellent advice in the 'letter' she writes to parents of children sitting in that waiting room at the eating disorder clinic.

This way you can, hopefully, take action before it's too late - and stick two fingers up at ED the 'anorexia demon' and the law.


  1. Yes, the law of the land does mean that as an adult, Ben has the right to choose care or not. But only up to a certain level. If he was losing weight rapidly, or was physiologically unstable (e..g. with dangerously low bradycardia, as previously), the law of the land does mean that he can be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

    Hopefully that would never happen. However, if you, as his awesome Mum were to see him relapsing, you have every right to try to seek help on his behalf. He has to agree to treatment - if he can demonstrate mental capacity; but if he cannot demonstrate such capacity her would be forced into treatment - by law.

  2. Matty this is right where we are now with my partners son who is 19. My partner is very aware of the limitations in Law and is often in tears simply acknowledging that as an adult it is his shout. He has however moved from Anorexia to Bulimia.
    A little over a year ago he was admitted to a unit in Poole. Whilst visiting we were "introduced" to several mature women who he informed us had been admitted several times.
    We were also educated in just how ingenious they could be to actually circumvent the system even under Professional Monitering.

  3. It appears (also in Poole here) to be 16, rather than 18? We have certainly been informed that, regrettably (sic!) once she is 16, we have no right to be involved.