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Anorexia experience?

round2's picture

I need help. Here is some background:

Married 6 years, together 8. I have DS23, DD20 & DD15. DH has SD14. My kids are doing ok, DS has graduated from college, DD20 is in college, DD15 is in high school, maintaining good grades, plays a sport, has friends. Other than an occasional smart mouth (teens…) she is doing well.

SD14 is another story and where I need guidance from the Stalk community. I want to get it out that I am 99% disengaged, have been for about 4 years. I learned it here and strictly follow that philosophy. It has saved my sanity and kept my kids out of the fray with my DH’s HCBM and kid.

The issue: Has anyone had a skid with Anorexia, Purging Type? My SD went from a normal weight to incredibly thin in what seemed to be overnight. She kept displaying all the classic symptoms of excusing herself from the table an excessive amount of times during meals, dramatic weight loss. Wearing huge clothes even in warm months, picking at her food, only eating small amounts, etc.

Last summer, I mentioned to DH that I thought there was an issue and when he asked her she admitted to purging to lose weight. Trip to therapist confirmed it. When DH and SD14 called mom to let her know what was going on, she was aggressive and defensive. Asked SD ‘how can you do this to me, I cant deal with this, all teen girls go through this’ and other things. It was quite a scene. I think it also upset her that it was the SM who identified the issue.

BM continued to deny there was an issue, refused to take her to therapy appointments while my Dh is running himself ragged trying to help his kid. He eventually forced a meeting with the Parenting Facilitator who compelled her to participate in treatment. BM was marginally compliant until she found gallon bags of vomit hidden in SD bedroom. Then she became supermom (eyeroll here).

SD has been in IOP (intensive outpatient treatment) for months and for a while it seemed to work but now we are not sure. We caught her with laxatives over the holiday break and BM called freaking out last night because she found more vomit.

It seems like there is always something – from BM trying to us to pay her half of the co-pays, the drunk phone calls from BM with her and SD yelling at each other. We were also informed last week that SD14 is having unprotected sex with her boyfriend. BM says she cant take off work to get her on birth control.

I am not directly subjected to their behaviors but do have to deal with DH when this goes on. He has Disney dad tendencies and hates to tell the kids NO. He self-corrects pretty well but this has worn him down.

I guess my questions is this…has anyone dealt with an anorexia diagnosis? What should I expect next? What is my role as the SM? It is affecting my house, I hate when she is here for visits and the eventual drama. She is not aggressive with me; she knows I would not tolerate it for a second. That’s how I have raised my kids and she gives me a wide berth on her nasty behavior.

Part of me wants to take over and drive the changes that need to be made. Most of me wants to run away from home and never see any of these crazy people ever again.

Any advice?


Ithinkican's picture

has an eating disorder and has been hospitalized twice, IOP twice but what really helped was she was sent to an apartment with a live in counselor and accountability to prepare and eat meals. Even though she has a ton of support with me and her family it was necessary to get away and break habits. She stayed a month then continued IOP. She’s been out for 5 months and is doing really good. 

Recovery is really hard when you have a ton of support but seems impossible if everything around you is a disaster. Also, no matter how much you care it’s ultimately up to them to put the work in.

round2's picture

Thank you for sharing that. May I ask how old your daughter was when she went to this treatment? BM in our case is so difficult that I dont think SD is getting the proper home support. When she shit storm started yesterday, BM was clearly intoxicated and SD said she had been like that since 4pm. 


Ithinkican's picture

My daughter was 19. I’m not sure there’s much you can do as SM. Supporting your husband is important. 

The ED is a life unto itself. It controls the person until that person can fight it. If her ed is really bad I would look at a treatment facility that she can stay at full time. Looks like she needs stability. I found routine was extremely important with my daughter. She ate at certain times everyday without fail. Still kinda does. 

A lot of the girls at IOP didn’t have great home-life’s but if they had just one other support person, it helped. 

An excellent book you guys could read is Decoding Anorexia. I cried myself through it but it was great st understanding the disease.

Ispofacto's picture

I watched a show on Netflix, it was a few months ago, they probably still have it.  Don't Call Me Crazy.

It was about teens who were committed into inpatient treatment.  When outpatient fails, control will be taken away from the child and parents, and put into the hands of doctors.  Eating disorders are all about control. 

IMO, it is a manifestation of anger.  It sounds like your SD is angry with her mother.

In the documentary, one of the girls had anorexia, and when she refused to eat, they forced her.  They took control away from her, and that fixed her, at least for a while. 

Just make sure SD is being monitored by a doctor, and if she falls below a certain weight, the doctor will step in.


sunshinex's picture

My sister has an eating disorder. At one point, I constantly worried that she would keel over and die. It was hard. She was so thin - like 75 lbs at 5'9. She would randomly black out and fall over quite often. My brother and I would have to pick her up/try to catch her and get her to sit down for a bit. It was stressful. I can't imagine dealing with this from my own child. It would be horrifying and saddening beyond belief. 

I know in my sisters case, and often, eating disorders are about being fragile and small enough that people will finally worry and pay attention to you. Now I'm not saying this is always the case. But I did watch a TON of documentaries and do a TON of research trying to understand EDs. My sister was ignored a lot by my dad when she really, really wanted his attention. I do think a huge part of her eating disorder was trying to become something people, and more specifically, my dad, wanted to take care of. 

From the sounds of it, BM is not paying attention to her daughter but instead, doing what she wants to do and having her own fun. I strongly recommend therapy for SD, because it's possible she is trying to gain control of her life (controlling the numbers is a great way to do this) OR get her mom to finally take care of her the way she wishes she would. This is subconscious - they often don't know WHY they're doing it. 

Either way, I once heard a line in a poem that really struck me. It was something like "if you have an eating disorder and you are NOT in recovery, you are dying." 

And it's true. 

Please look out for your SD. 

Check out this amazing poet: she gives some great insight.  

sunshinex's picture

I also recommend BM/DH spend some time here:

This is an eating disorder forum filled with people who are struggling but helping each other lose weight. There is a lot of tips, tricks, and things you can watch for. 

round2's picture

I firmly believe BM thought parenting was going to be cupcakes and tea parties. She had no idea how incredibly hard it can be. 

DH says she was always a heavy drinker when they were married but not like we perceive it to be now. I think SD is angry with both her parents, honestly. BM has been high conflict from the get go and DH has always been a pushover with his DD. He works a lot, travels constantly so her day to day has been with an angry, selfish alcohol abuser. 

He will occassionally say he is going to fight for custody which we would not have won at that time. Right now, we are on the edge of medical neglect so who knows? I dont want custody and if we did end up with it may signal the ens of our marriage. I have a responsibility to get my DD through school without this swirling vortex of drama residing in our house full time. 

sunshinex's picture

Yes, your responsibility is with your DD. But if BM and DH are going to stand back and watch their child kill herself because she WILL, many ED sufferers end up dying, then you need to get out of there. I hate to say it, but if you stick around and can't commit to helping, it will weigh on your conscious. I really feel for you. That's a hard place to be. BM and DH really need to get it together and help her. It's not your responsibility, but it won't feel good if they do nothing, she dies, and you're left feeling like you SHOULD have done something. 

ITB2012's picture

Not purging/laxatives, but calorie counting and denying myself food.

It's about control and body image. You feel bad about yourself and/or things are out of control. What starts as something you think you can handle and will only do until X happens then escalates as you get compliments on your appearance. And you've found something you're "good at" and are getting praise. And you see bumps and bulges (that are supposed to be there) that need to go away and you know how to do it. So you do. Your whole body image is distorted. I remember the day I was ecstatic when I went to put on a skirt and it fell straight to my feet. And I wasn't heavy before it started, just wanted some of the extra to go away.

I didn't end up in a facility but my mom put the fear of her in me (not God, he's not as scary). She said some things, I don't remember what but one was to take me away from school and my friends and do a facility. For some reason I also remember looking at myself in the mirror against pictures and saw that I was way closer to a concentration camp victim than a model or a healthy looking person (athletes). It took years for my metabolism to even out.

I wanted to feel loved (my parents were really fighting and almost divorced, so losing weight to be more attractive would get me attention/love from others), to feel in control, and to feel good about myself. It's also during this time I first had sex, again looking for love in all the wrong places. I bet you any money, deep down, she doesn't feel loved or lovable.

round2's picture

Thank you so much for replying, your words made me tear up. I am so torn on this whole thing because as a SM I have no real say in how they proceed. I have my opinions and they are much more extreme than what my DH is willing to do and as a result, my ideas are often disregarded. Your mom and I seem very similar! 

I would have taken a more direct approach and been way more involved in her day to day activities than BM has been. Because she denied what was happening for months, SD lost some really valuable treatment time. She also had to accpet that her mother wasnt worried about her health, despite doctor ackowledgement of her need for treatment. 

ITB2012's picture

But here's my advice for what you can do, since I know you want to do something, and you can.

Hug her. Hug her a lot. Take advantage of a quiet moment to give her a little hug. Maybe start slow if that's not a normal thing. And do it when no one is around. Then it's special just for her, not because someone is watching (and you don't want your DH to freak out with happiness).

Tell her you care about her. You obviously do, so tell her. Quietly, not forcefully.

Do something with her. A movie, a puzzle. Or paint your nails together. Ask her to teach you something she knows that you do not. Definitely compliment her.

If you are close enough to her, do a little thing. Small things, and quietly. Like a cute pair of earrings just tucked between socks in a pile of folded laundry. Make sure she sees you bring it in to her room and she knows you did the folding so she can figure out you left the trinket.

Do NOT bring up food or her weight or treatment. It's like triggering someone who cuts. They will go cut because that's how they release anxiety. See through all that to see her.

If she knows how to do yoga, perhaps some relaxing time doing yoga together. Or a yoga class together.

It doesn't have to be much and it doesn't have to be often, but it would help to know someone cares and thinks she's special.

Remember she's sad but she's not tragic. She is happy sometimes, just like everyone is happy and sad and mad, etc.

You can't say how they proceed but if you care about her, you show her love, she may trust your opinion and she may listen to you. You don't have the benefit of being her mom, like my mom had with me. You probably need the opposite approach of quietness.


Your DD is almost the same age. Could she do some of the things, too? Maybe that would make it more of a "girls" outing type thing and less pressure on you and your SD.

round2's picture

Thank you for your feedback. My relationship with SD is difficult. When I say I am disengaged, I am 100%, unless it affects my time or my money. That sounds harsher than it is but I basically leave the parenting to DH and Krazy-pants BM. 

I care what happens to her because I adore my DH. They had difficulty having a child and she is the light of his life. Unfortunately, when their marriage ended, BM wasnt prepared to 'adult'. She did not work for 2 years and drudgingly got a job when she couldnt find another successful man to marry her. My DH is a high wage earner, as am I, so BM treated our house like an ATM until I put my foot down. 

BM has been a mess since we have been together, openly hostile to me and my kids so the stepping wayyyyy back was my way of protecting myself and my kids. I am so afraid that if I wade into this mess I will get sucked in all the way. DH would welcome the help and I think BM would abdicate all responsibility at this point. 

You mentioned my daughter, she keeps SD at arms length because of this mess as well. DD plays a varsity sport as a freshman and plays competitive ball as well. I am always at a sporting event as well as helping with homework and all the other things that go along with raising productive people. I often wonder if the difference in parenting styles resonates with my SD. 

YOu are very kind to provide so much for me to think about. I really appreciate it. 



ndc's picture

What does "intensive outpatient" treatment consist of?  My sister had anorexia (not bulimia), and outpatient treatment didn't work.  She eventually did a "partial hospitalization" program where she was at the facility from 8 am to 4 or 5 pm.  She did school there - she was not going to her regular school.  She came home overnight.  She never needed to do a full hospitalization program.  It sounds like intensive outpatient isn't working and your SD needs to go another step up the treatment ladder.

There is enough stress with this disorder without an alcoholic (or heavily drinking - not sure what you're dealing with) mother at home.  Are SD's doctors aware of the home situation?  I'm sure you and your husband are aware that anorexia is the most deadly mental disorder.  Disengaged or not, I personally would push DH to discuss the situation and more intensive treatment with SD's health team, if only so I knew that I did what I could to help.  You don't want guilt or regrets.

round2's picture

She goes 3 days a week from 3-7 during the week and 3 hours every Saturday. She was supposed to step down to 2 days week when we found out about the purging over the holidays. Her facility partners with her school to keep her up to speed. 

I dont know if the drinking and specific examples of her chaotic home life have come up. My SD is becoming more hostile toward sher mother and a little more with DH so who knows what is going on in therapy. For some reason, my DH has not brought up the drinking to the center. It is weird, it is like he doesnt want to go ther with them or be accused of being biased. I would have been screaming from the rooftops about her day to day life. 

round2's picture

Not me eiher. I made that very clear to DH - I will not raise a teen mother's baby. I got my girls to relative adulthood without this being an issue and I am not taking on a kid at age 48. I may break down and take her to my Gyno, just to protect myself. 

notsurehowtodeal's picture

Birth control was my hill to die on when my SD lived with us. I took her to Planned Parenthood with DH's blessing. BM found out later and wasn't too happy - but there was nothing should could do about it then.

Maybe she will listen to a doctor when they tell her about the dangers of unprotected sex.

NoWireCoatHangarsEVER's picture

from anorexia. She is in her mid 30's. She isn't going to make it. She has tried anything and everything. Her heart is failing. She blames it on her brain and she blames it on her mother who was a real piece of work. She legally emancipated herself at 16 because of her mother. I think your biggest chance of success is if you get her full time away from her mother . It starts as control. It is something they can control when they feel helpless and adrift with no control of their own lives . That's how my friend explained it to me

Iamwoman's picture

This. Yes. I had anorexia as a teen. It started out because my household was insanely dramatic and I think dysfunctional. One would never have guessed from the outside. We were a picture perfect family: my two parents, dog, two siblings.

On the inside though, there was yelling on a daily basis. My brother purposely tormented my mother who reacted by withdrawing from all three of her children. My sister became manipulative and ate her feelings, so now she struggles with weight. I became withdrawn, and in addition to tying to control my life with a strict 800 calories a day eating schedule, I also spent as much time as possible in after school activities. My Anorexia helped shove me into the international modeling industry. Ironically, as I spent an entire summer away from my family, modeling over seas, I became happier. I found that I wanted to eat. I then sabotaged my own modeling career by gaining back my weight (to a normal level, such as 135 at 5’10” instead of the 116 I weighed as an Anorexic model. Ironically, the thing that brought me happiness was removed from my life because I was able to eat again. I never stopped being happy though.

It sounds like your SD has bulemia, not Anorexia. Anorexics don’t vomit. Bulemics do. Or she may be a combo.

Either way, it is absolutely NOT an attention getting tactic. It is most assuredly about her having some sort of control over her life. One comment mentioned not feeling loved. That resonates as well. I felt unloved throughout my teen years. I never had sex, because it was apparently enough for me to realize that I looked like the beautiful women in the magazines and then even better to become one. That being said, I would have given up all of modeling for a peaceful home life, and the feeling that I was loved by my parents.

round2's picture

Thank you for sharing your story - that is heartbreaking. From what DH has relayed to me, she witholds food as well as purges through vomiting. She started with the laxatives and witholding and then moved to not eating and vomiting. 

He spoke to the center that is treating her today and filled them in on the most recent events. They told him they arent sure if she is still purging (she is denying what her mother says) but did confirm that the stressor in her life is the relationship with her mother. They have recommended she drop to an out patient treatment plan and family therapy with her mother to sort through their issues.  I dont have much hope that this will be successful but I suppose they have to try. 

She is here this weekend and I am dreading it. Last visit ended with slammed doors, tears and other assorted BS behavior. This is so exhausting. 

Kona_California's picture

It's been a while since this was posted so I'm wondering how she's doing. Any progress?

I don't have experience with anorexia but my master's degree is in counseling, so I'm interested and hope my thoughts can help.

What we know is it has a lot to do with lack of reasonable control in her world. As kids grow, they should feel they have somewhat control of their environment while having healthy relationships around them. She most likely doesn't feel loved, so it could also be a form of self punishment. Like part of keeping food away could be convincing herself she doesn't deserve it. 

You're in a really tough position being this powerless. It's a shame you feel you need to disengage because of BM because it sounds like you are a very caring, compassionate person who I'm sure she would benefit having a relationship with. 

Have you spoken to your DH about this? What are his thoughts, what is his course of action? You can always team up with him and have him lead. 

Ideally, you should be able to say "screw BM, this girl's life could be on the line." And proceed with a relationship with her anyway. Maybe just starting with approaching her and saying although you haven't been close, you see she is going through a lot and you care a lot about her. Ask her how she's feeling, how she feels about you. Let her be angry, let her get it out. As long as she isn't hurting anyone or breaking anything, she could be holding that inside and releasing it could help. Just stay calm and maintain a stance of listening, understanding. If she has this episode, or not, continue telling her it's okay she feels this way. Remind her you love her, and her dad loves her. 

I love the suggestions ITB2012 gave. Showing small gestures of love and care, and openness of being there for her. Let her know it's okay she's mad at you, you understand. I'm curious to know how things have unfolded since then.

round2's picture

I just saw this follow up post. My SD16 is doing better - she has been able to maintain a normal weight for a year now and is doing ok in school. BM is still a mess so we manage it when the crazy reigns down. I am going to post an update on otherr issues in a seperate blog.