If you are a caregiver for a loved one with an eating disorder you have likely asked yourself this question on more than one occasion. It seems to be something that is always asked, but never ever addressed in the proper forums.
Here is a bit of back history so you will understand the lens through which I am writing. It took numerous hospital visits with “mysterious stomach ailments” before our daughter was finally diagnosed with atypical anorexia nervosa. At the time of diagnosis, I was thankful for an ER doctor who insisted our daughter share it with us or she would be admitted. Thus started the long journey of an eating disorder.
Aside from the one very astute doctor in the ER, it seemed like nobody took her condition seriously. I mean, when 1 in 3 people who are diagnosed with an eating disorder will die, you have to assume it’s pretty serious, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too but apparently not. Telling a family it will be 13 months before treatment unless they almost die is like negating everything we knew about our daughter. We saw her dying before our eyes but felt helpless and no one seemed to take us seriously. Thankfully we have a fabulous general practitioner who was extremely gracious and helped us during this difficult time.
We had to deal with self harm, anxiety, depression, weight loss, hair loss, hair gain (in all the wrong places called laguna), all while trying to navigate a very complex medical system. We hoped someone would notice our despair and her deteriorating condition and do something. The heavy lifting with eating disorders always seems to fall on the caregiver to beg, plead and bargain with medical staff to help their loved one. We are often met with rebuffs and quite often, a complete misunderstanding of what an eating disorder is and how deadly they are.
Once I finally got my bearings and an initial grasp of what I was dealing with (I always called it a ghost because I could never see what I was dealing with) I was able to start to make the case for my daughter. It is important for everyone to know that eating disorders are extremely serious and life-threatening and should never be downplayed or ignored. Seek medical advice right away and don’t back down. Make sure you are head and that you get help.
However, that is not the end of our story. It is equally crucial for you to know that full recovery is absolutely possible. Our daughter is living in wellness now and we are living proof that it can be done. Stay strong and stand your ground. Believe in your loved one and hold hope for them in their journey.