My daughter was 15 years old when she was diagnosed with anorexia by a paediatric gastropsychologist who was supporting her for various medical problems that had resulted from her severely reduced food intake. She was referred to CAMHS, and was offered an assessment and then treatment quickly. Whilst we did receive family therapy, for my daughter, myself and her dad, the focus was entirely on meal plans and the struggles with the anorexic voice which made it so hard for her to eat.
At this stage I really had little guidance as to what I could do other than try and get her to follow the meal plan. After just a few months, I was on my knees feeling desperately unhappy and finding that family life was very difficult to manage. Our CAMHS did not offer carers any individual support, but fortunately I did find an eating disorder carers support group.
This was the beginning of a long journey for myself and all my family that has benefitted us in countless ways. I read books, attended support groups, accessed helplines, learned from other carers and started changing the ways I did things. After attending the group for several years, I feel that it was what I learnt there that enabled my daughter’s recovery and a much better life for all of us.
My daughter gained weight over a relatively short space of time and reached a healthy weight, then almost immediately became bulimic. She didn’t want further support from CAMHS, and they were happy to accept that. Ultimately 18 months after the bulimia started the situation was bleak for my daughter. She decided she wanted to re-engage with treatment and chose how she would do this.
Accessing NHS support was difficult as she was now classified as an adult, there was less support for patients with bulimia and there was no flexibility to fit with school. She chose to attend a private clinic that could give her the intensive support she felt she needed. Over the course of a 6-month period she worked incredibly hard to address the emotional challenges enabling her eating disorder to have control and started her journey of recovery. The anorexia did return during this time and she did work through it. She is now in good recovery and has all the tools and support to maintain her good health.
I would have liked carer support in all the settings throughout my daughter’s treatment. I feel very lucky to have found a support group that offered me amazing support – it would have been wonderful if this had been available more locally and I had learned what I needed to know sooner.
Are you caring for someone with an eating disorder? Solace is a free peer support group for carers, run multiple times per week over video, where you can talk to others in similar situations and share guidance and encouragement. Learn more here.