This blog is not FDA approved
Thank you so much Le Clown for having me as a guest here in your lovely blog abode! You found me in the blogosphere because I thought in order to help myself get through this crazy time, I should write. Thank you for reading…and here’s the poop:
We don’t do summer camp around here. We hit life hard and fast. September 19th I was called to the counselors office at my daughter’s high school as my daughter informed me the two of us (counselor and I) needed to have a chat. I was told that my daughter was worried that she was throwing up after meals and that it felt like this was getting out of control. WHAT? I mean, she had obviously lost a lot of weight, (30 pounds) I had asked her about it all summer, she of course lied and said she was working out and eating less. Suddenly she looked gaunt and tired. She had that smile runners have who have no fat on their faces, those lines; she had dark circles under her eyes. I wanted to carry her home.
I had moved over 30 miles away to live with a boyfriend last July. He was someone I knew since elementary school. We had started a promotional company, we were doing improv together on stage in Denver, he was an artist, I was a writer. Life was grand. I never saw my daughter.
The next day the school got an ‘anonymous’ phone call that my daughter was getting high in her car with some friend. She was called to the office. They informed her she would have her car searched. She took off running. (I secretly love her for this: She told me she thought, ‘Oh No. This ain’t goin’ down like THIS.) (Apparently after she took off, she didn’t have a plan.)
Needless to say, she got arrested and taken to JUVIE. (I can say that now. Juvie.)
Shit. I was coming! I was calling therapists! I was reading eating disorder websites! It broke wide open all over the place before we even took a step. On my 46th birthday I was in the principle’s office doing what you do when your kid is suspended. We had court coming up now too. ’Happy Birthday Mom.’
We hadn’t even touched on the eating disorder problem yet. Her dad took her to the doctor. They recommended an evaluation at Children’s Hospital. I could not be this far away any more. My kid was screaming for help. I informed Boyfriend…’I gotta get to the city. I have to be closer to Daughter.’ He threw a fit. I forgot we had been nine year olds the enitre year we had lived together. I needed to be 46. It was a big wake up call to everything in my life.
I packed a suitcase.
1 1/2 weeks later my daughter’s dad and I sat in front of two doctors from Children’s Hospital who told us our daughter’s condition was pretty severe. That her weight was good, but that she was eating under 400 calories a day, she had severe depression and that she was pretty ‘entrenched’ in not eating. What? I thought we were going to be told she wasn’t severe, ‘here’s a therapists phone number, thanks for coming’. She wasn’t skin and bones. She’s a smart kid. I shouldn’t have moved so far away. What???
We admitted her into the Children’s Hospital Eating Disorders Unit the next day. She would be there from 7a.m. to 7 p.m. She would not go to school or to work for the next month. I was living in my friend’s spare room with my suitcase, my laptop and my box of food bank food that I got on my way out of town. We didn’t really know what we were in for.
The first day there I went to a Parents Group. Everyone had a ‘language’ I didn’t speak, everyone looked battle worn. All eyes were red and puffy. A ‘Parent Notebook’ was handed to me. I took it home and read it. I looked up the program they model their whole Eating Disorder Unit on. The Maudsley Approach. Their theory is that families need to be heavily involved in treatment and recovery. It is the best program in the nation, modeled after the original in the U.K. It is remarkable.
In between 7 a.m. drop offs, doctors meetings, meal planning meetings, nurses, group therapy sessions, family sessions, dinners each night at the unit, driving 25 miles to and from the hospital to her dad’s, I had to find a job and a place to live. I had to look nice and act like a ‘Team Player’ and make it my lifelong dream to work at a pizza place/taco bell/chiropractors office/doggie daycare. I have discovered that when you wear a nice, lady type scarf, you look ‘dressed up’ and like you are ‘put together’. (I’m getting pretty sick of this green scarf.)
My daughter went from ‘I hate you! YOU are ruining my life!’ on day two, to realizing she did have a problem. Talking with the other girls her age in the program and spending 11 hours a day with this group, in cognitive therapy, yoga and art mindfulness; I think has saved her life. You can’t get this in weekly sessions at a therapist’s office. It has to be a dramatic shift or you can’t change such an ‘entrenched’ thought process.
These kids are articulate, smart, amazing, brave and strong. The parents are shell shocked and terrified. One girl, who is 12, was hospitalized and dying with a heart rate of 30. They have come from 3000 miles away to save her life. Some of these families have been battling this for years. There was an audible gasp in the room one night when I announced my daughter would be 18 this coming Friday.
They live each day knowing they still have control and somewhat of a say and that the magic age of 18 takes this opportunity away from them.
They have been in and out of these programs, but none like this. The kids eat with the nurse and play nice and come home to parents that know nothing. The Maudsley approach puts the parents IN the program with the kids. Every day. Every night. WE make the meal plans. WE keep a notebook. WE meet with doctors and nurses and decision makers and each other and the kids. WE are all in this together.
People have come out of the woodwork to offer help. I forgot about my ‘visitors pass’ sticker one day and it was still on my shirt and my hair client asked about it. I just told her the truth. She started crying. She had been through the same thing in college when she was 19. She said she’d never forget it, she went to counseling every week for two years and it saved her life. The world can be pretty fuckin magical if you just let it in sometimes. (Right Clown?)
My daughter has turned 18. She will go back this week and this will probably be her last week. The rest will be up to her. I will always help her. I don’t care how old she is.
I will not be going back to where I was. Now it is time to pull myself up and get on with my life. My amazing, adventurous, ADULT life.