F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

Welcome to F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum. This is a free service provided for parents of those suffering from eating disorders. It is moderated by kind, experienced, parent caregivers trained to guide you in how to use the forum and how to find resources to help you support your family member. This forum is for parents of patients with all eating disorder diagnoses, all ages, around the world.

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janlk
Hello Everyone,
I am new to this forum and have a 33 year old son who has had anorexia or some form of eating disorder for 11 years.  We first noticed he had a problem when he came back home for Christmas after his 2nd year away at university and we barely recognized him because he was so gaunt from weight loss.  We talked to him (or at him, since he would not talk about what was going on with him) and got him to see a physician and he did start eating while he was home so he went back to university.  He gained most of the weight back on his own by the next spring when he came home.  Since then, however, he has slowly been losing weight.  He has always been slender.  He has very regimented eating habits, obsessively talks about food, exercises to excess and hoards food.  He has his own house and is a brilliant, very financially successful professional. 
He has never been willing to talk to his father and I about his illness.  We have tried many, many times and the conversation amounts to us talking, him listening and then he will block us from his life for several months.  It is his way of ensuring we will not bring it up again.  When he comes back to us,  we have a great relationship as long as we don't speak of his condition.
His family, coworkers and friends have also spoken to him about their concerns but he does not give them any insight into his feelings either. I understand his starved mind cannot see the problem but with him being an adult, we don't know how to force him to start eating.
What is different about our son,from what I've been reading, is that he does not seem depressed or withdrawn at all.  He is very involved socially with his family and friends which he sees every week.  He seems happy and very interested in life and the lives of others. I have no idea if he is unhappy when he is home alone.
As is the case with eating disorders, his illness has progressed and he is now at the point where he is a mere skeleton.  He saw a physician for a physical just before Christmas and the basic tests results came back positive except for anemia.  I still feel he is dying before my eyes.  We feel desperately hopeless to help him and feel that the only way he will even think of getting help is if he has a major health crisis which I know is coming.  Any advice any of you have would be greatly appreciated.
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deenl

Hi janlk and welcome,

Your post gave me a pang because my son has a restrictive eating disorder too. I feel so very fortunate to be living in the time where families can get support over the internet and share resources.

Coincidently I have just read a recent blog post by one of the FEAST board members who has a daughter with a severe and enduring eating disorder (SE-ED). I found it a lovely story and I hope that it will give you some strength.

As far as I can see, the biggest advantage you have is your ongoing relationship with your son. The combination of anosognosia and the long term nature of his illness means that it is very, very difficult to talk about it in a regular way. Motivation Interviewing is a technique that changes the mood around the conversation and can provide you with the tools to slowly engage with your son on the topic without triggering the months long silence. I know that it is really hard to change our habits of communication but so very worth it when dealing with long term mental illness in our loved ones. The New Maudsley Approach website has much infomation on this technique that may help and is aimed at the families of those with SE-ED.

A book that I have found useful in another context is 'I am not sick, I don't need help' by Xavier Amador. His brother had schizophrenia and as anosognosia is a symptom shared by EDs and schizophrenia, many of the techniques are helpful here too. The approach is very similar to the New Maudsley Approach in that it is building on the strength of the existing loving relationship. 

Please feel free to come back an post whenever you need to ask a question or, more importantly, when you yourself need some support or internet hugs. There are parents here who are in the same situation as you and I know they would be there for you, to share resources, to offer emotional support or just share that they get it, they understand. 

Wishing you continued strength and courage,

D

2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
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Torie
Hi janlk, I wonder what would happen if you wrote to him - either by email or snail mail.  It must be very difficult to see him and know what the result will be if you bring up AN.  Does he have a wife or partner? xx

-Torie
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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Enn
janlk,
I don't have any advice as my d is a child, but wanted to welcome you to the forum. 
Others with older children will be here soon, I am sure to offer their perspective. 
I just wanted to say hello and tell you, you are not alone. And not matter how old our kids are, there is hope, there really is.

Does he have an diagnosis of ED?
I know he is an adult, and there are privacy laws governing how much/ how little (likely no information) a doctor can tell you. Do you know if the doctor know he may have an ED? Would you consider sending his doctor a letter outlining your concerns, knowing full well, the doctor may share it with your son?
You are allowed to let the doctor know anything you wish, the doctor will likely not discuss anything with you. Also would your son allow you to go with him  to the doctor so all is out in the open?
Sending my best,
When within yourself you find the road, the right road will open.  (Dejan Stojanovic)

Food+more food+time+love+good professional help+ATDT+no exercise+ state not just weight+/- the "right" medicine= healing---> recovery(--->life without ED)
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janlk
Thank you deenl for your support and the resources you provided.  We have been trying to be more supportive in our conversations and have restricted the topic to smaller comments about our concern rather than a full out confrontation. I have read a little bit about the Maudsley approach but it seemed to be targeted to younger children.
Torie : I have written to him in the past.  The first couple of times he would reply but the last couple of times he did not reply and I am never sure if he actually even reads the emails.  I may try writing again though.  He does not have a significant other and has told us that he doesn't think he will ever marry.  I don't know if that is because of his condition and knowing it would be difficult to have a relationship with his regimented life or just a life choice.
Enn :  He does not have a diagnosis of ED.  To my knowledge he has only seen a doctor 3 times in the last 11 years other than when he was hospitalized for a different medical condition. We were surprised that he told us that he had a physical this fall.  I would be surprised if the doctor didn't comment to him on his weight but our son did not tell us if he did.  We did send a letter  to the doctor  after our son's appointment explaining our son's history.  I did not expect nor did I get a response from the doctor as I know that would be a privacy breach. Hopefully our son will go back to the doctor at some point soon but I am certain that our son would not let us come with him to a doctor's appointment.  He is adamant that he is a man and not a child when we try to tell him what we think he should do.

I so appreciate having the support and advice of this group.  It is very difficult for us to do this alone.
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smm74
So sorry to hear about your son. My friend who’s an attorney had a colleague who was very sick with AN and it got to the point where the partners in the firm  reached out to the woman’s parents and told them they were going to let her go unless she agreed to pursue treatment. I’m not sure what kind of work your son does, but if he works for someone else, there’s a chance his employer may step in if the disease is impacting his work performance and/or for liability reasons.
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ValentinaGermania
janlk wrote:

As is the case with eating disorders, his illness has progressed and he is now at the point where he is a mere skeleton.  He saw a physician for a physical just before Christmas and the basic tests results came back positive except for anemia.  I still feel he is dying before my eyes.  We feel desperately hopeless to help him and feel that the only way he will even think of getting help is if he has a major health crisis which I know is coming.  Any advice any of you have would be greatly appreciated.


Can you talk to his doctors and share your concerns? The doctor must refuse to talk about your sons problems but he can listen to your worries...
Can you write the doctor if you cannot go personally?

I do not know the legal situation in Canada but here in Germany there is a law that nobody is allowed to starve himself to death and in that case a court would sent him to IP if he is in physical danger (I think he is already). I am quite sure that there must be something similiar. I know that at least from the US.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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simca
So sorry to hear this.  You are not alone.  Our story is similar.  Our daughter is 29, in relapse after around six years of weight restoration, and refuses to get an assessment or go to a doctor.  She has been living independently since age 22.  She is in a relapse but thinks she is 'fine'  and that I am the problem, among other choice words.  We have been trying to use financial leverage as she is currently unemployed and has no income, but it is not working.  It actually feels as though pushing her to go for treatment has made things worse, and she has dug in with her refusals.  If she becomes at risk of eviction, we'll have to make the difficult decision on whether to pay the rent and then ultimately lose our leverage.  She has no one that she can go live with.  She lives about 1000 miles away, so we are not able to observe how she is doing.  We last saw her about a month ago.  I imagine she's lost more weight since then.  It was hard when she was a teenager, but now that she's an adult it's unbearable to know she is stuck in her eating disorder, and I can't help her.  I hope you will have success in getting your son to treatment.
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MKR
smm74 wrote:
... the partners in the firm  reached out to the woman’s parents and told them they were going to let her go unless she agreed to pursue treatment. I’m not sure what kind of work your son does, but if he works for someone else, there’s a chance his employer may step in if the disease is impacting his work performance and/or for liability reasons.


This sounds like a good tactic, @smm74. Although I have no experience with adult anorexics (other than the recovered ones who helped us out), putting a structure around the patient gives hope.
Mum's Kitchen

14-y-o "healthy living" led to AN in 2017 and WR at 16. Current muscle dysmorphia.
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