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

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As we are going along our journey, it’s becoming clearer to me how much of her eating disorder is tied to not wanting to grow up. She said she doesnt want hips or boobs. She doesn’t want to be a boy or anything like that although she does want to cut her hair real short. How do I convey to her that puberty and growing up is inevitable? Is this something best left for her therapist to handle?
I had brunch the other day with a dear friend whose D also has AN. Unfortunately her D is still quite ill, despite 10 years of intensive treatment. One of the things we talked about was her D's thoughts about childhood. Her D is now 24. She continues to wish she was a child again, as she has mainly happy memories of childhood. She got ill at 14. 

I wonder how much those thoughts now may reflect your D's current feelings. 

I am not sure that letting her know things are inevitable is of much help. She sees things changing all the time, friends, animals etc. and of course she has grown. She intrinsically knows this to be a fact even though she does not like the idea of change. I am sure there is much to be left to therapy but wonder if whenever small changes in anything where those changes are about getting older be it animal, plant or human perhaps being positive about those changes or simply observing may be of use. 
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
cm72 wrote:
She said she doesnt want hips or boobs. She doesn’t want to be a boy or anything like that although she does want to cut her hair real short.

It is possible that this is all about weight.  Or not.  Impossible to know until after brain healing so you can see if this is ED-think or your real d.  

Personally, I'd aim for as close to a non-reaction as I could find:  Hmmm, mmm, type of thing.  xx

"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
Hi CM72,

My D has been dressing like a boy and has short hair since the age of 5. As far as I can tell she doesn’t want to be a boy and just prefers the practicalities of it .i.e the clothes are more comfortable etc. I did think to begin with that body image was her issue and she may be transgender as she also expressed not wanting to develop breasts. Her wearing boys clothes proceeded ed by many years. It did occur however after a period where there was a few significant changes. Myself and her father separated, her brother was born and she started school. I have also read that gender non conformance can be linked to giftedness and Aspergers which may have a links to anorexia.

I’m guessing here that the type of brain and associated personality traits we see in our children, where there is a normally a degree of rigidity, change whether that be growing up, moving house, bereavement is distressing for them. I don’t have any answers as I am currently navigating the same issues as yourself, but like others say I am trying to set a positive example about all things to do with life and accept D for her choices and guide her the best I can. I do feel a bit lost in all this though and find it difficult to know what to do for the best! Xx

Hi cm72,

When my son was ill he said this all the time too. He didn't want to grow up and was happy his height was stunted. He would freak out just as much at an increase in height as an increase in weight.

Now that he's at a good weight that has all changed. He's going through full male puberty; growing like a weed, getting hairy and voice breaking. And it's all pretty much fine. Not entirely comfortable but using humour etc to deal with it.

My take on this is - ED must make you feel a bit scared when your brain, thoughts and feelings are not 'typical' and diverge from what your nearest and dearest express. This must be really confusing and frankly terrifying. In order to bring some level of comfort they search for a reasonable sounding explanation like perceived societal body standards or sport goals or discomfort with growing up. In a academically driven society like some parts of Asia it is often academic driven goal. There is an element of truth in all the explanations. These are reinforced by the leading questions asked by professionals and, indeed, family as they attempt to understand what is happening. I checked out in advance a CBT workbook the team wanted to use with my son - it was scary in terms of how often they asked do you purge, do you self harm, do you use laxitives and the leading questions about the reasons why. Talk about a manual for ED and for creating a narrative that may or may not reflect the issues. I refused to let my kid near it.

In my opinion, while it is very important not to create a narrative by our leading questions it is vital that we RESPECT the narratives our kids develop themselves in that this is what they are experiencing. This is their truth AT THE TIME. But like all narratives we all develop time, distance, increased understanding and maturity will change them. To that end, I took Torie's advice and would usually briefly acknowledge his thoughts and swiftly move on. Or I would validate his current thought express the fact that the teenage years were a time of exploration and change in feelings and attitudes and he may think differently at some point. He never had therapy, mostly because the one I wanted (RO DBT) was not available here. Sometimes by overtreating these fleeting issues we give them a validity and make them more concrete than we perhaps should. On the other hand, if something is really preventing progress in recovery then it deserves full attention and any support that is available.

Warm wishes

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.
My d did say all that, too.

Now she is sad that she has no breasts.

But now she likes to be adult, too. The freedom to drive a car. The freedom to have no school anymore. The freedom to go to her first election last months.

This all will come. ED kids need a bit more time. Many of them are about 3-4 years behind (mentally, not by intelligence). Let she have that time and give her good nutrition and you will see even those thoughs dissapear.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.