I hope this is a place I may be able to get some help. I am searching for resources like scholarly papers, articles, or letters from experts on the prolonged effects of anorexia nervosa on a parent and how it may be detrimental to a young child in their care. My ex-wife has struggled with anorexia for over half her life. She has been in and out of treatment, including several attempts at inpatient restoration. She has fluctuated between 65 and 75 lbs., is a compulsive exerciser, and obsessively practices dozens of food rituals. Approximately four years ago, my ex-wife refused to receive any additional inpatient treatment for this condition despite weighing only 65 lbs. I was seriously concerned that she was going to die, so I attempted to have her involuntarily admitted into a treatment program. This action eventually led to my wife leaving me and to our divorce.
Through our divorced proceedings, we were granted 50/50 split custody with some stipulated safeguards to ensure my ex-wife’s health wouldn’t endanger our child. One stipulation is that my ex-wife must provide the court with written statements from her physician and a therapist stating that she is physically able to take care of a child. Over the past two months, she has been unable to provide these. I have filed a contempt of court claim due to her noncompliance.
During the past two years of shared custody with my ex-wife, I have been very concerned about the welfare of our daughter when she is in her mother’s care. My biggest fears center around my ex-wife having a health crisis when our daughter is with her. At her current weight, this is a very real possibility and could cause our daughter serious injury or leave her in danger, especially if it would occur when her mother was driving or out in public where she would be left alone with no adult supervision.
I am also concerned about what living with a seriously mentally ill mother is doing to our daughter’s mental health. Now at age 6, our daughter has been struggling with the emotional effect of being in her mother’s care. On one hand, she is beginning to realize just how abnormal her mother is. She notices people staring at and talking about her mother, and notices some of her mother’s abnormal eating habits (like excessively adding crushed red pepper to everything she eats). But congruently, our daughter deeply loves her mother and looks up to her as a role model. This has led to our child making comments about being fat herself. Our daughter having this self-image worries me because she is also underweight. Her school nurse has told us that Lou is extremely underweight and she has gone through periods of refusing to eat both at home and at school. When these concerns were brought to ex-wife, she stated that our child just had her body type and tried to stop me seeking medical care and therapy to help her.
Our child is also enamored with her mother’s compulsive exercising and has dropped to the floor and began to do sit-ups after eating just a few bites of a meal. And she exhibits some of her mother’s eating rituals. I have to help her to overcome these so she is able to eat normally. This is something that we battle with every time our child has an extended stay with her mother. Recently, she has been telling me that she has been weight lifting and doing yoga with her mother every day, and that her mother takes her on tw- mile-long walks in the evenings. My ex-wife doesn’t see anything wrong with pulling our child into her exercise addition because she doesn’t think she has a problem.
Our daughter has also stated to me, “I have anxiety like my mommy”, and she exhibits nervousness when in her mother’s care that she doesn’t display when she is with me. It’s almost like she is a different child. When she is staying with her mother she often has stomach aches at school and refuses to eat her lunch. And if I take her to gymnastics she is a brave, confident little girl, but when her mother came to one gymnastics exhibition, our child was a nervous wreck, covering her face, biting her nails, and playing with her hair. This is not how she normally behaves at these events.
I have our daughter in play therapy to help process these issues. The therapist has stated that she shares concerns about the effect the illness is having on our daughter and has suggested that she is in a state of pre-mourning. Our daughter talks about her mother dying a lot, even drawing a picture at play therapy of her mother’s grave. Despite her concern, our play therapist is reluctant to get involved in the custody matter in a court setting. She says that it can hinder her ability to continue play therapy with a child. I do not want to risk this relationship, as she has helped my child immensely over the last year. This is why I am seeking professional help elsewhere.
I am asking for temporary custody of our daughter until her mother seeks treatment and reaches a stable weight. On Friday, January 24th, we will be returning to court for an affidavit hearing regarding this matter. The topics of the dangers of chronic anorexia, sustained low BMI and the psychological toll on a minor child will be the crux of our case. In the past, it has been very hard to get this information into court. I am seeking articles, research papers, and letters from professionals describing the nature of severe Anorexia Nervosa over time, the dangers of prolonged low BMI, and the psychological impact on a young child. If you point me towards any information or experts we could submit for this hearing it would help immeasurably. Your expertise could help shed light on the dangers of this complicated illness and help place our precious girl in the best setting for her physical safety and mental stability.