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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Hi.  I saw my sister's stepdaughter at a Christmas party yesterday and I truly think she has an eating disorder.  I've talked with my sister about this and they have talked with her about her health sometimes, but no one has really pushed anything.  I guess this girl's mother had bulimia and they are estranged.  The girl is in her 30s and living with her husband and two kids.  I wrote this letter to her...if you have time to read it and feel like it, let me know what you think.

Dear xx,
First, I want to say how nice it was to see you and xx at the Christmas party—I’m so glad you came!  Sorry we didn’t get more of a chance to visit...too many people, too little time!  
I felt compelled to write to you after seeing you yesterday.  Please take everything I say in this letter with all the love that it is intended.  I know my sister, xx, loves you with all her heart, and so by extension, do I.  
I don’t know if she told you about this, but this summer I watched xx deteriorate physically before my eyes.  I was a little blind to the problem and wished someone had talked to me about it sooner.  She was diagnosed with anorexia in August and together, she and I have nursed her back to health.  It is still a battle in her head every single day, but she is getting better.  I’m not saying you have anorexia...I have no idea what could be going on, but I see the physical changes in you and I am concerned about you.  I did ask xx about it, but she doesn’t really know anything.  Maybe you have something else going on with your health that needs to be addressed.  
I want to tell you right away that if you have an eating disorder you need to know that it is absolutely not your fault, nor anyone else’s.  They are biologically-based brain disorders that you are born with and there is nothing you can do to prevent it, unfortunately.  But you can cure it, absolutely.  Doesn’t matter if it’s been going on a long time, or not.
The fortunate thing for me in xx's case is that she is home with me and I can help her almost every minute of the day.  And she is under 18 and really has no choice.  You do have a choice and no one can force you to get help.  I would only suggest that you see a doctor who specializes in eating disorders to be assessed physically and make sure everything is okay.  I was shocked that all of xx's systems were shutting down and she was basically dying.  Scared the living crap out of me and I would check on her every night to make sure she was still alive.
I don’t say these things to scare you or bully you.  Maybe you’ve heard them all before.  If you have an eating disorder, you are in the grips of a powerful force that you cannot possibly fight on your own.  It doesn’t mean you’re weak or anything, it’s just something that takes over through no fault of your own and it gets out of control very quickly.  There are professionals available who can help, and luckily, they are many of them right in the xx.  
xx is being seen at xx.  We are doing family-based therapy which really means mom is doing everything with her .  She has not done their outpatient or inpatient programs, but those are available for someone who might not have the family support they need.  If you are interested in at least getting an evaluation there, their phone number is xx (kind of sad I know that by heart).  They have a wonderful doctor there, xx, who could help you get on track by assessing you physically in the most kind and non-judgemental way.  They also have many therapists and nutritionists to help.  It is an entirely new way of treating eating disorders than even 5 years ago, so if you’ve heard any bad stories about how they are treated, you could take a fresh look at it.  They are now treated with no blaming whatsoever as there is no reason to blame anyone, they just happen to a certain percentage of the population.
If payment or insurance or anything would be a roadblock for you to get help, please call me or e-mail or text me and I would be happy to help you figure that out.  xxxxx
xx, I want to stress that I love you and I’m concerned about you.  xx did not ask me to write this letter....she doesn’t even know about it.  I just feel compelled to reach out to you as a concerned mother.  I see people walking around all the time that I have the same concerns about, but in that case it truly is none of my business and I don’t even know them.  I do know you and I care about you so I can’t stay silent.  Believe me, I wish I could stick my head in the sand, and I wish I knew nothing at all about eating disorders.  
97% recovered, living a full life
That's a heckuva good letter, peanut! You are so sensitive and positive. What an incredible aunt you are!
Daughter age 28, restrictive anorexia (RAN) age 11-18, then alternating RAN with binge eating disorder and bulimia with laxatives, is in remission from EDs for 3 years after finally finding effective individual therapy. Treatment continues for comorbid disorders of anxiety, ADD and depression. "Perseverance, secret of all triumphs." Victor Hugo

Awww Peanut - that's a great letter.  It's filled with compassion, strength, concern, love and includes the information she will need.  As AnnieK said, you're an incredible aunt!!

Dearest Peanut

Your letter touches my heart and I hope your niece will take it in the spirit you mean it. Just PLEASE prepare/armour yourself against a different reaction than the one you hope for. PLEASE. I speak from experience.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful holiday season and I truly hope your letter works its magic.

Much love and many hugs to you xxxxxxxxxx
Thank you for your responses.  I'm going to wait until after the first of the year to send it...let the holidays settle away.  I have no expectations for this whatsoever.  I think it will either be ignored or perhaps my sister will get a call and yelled at, I don't know.  I'm just hoping that in her life perhaps other people have voiced their concerns and she needs one more to tip the scale.  
97% recovered, living a full life
Awesome letter!!!
That is a wonderful letter Peanut and I hope she will appreciate having such a loving aunt.  You might just get ED's wrath but underneath she will feel your love and concern.  I hope the best for your niece.
And sending you a hug for your compassion  
WenWinning (formerly wenlow) - a Mom who has learned patience, determination, empathy, and inner strength to help her young adult daughter gain full remission after over a decade of illness and clinician set inaccurate weights
Awesome! Best of luck!