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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Tahirua27
Hello

Our family has 3 teen daughters, the eldest (17) with some ADHD and anxiety but otherwise pretty good; the middle one (16) with AN; and the youngest (13) with a whole lots of complicated stuff including newly diagnosed ED, ADHD and learning difficulties and transgender (I feel very very protective of her because she has so much to deal with).

Parenting has been bloody hard always - the girls are awesome but very strong and forceful individuals - there is no easy going in this family! We encourage and value a lot of independence and don't helicopter parent at all - but they come back home from the world and they want support! My husband is the tough anchor but most of the day-to-day parenting has been done by me. I am by nature flexible, sensitive, adaptive, empathetic and come from a family which was often in conflict so I try to negotiate my way around it. The outcome of this has always been that the kids pretty much suck me dry and then fight over the remains!! (Sorry for the dramatic metaphors!)

What happens day-to-day now, especially with the AN firmly in place for the younger two, is that each child needs me to eat with them for consecutive meals (we are always trying to eat altogether but it has frequently ended up in two refusals), and then moans and wails to me about how I am spending so much time with the other one that they are being denied emotional support, and what a bad job I am doing on making the other one eat adequately. They don't count the time I spend sitting with them at meals or driving them place or sitting listening to them cry and trying to support them as "Mummy time" but seem always to want some mythical "more". And then even if I can get some peace very briefly (and I need to work from home for income and to retain my sanity), the older one creeps in to tell me about how anxious she feels and how she has needs too that aren't being met. My husband tries really really hard, but he is really not able to support the kids (or me) emotionally to any real extent - it's just not his personality.

Right now, I have left the house to do some work in a cafe and am getting endless upset texts from my middle daughter which I am not answering. The last time I totally stood up to her (about her eating) she refused to eat at all and ended up in hospital for 2 weeks. I really hope she doesn't want to do that again, but I expect her to continue being dreadfully upset this weekend.

And the worst thing is that I can't say to myself "This is ED talking" because she has behaved like this for many years before the AN whenever we stand up to her. She is so independent and much prefers being with her friends than navigating life within our family (which I have never blamed her for, being stuck between two demanding ADHD children) and I even let her go to boarding school for a year two years ago because I saw how hard she was finding it (where the restricting began). Right now, I would be giving her a whole lot more independence and hopefully she only has two more years at home, but I can't now that she has AN. 

I clearly am parenting in a way that is utterly unsustainable and unwinnable but I am really struggling to find any guidelines for how else to do this. Other parents seem to manage so much better - but their children just seem so much more easygoing than mine. These basic patterns have been well in place for many years - the AN is just another overlay. How do I care for all of my children in a way that leaves each of them satisfied, and me with my own space and energy? How can I say "I'm sorry you feel so sad and alone. That must be really hard for you. Can we talk about it this evening?" Will they ever accept me saying "I'm sorry it has been such a hard day for you. I am just talking to your sister now and then going to my yoga but I will come to see you at 8pm"?
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Tahirua27
This is the text I just received from her. I have no idea how to give her the emotional support she feels she isn't getting - I have spent the last two months solely focused on her and her sister, being calm, loving and non-judgmental (and only falling apart when totally and utterly exhausted!)

"I hope you can read this to understand my feelings more - I am confused you keep telling me that me and [third daughter (3D)]  equal priority but time and time again your actions don't reflect that. You see how upset I am about going to [holiday house] but yet you make me go earlier and of course 3D goes with you, I'm guessing this is because you don't want to have to put up with me. You and Dad make me feel horrible like I am some chore to you and this annoying thing that u are forced to deal with. For me personally this messes a lot with my mental state and I feel as if this constant state of feeling unwanted and being a burden to everyone is making me fall deeper and deeper into a sadness that I really don't want in my life. I hate this constant feeling and feel as if the only time I feel appreciated and loved is when I'm with my friends. I keep trying and trying to get some sort of emotional support from u or dad but every time I do I walk away feeling worse. I don't know what to do anymore because the way u and dad make me feel is so horrible I don't think I can keep going on with that feeling any longer than I already have. I'm sorry but I can't be expected to spend so much time with a family that makes me mentally feel so so horrible but then when I try cry out for help I'm immediately rejected and treated as more of a burden then I already am and recently I get black mailed as well. Because since you guys have to put up with me and my eating disorder that I didn't choose to have that I owe you my mental state for "family time". I want to remind you that if it was up to me I wouldn't want you two to be with me all the time and be with me for meals and going and paying for physiologists, but obviously it isn't but somehow it is still my fault that you have to do all these things?  I am a person too and this is my life as well not just yours and dads and I have real and valid feeling regardless of whether you two agree or not. Please keep what I've said in mind next time you or dad get upset with me and tell me to "f off" or that you need a break from me because the things you say and the actions you make are not something I immediately get over and forget about. -- "
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sk8r31
Gosh, it seems like you have an awful lot on your plate (excuse the pun), and I can imagine that it is draining and overwhelming.   I'm wondering if you have any therapeutic support for yourself?  I, along with many others, found that it was necessary to have professional support from either/or/and a therapist/MD to get through the darkest days.
Are there any other family members or trusted friends that you can enlist for some practical support to help through this difficult patch?  And I'm thinking of distress tolerance for both you & your girls?  These are skills that can be so helpful to anyone with anxiety, and that includes your ED ds.  Here are some worksheets that may be useful.

Sending warm support,
sk8r31
It is good to not only hope to be successful, but to expect it and accept it--Maya Angelou
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Mamaroo
I think the problems are with your d and not you. She is not in a good place at the moments and everything that is happening to her gets clouded by the ED and other issues. When my d was ill, I would be thinking about something totally not her related and maybe look less than happy. She would immediately see it, and because of her negative state of mind, would assume I was upset with her. Then it would take me a log time to convince her that I was upset about the cat coughing up a fur ball in our bedroom instead of me being annoyed with her. 

I think the best you can do at the moment is to reassure your d that you love her no matter what she is thinking and that you are indeed spending equal time with both her and her younger sister. Even without ED children always think that parents prefer the other child to them, ED is just amplifying that feeling. Try not to discuss their feelings too much as it is a bottomless pit and the end result is usually tears. 

I also had to change the way I parent. I had to take away a lot of choice - we went out to lunch the other day and we just ordered for the girls, we didn't even ask for their input. I had to introduce a very strict routine structure at home, and gave them plenty of chores to do (clean up their room, bathroom, taking care of the pets, weeding in the garden, vacuuming the house/car, washing windows, washing the dishes daily etc). The chores are not just for their own stuff, but also things that benefit the whole family so that they feel part of the family. I read a lot about old school, traditional parenting, the way our parents or grandparents were raised. I will only explain my decision once otherwise it just leads to argument. If they don't accept my explanation it just say: "because I said so". Think benevolent dictator. Family life is not a democracy between parents and children.

Here are two books on old school parenting:

John Rosemond: Grandma was right after all
Elaine Rose Glickman: Your kid's a brat and it is all your fault.
D became obsessed with exercise at age 9. Started eating 'healthy' at age 9.5. Restricting couple of months later. IP for 2 weeks at age 10. Slowly refed for months on Ensures alone, followed by swap over with food at a snails pace. WR after a year at age 11 in March 2017. She is back to her old happy self and can eat anything put in front of her.
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tina72
Me too. I was a liberate and democratic parent and we discussed everything with her the moment she could talk and we were not helicoptering and tried to give her as much freedom as safe and possible but when ED moved in we needed to change that 180 degrees.
They demand so much time and emotion and I needed to lean that it will be never "enough" no matter what I do and how much I try. So I decided to try to say things like you suggested: I did not answer texts immidiately but send her a short "I hear you,  but I can answer only in 30 minutes" or tell her that I will talk things through with her this evening (and often her "problems" faded until then).
I started to announce how things will be done and do that and have no negotiation about it. I am the adult and I am the leader of the ship and I am in charge.
Later my d said to me "all the mums of my friends try to be best friend and in same peer group with their daughters and I do not like that. They are no peers, they are mums, and they should dress and behave like mums. I love that you always know what to do and that I can feel save with you."

Fake it until you make it we say here. Show them you are the captain and you know what to do and show them you take time to care for yourself, too. They need to learn to care for themselves, too, and best thing to lean that is a good role model from mum.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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Tahirua27
Thank you so much everyone. That has helped a lot. I have been practicing this for the last few days and right now I am getting the silent treatment but as long as she is eating and communicating with friends, Dad, sister and Nana, I'm more than happy 😉) I actually think the one silver lining in this hideous experience may be that H and I are parenting together - it's too hard for me to make all the decisions myself and this disaster has pushed him to step up in a way I never thought he could. He is being amazing. Thank you all xx
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tina72
That is great. If you can at least fake that you are on the same side and speak with one voice that is an important sign for ED.
"This has to stop. Not one step further. I will not allow you to die." This was my mantra.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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Seashell
I think you are doing the most incredible job with two children. I am floored by one. I also need help with parenting. I have let her bully the family for a long time and taking back control is seemingly impossible which is why she won’t eat for me. I saw her eat an enormous plate of food in 20 mins in the ED unit this week and here we are sat am nothing for me. Screaming shut the f@@@ up when I ask her to eat.q I need parenting classes and family therapy. I am this blubing wreck crippled by the responsibility that only I can save her, knowing that she doesn’t respect me and won’t do a thing I say. She has me frightened that she will kill her self as she threatens that all the time or that she won’t go for treatment.  I’m trying to fake authority but it’s not going well. 
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anni63
It sounds like you need professional help and I would recommend seeing someone who specialises in Eating Disorders.  There is a lot of literature that explains the neurobiology of people with Anorexia and the traits that are common That means that some of those traits predate the diagnosis and  also may predispose the person to develop an ED to some extent, if " the perfect storm" is in place.  We have been lucky enough to participate in a skills based training for Carers which has been so helpful.  Perhaps if you contact a specialised ED service to find out if there is anything like that in your area.  Other good reading includes. Skills Based Caring for a Loved one with an Eating Disorder ( Janet Trreasure) and also anything about Temperament Based Therapy with supports.  The main message we have received is that treatment for ED cannot be in isolation of the carers so it is important to have some skills and learn to use emotional intelligence, because for every parent this condition  is so emotion laden.  Wish you luck
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Blue_Lagoon
Hi Tahiura,

No worries.  I remember getting several lectures like that from my daughter at that age.  My daughter is now 23 and things are better than ever, in terms of relationship.  I think it is very common for teenagers to attack and blame their parents for their negative feelings.  Even though you are probably doing a fantastic job, They can literally "hate" their parents.  Some of it has to do with immaturity.  For example, the frontal cortex does not fully develop until they are age 23.  So some areas like good judgement and personal responsibility haven't been developed yet.  

First, wanted to acknowledge your daughter (who sent you that text message) has a special gift for writing and self expression.  Hopefully she will find a way to channel that  gift into something positive that can help others. For instance:  Like writing magazine articles or books. 

Make sure you shower her with lavish compliments regarding her writing skills.  This will be very important later in life!  Everything you say to her now has a major impact in 10 years from now, so you should learn what to say and how to say it.  Mostly she needs sincere compliments and positive feedback.   

Her constant attacking/blaming of her parents for all of her "pain" -  signifies that she has not yet learned self-reliance or personal responsibility for her life experience.  She is relying on others for her happiness and joy.  She hasn't learned that happiness and joy is an inside job.  

So she needs education on topics such as personal integrity, personal responsibility, self-love. She is the cause of her own suffering.  No one outside of her is responsible for her thoughts and feelings.  But it may take years before she figures this out.  

For her:  I would recommend the book:  THE UNTETHERED SOUL and/or THE SURRENDER EXPERIMENT by Michael Singer.  

The books by ADYASHANTI are very complex and drive home these points too.  It is possible that because of her outstanding use of language, she might be able to handle ADYASHANTI books.  

For you, I would recommend studying the subject of CO-DEPENDENCE.  To learn Skills such as "detach with love" and how to communicate properly when she goes on the written or verbal attack.  Instead of defending yourself or getting into an argument, say:  "Thank you for letting me know how you feel."  or "I appreciate your opinion, I will give it some thought."  or "thanks for sharing."  

Lastly, what she wants most is for you to tell her that you love her very much.  She wants you to write her:  "I love you so much!!"  
If you can do that, you will win in the end.  

LOVE,
BLUE
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deenl
Dear Tahirua,

I feel for you! I have three kids too and none of us are typical! Various mixes of ADHD, dyslexia, giftedness, ED of course, and some other things currently being diagnosed. That includes kids and parents! And we have changed as parents as I am very sure you will too. 

Just a general word of caution... I have never heard of the books recommended and so cannot comment on them at all, they may be very lovely books. By and large, the experience of people on the forum is that people in the depths of an eating disorder read with a heavy dose of confirmation bias; that is they take in what seems to support the eating disordered thoughts and ignore or misinterpret any contradicting evidence. Although parents have all given the information/reading material with the best of intentions, many have found it ultimately unhelpful. Of course, people being people there are the exceptions! All I would say is to give much careful thought before passing on reading material. You know your child best.

Warm wishes,

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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Blue_Lagoon
THE book: "untethered soul" by Michael Singer is recommended by OPRAH (in the US).  It is her favorite, most life-changing book.  
IT is available for free on youtube in audiobook form.  

good luck and best wishes.  

BLUE
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tina72
I have read parts of it 5 years ago and I would not really recommend it for a teenager with a damaged AN brain.

Whatever books were discussed here I always read them before I gave anything to my d and that worked very well.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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tina72
"She is the cause of her own suffering."

I mean those sentences, Blue. That is really not true. The AN patient is not the cause for his suffering. It is a biochemical brain disease. Our kids are already full of sadness what they "did" to their families and have so much negative thoughts and they feel so bad about what they are doing. If I had told my d 2 years ago that she is the cause for her own suffering I might have risked a suicide attempt. That is dangerous lecture for a brain who is reading only negative meaning in all sentences...they will not see the big idea behind it and the context, they will take these single sentences and put them into bad meaning.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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Blue_Lagoon
https://soundstrue.lpages.co/tony-sage-robbins-with-new-york-times-bestselling-author-michael-a-singer/

Here is an interview between Anthony Robbins (self-help guru) and Michael Singer (author of the Untethered soul) - which I recommended to you previously as a potential helpful way out of your pain and suffering.  

HUH.  

millions of people do find these tools helpful.  So check it out and make your own determination.  

I was able to find a way out of the downward spiral of my daughter's eating disorders by using DBT and ACT skills and other tools that I deployed on myself and therefore changed the old paradigm in the family environment.   There is more than one way to solve a problem.  So explore all of your options and go with your own higher wisdom & natural instincts.  

My daughter has been abstinent since October; found a fantastic job; and our relationship is more fantastic that ever before.  Hate turned to love.  Miracle manifested. 

DO YOU WANT TO BE HAPPY?

Tony & Sage Robbins with New York Times Bestselling Author Michael A. Singer on Breaking Patterns and Finding Inner Peace

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anni63
It is true that people with AD cannot be forced to get better and that there is so much ambivalence regarding recovery. They really need to find recovery motivation so that they can feel strong enough to face and experience all the bad feelings that challenging ED brings with it.  They need compassion more than anything. They need strong support from their carers.    Many people with ED really have very little self esteem and their self loathing is reinforced by how they feel about hurting their families.  You have to remember this is an Illness and try not to blame or hold them personally responsible for the behaviours the illness brings with it.  DBT is useful if there is a comorbid Personality disorder  but it is not evidence based for ED.  This is an illness that requires expert treatment. Self help advice really is not what they need.  The books I have recommended are not for the sufferer they are for the carers. In Australia we are lucky enough to have funding for Carers to attend skills based training based on these methods otherwise known as the New Maudesley method and Temperament based therapy.  If you dont have access to such help then those books can really help you to work out your role and how to respond in very emotional situations.  Good luck 
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