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To consider approaching school about my daughters possible eating disorder

(41 Posts)
Inyournightdress Tue 20-Sep-16 20:42:44

I have a beautiful fifteen year old teenage daughter who over the past year and a half has just shrunk into herself and lost a lot of weight. She is constantly 'dieting' and exercises daily. My partner and I have been discussing the prospect of there being something more serious going on and today when tidying her room I found vomit in the bin in her en-suite. She goes to an independent school which has both day and boarding facilities and because of my work hours and the fact she has a few friends who boards has both breakfast and lunch at school.

The pastoral support at her school isn't great but there are few enough pupils that it would be easy to keep an eye on her at meal times? Would it be unreasonable for me to discuss my concerns with the school to see if they pick up on anything strange at meal times.

CocktailQueen Tue 20-Sep-16 20:45:01

Sounds like you definitely need to do something. Yes to speaking to school. You also need to see if you can broach the subject with your Dd. How does she eat at weekends and at tea when you're with her?

Inyournightdress Tue 20-Sep-16 20:45:13

Sorry *vomit in a tissue/napkin inside the bin.

Treetopchallenger Tue 20-Sep-16 20:45:20

I would definitely talk to the school, but more importantly needs to see a doctor. If she has bulemia it could be very dangerous.

Inyournightdress Tue 20-Sep-16 20:47:56

She's always been a fussy eater but she definitely has eaten less since the weight loss began. I can't remember the last time I saw her eat chocolate or anything fatty and often she will leave the meat and just have salad or vegetables. She often says she had a big lunch and breakfast.

writing it all down is making me feel really stupid. Of course somethings wrong.

Dontlaugh Tue 20-Sep-16 20:49:03

Would you consider speaking to a medical professional first and seeking an assessment, if she agrees? As it stands, you are approaching the school with no diagnosis, no care plan and not having spoken to your daughter (if I got that right).
Id probably want some more concrete evidence if I were you (chat with daughter, referral to gp, diagnosis from relevant health professional). I think you speaking to them now with the information you've furnished here is placing the school in an untenable position - how are they supposed to proceed? Weigh her? Measure her food? Make sure she eats in front of them and sit with her so she doesn't purge? These are genuine questions, which school may well ask too possibly.
Is she underweight medically? BMI fitting an ED diagnosis?
I am sorry you are going through this and wish you both the best.

ApocalypseSlough Tue 20-Sep-16 20:49:24

Definitely talk to school. flowers

CauliflowerSqueeze Tue 20-Sep-16 20:52:00

Definitely speak to school. She will need support in both places.

notyounanbread Tue 20-Sep-16 20:52:29

You need to take her to your GP. They can do an assessment and refer her for counselling or to the mental health team.

Inyournightdress Tue 20-Sep-16 20:52:32

My thoughts were to see if the school notice anything odd about what she's eating not do any active monitoring.

I don't even know how to approach talking to her. I don't want her to feel like it's some kind of intervention.

Munchingmummy Tue 20-Sep-16 20:56:26

Don't feel stupid - with this type of illness it does creep up, until all of sudden you wonder how it hasn't been noticed.

She needs to see a GP, and have a referral to appropriate services

For some information.

Obviously, the school do need to know. As its boarding do they have a school nurse etc? A teacher that she particularly likes?

But ultimately, you need to get to the bottom of why this is happening. It may be an image issue, it may be due to something else.

Wolfiefan Tue 20-Sep-16 20:59:08

The school can keep an eye out but the trouble with food issues is that people are secretive and lie and cover it up. They can't watch everything she eats or keep an eye on her when she goes to the toilet.
I would inform them but speak to GP.

Leeds2 Tue 20-Sep-16 21:04:02

Would she go to the GP? If the school nurse suggested it to you/her, would she go? I have known girls in boarding schools who are weighed weekly if weight loss is noticed, but I don't know the particular circumstances or if there was any follow up action.

Inyournightdress Tue 20-Sep-16 21:10:49

I know when I try and talk to her about she's just going to shut me down and get angry at me for snooping. I think she will refuse to go to the gp and deny there is anything wrong with her.

She's a very bright and lovely young woman but she's also very stubborn and has has a difficult past two years in which she has had her fair share of teenage strops. Right now I don't want to say anything that will cause her to get upset and walk out the house to her friends.

I just want to hold her in my arms and make all her problems go away and have my healthy lovely girl back.

Wolfiefan Tue 20-Sep-16 21:12:14

Of course that's what you want. You love her.
But she's making herself ill and she needs help.

NightNightBadger19962 Tue 20-Sep-16 21:20:22

(Sorry long response) You need to let her know you have noticed the changes, and that you know she is being sick, and that you care deeply about her and want to help - this might feel intrusive, but that you need to make sure she gets the right health care advice and support. As she is being sick, she will need a blood test at gp - can seriously deplete potassium. If being sick daily, these will need to be repeated every three weeks. Yes, she could see a school counsellor or school nurse, and this sounds appropriate for a CAMHS referral. She is 15 - she can't be left to sort this out in her own time, the ED will not be allowing her to make sensible decisions, she will be affecting her growth and development and further eroding her self esteem and her mood. Look up the book 'helping your teen beat an eating disorder' by Lock and Le Grange. The whole family and school need to pull together - imagine if she had a serious physical illness - you would drop everything to sort it out (and you would not let her refuse life saving treatment without a fight - food is the treatment here). She needs to eat regular meals and snacks, and she needs to have someone with her for all of them, and to do a quiet distracting activity with someone for 60 minutes after each meal, with no access to the toilet. How this happens can be negotiated, but it must happen. Of course she will not like this, (though in my experience actually underneath it all it is experienced as caring when parents take control in an empathic and supportive way, as long as they are non abusive and willing to work on things) and will be really distressed, however it is what she needs. Eating more is non negotiable, but listen to her on what will help her do so, and be highly alert to disposing of food, laxatives, slimming oills, exercise etc, as behaviours are very driven - its not her fault if she is lying about things. Also ramp up time spent together doing nice things. Please also tell the school, and tell her you are going to do so.

Inyournightdress Tue 20-Sep-16 21:22:50

Thanks everyone. I'm going to go talk to her now.

user1471462290 Tue 20-Sep-16 21:32:21

I've had an eating disorder for 22 years! Please talk to school and help her as I think you will flowers

Wolfiefan Tue 20-Sep-16 22:00:38

Good luck. Xx

manyathingyouknow Tue 20-Sep-16 22:06:55

Whilst she may well have bulemia, have you noticed anything else? For instance, hyper pigmentation of the skin or depression? I say this as an Addison's disease sufferer who was wrongly treated as having an eating disorder. It's just a thought for you to consider. I hope she's ok x

ImperfectPirouette Tue 20-Sep-16 22:53:59

All the things - oh but ALL the things NightNightBadger said.

I'm typing this sitting on a pillow on top of my memory foam mattress. Because for me BMI 16.5 apparently means an incredibly bony back & bottom. Partly, mostly, maybe, even this time around, this is due to my physical disability, but having developed anorexia at 10 I have actually spent (just) over two thirds of my life where the most well I've been is the times I've achieved Putting The Fun In Functional Anorexia (or at times, when medication made me gain weight, EDNOS [anorexia] - that'd be a subset of OSFED now I know but no idea what).

I didn't get treatment when I was younger. If I ever see the utter cretin from CAMHS who assessed 12/13yo me after my father found my packed lunches rotting under my bed I might drown her in a vat of (soya+fibre, ofc) tubefeed. Either she BELIEVED my "I didn't want to hurt Daddy's feelings by not eating them & I didn't want anyone to see me throw them away" (tbf, I DIDN'T want to worry him...) spiel, or she somehow felt it was appropriate to adopt the approach you use with adults (ie unless hugely medically compromised treatment must be actively sought by the individual). Whichever one, she was a blithering idiot. She apparently bought my "oh yes, I'm very happy; I love my school; I've got so many friends; no, no problems at all!" Happy people being well-known for their defensive posture, lack of eye-contact, flattened affect & INSANE startle reflex. White, just scraping into my teens & the middle class, super academic over-achiever but hyper self-critical, just been through MAJOR trauma: frankly it would have been more surprising if I didn't develop anorexia given those demographic tickboxes.

I was hellbent on clinging to my eating disorder. I would, I can tell you know, have physically fought anyone who tried to make me eat. My anorexic!friends (we huddle together for warmth...) who received treatment as children/teens say that they were mostly utterly vile to their families for at least some of it - but in the back, behind the lashing out, there was always a part of them, somewhere, desperate to be reached & helped & held. Often being quite shocked by their own behaviour at that. Because eating disorders drive you to all sorts of things.

Please, OP, don't let her tell you she's fine. And hang in there through the kicking & screaming. Loath as I am to suggest an invasion of privacy, I think it's worth trying to find out if she has a proana instagram/tumblr or an account somewhere like "my pro ana dot com" (I'm not putting in a link because I don't want this thread coming to their attention, OP has more than enough on her plate & I don't need accusations of treachery/clearly not REALLY being anorexic 🙄/not understanding the site is all peace & love & fluffiness [it is FAR better than old-style proana & even than it used to be, but it would be HUGELY damaging to a vulnerable young person - NB I'm not a member there]).

b-eat can offer both you & your daughter help & support alongside whatever treatment she receives... If you're able to do so, I strongly suggest accessing private treatment for her - NHS services are just so desperately overstretched. The BACPS website has a therapist-finder section & you can (IIRC - a friend was telling me how clients find her, sadly I've not the money for private treatment) narrow it by specialty as well as area, so you could specify someone who treats teens & children as well & who works with ED patients. There are also therapists who list specialisms like working with performers - they see a lot of ED patients because anorexia continues to be rife in dance!world: there was an audition at the studios where I do ballet today & one girl said to another "I was too fat when I got the call so I've just not eaten anything for 2 days" & the other replied "you've got to do what works". Resisted the urge to turn round and shout "BOO!" at the ones who commented my back actually looked scary skinny & they were glad THEY weren't ballet dancers, you have to be even thinner than for musical theatre & commercial stuff. Lovely...

Sorry. I'm babbling. And digressing. I'm just... I know it must be frightening & overwhelming for you OP. And I'm very sorry, but it's going to be worse-before-better with some truly monstrous performances from your daughter unless she's a first amongst ED'd teens. But you WILL get through it. And tackling it now means that you are giving her a chance at having a life as a normal, functioning adult. Because even if an eating disorder doesn't kill you physically, living with one for years on end is not only soul-destroying but it circumscribes your very existence. Too tired to see people, can't concentrate to read/watch a film/knit/hold a proper conversation, can't wear swimwear on a beach or generally dress exactly how you want - your ED chooses your clothes, can't go to meals with people, no birthday cake, physical issues like poor circulation & brittle bones, hiding indoors when it's cold, feeling driven to exercise obsessively... It's an existence rather than a life & I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

One last thing before I lame duck into the wings: don't feel bad you didn't notice. Weightloss will have been gradual and (certainly as it progressed) deliberately concealed; and all sorts of subterfuge & shenanigans going on with food [& the avoidance thereof]. You haven't messed up. You've realised now & you're going to do something (rather than ostriching about it until your daughter collapses on public & has to be admitted - saves you a row, but does, you know, almost result in her death so POSSIBLY NOT WORTH IT angry ahem... sorry...)

Am sure there will be lots of people who will be able to tell you about successfully getting treatment for their children. Am a bit surprised in a way MN doesn't have A Thing for it. I'm not sure exactly what where, mind you...

Right. That's it. Past bedtime. Please let us know how it goes, won't you? I will cross my fingers & hold my thumbs for you.

(And I know hugs are utterly infra dig here, but I'm just leaving a little pile of them here. Should you happen to need them.)

ApocalypseSlough Tue 20-Sep-16 23:04:29

Imperfect flowers

Inyournightdress Tue 20-Sep-16 23:50:48

Wow <b>imperfect</b> your post brought me to tears. I'm so sorry that you've been through all that. Thank you for your words, I will remember them.

So she hates me, as I suspected but I know I've done the right thing. I've told her what I found and she denied there was anything wrong as predicted, but I could tell just looking at her that she's hurting. She told me I was a snoopy old bitch and 'how dare I spy on her things' but she's just deflecting and I expected worse. I've told her that she needs to see the family gp and that I'll be letting her house parent at school no (she was distraught at that, thinks the whole schools going to label her a freak)

She's had a difficult year. My father died a year and a half ago and then my sister a few months back. She had a huge falling out with friends at the start of year 10, and so spent most of last year at school quite isolated. Plus her dad (my xh) had another child two years ago and since then has had my dd over less and less. I think I've been so preoccupied with my job and my own grief I haven't noticed her spiralling mental health and now I feel like a horrendous mother. I'm determined to get her help though.

Thank you all for your encouragement and advice.

WhatTheActualFugg Wed 21-Sep-16 00:08:08

Good luck OP. Our babies are all so very precious. flowers

citrinelles Wed 21-Sep-16 07:55:17

I work in pastoral care, please keep the school informed even before you get a formal diagnosis. She spends so much of her day there, under their care. They cannot possibly give her the best care without all relevant information. There are things the school can do to help and they will work with the medical team to offer her support during her school day. Your poor daughter, I really hope you get on top of this very quickly xx

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