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Mumsnetters aren't necessarily qualified to help if your child is unwell. If you have any serious medical concerns, we would urge you to consult your GP.

Please please talk to me about early teenage onset bulimia

(19 Posts)
NCbirdy Fri 24-Oct-08 19:09:06

Facts and experiences from sufferers and parents of sufferers would be greatly appreciated.

I don't want to jump too early but I also don't want to miss early warning signs so experience would be fantastic (although I understand this is an emotive and difficult subject).

Thank you in advance, I am pulling my hair out here wondering what to do for the best.

(yes I have name-changed, sorry but it is important I am not recognised at the moment given the sensitivity of this)

yesmynameisigglepiggle Fri 24-Oct-08 19:17:31

Depends what you mean by early. I was bulimic from 14.

NCbirdy Fri 24-Oct-08 19:20:29

13 so yes your experiences would be very applicable. First of all please excuse me if I say the wrong things as I have no idea about any of this at the moment.

Would you be prepared to talk to me about some of the things that are praying on my mind right now?

yesmynameisigglepiggle Fri 24-Oct-08 19:22:17

Hi, yes I would of course I have no problem talking about it. I have to say though I have never had treatment and have had relapses since then

NCbirdy Fri 24-Oct-08 19:34:45

Fair enough, of course your treatment, or lack of is up to you! Really I just wanted to know a bit about how it started, how people handled it and if you felt that, had people done things differently, things would have been different for you.

My situation really is this; my (just) 13yo came down for breadkfast today and poured out about 4 teaspoons of cereal thining I wasn't watching. I saw and asked her to have more (I can't eat much in the morning so I undestand that she usaully does not have much, but this seemed to be taking the mick!).

Anyway, she had about twice as much and ate most of it then dissapeared to do her teeth. HWen she came down, although she had done her teeth you could smell the vomit on her breath very clearly.

I asked her if she felt ok or is she was feeling unwell, she said she was fine and I said that I could tell she had been sick. (non-accusatory of course) she then denied being sivck and got angry with me (totally over-reactimg if it was a missunderstanding).

So, thinking back, I also think she goes off to the bathroom most nights after tea too.

I know I could be very wrong but, as I said, I don't want to miss a window of opportunity where I could help my child before this behaviour becomes set. However, I also don't want to freak her out totally by geting things out of proportion..... Argh angrysad

MadMazza Fri 24-Oct-08 19:43:53

I don't have any experience of bulimia in children or adults but I have some knowledge in the counselling/psychology area. My thoughts are that a girl of 13 is unlikely to be willing to open up to you about this - My feeling is that you are too close to her. Is there anyone else who is close to her/you that you could approach to speak to her informally - I'm thinking of someone like an aunt/teacher/ close friend of yours who also knows her too who could ask her casually how she is -she might possibly open up to them - just a thought but as I say I do not have specific experience.

yesmynameisigglepiggle Fri 24-Oct-08 19:47:03

Oh NCBirdy, am sorry you and your DD had to deal with thissad

First I would say I was angry if I was ever caught or confronted, I remember once my Dad caught me being sick in a bag in my room and I was so angry at him. If you do choose to speak to her wait until a time when she hasn't just been sick. Her heart may still be pounding, her mind racing.

Another thing is the best person to speak to me about it would have been somebody outside the immediate family ie priest/teacher/doctor/friend so if you could put feelers out? The relationship between parent child is very intense and it could make things worse.

Is your daughter into sport?? I only got better when I became involved in competitive sport. I HAD to feed my body to acheive (I am a perfectionist like a lot of EDsufferers. Your daughter needs to learn respect for her body and it's mechanisms) What about a running club, horse riding.

My bulimia started from one stupid comment. Someone said I had filled out so I started throwing up then ended up in a cycle, thinking I could eat what I wanted. It was nothing my parents did. I was a born perfectionist. I didn't like gettign boobs and thighs, I couldn't cope with it.

Just tell her how pretty she is, more importantly how lovely she is. Don't talk about diets in front of her. Is she having a stressful time at the moment (isn't 13 stressful anyway?!)

I will just settle kids and come back later, hope any of this helps.

cali Fri 24-Oct-08 19:52:21

If she is making herself sick, after eating very little, it could also be anorexia.

Have a look at her hands, especially the one she writes with and see if you can see any scratches on her fingers from her teeth, also the corners of her mouth could be sore.

Can be a variety of triggers, house move, change of school, death of a family member, illness of a family member - in fact any situation that a child feels they are unable to control, but at the same time they are desperate to have control of a part of their life. Food is easy to control.

My advice would be to make her an appointment with her GP, they will probably weigh her and get her to keep a food diary and may refer her to an adolescent unit, depending on the severity of bulimia/anorexia.

Don't get angry/frustrated with her, which I know will not be easy but you have picked up hopefully early that she has a problem.

I'm supporting a friend through this at the moment, whose 15yo dd was recently diagnosed as anorexic.

Bloodandchatkins Fri 24-Oct-08 20:03:38

I think its good that you have noticed things this early, if she has it I mean. I was 17 when mine started, it began after being overweight and teased from 12, I just snapped one day and made myself sick. It felt such a relief, that I carried on for 7 years and NO ONE knew. Except my dh, who I met when I was 17, I would drunkenly confide in him but of course he didn't know how to help 1 it can be easy to be secretive, like I said, no one ever knew or suspected, I finally went for help off my own back because I was desperate for a baby, and my periods were so irregular due to the way I was living.

My advice really would be to keep a supportive eye on her, but be very careful and sensitive, as she will not want you to find out, however at the same time there may be a part of her longing for you to know. Outside help may be the way forward, and if it is what you suspect, in the long term I would truly recommend coundselling - it worked for me, it taught me so much about myself, put things in persepective and made me nicer to mysekf.

I have not relapsed since then, I got pg when counselling ended, and vowed only to respect my amazing body from then on !

Sorry long, but this issue also gets to me - I was a different person back then - and would love to help someone going through the same thing.

NCbirdy Fri 24-Oct-08 20:12:37

I have to say that I have no feeling of anger at all, just fear that I am going to get this badly wrong.

I understand the thing about being angry (especially as this is the age when no-one understands anyway!) I will try to avoid those situations thank you.

Cali, she eats normally except for the mornings (which is a time I find it very hard to eat too).

I will look out for scratches etc.

I suppose I could make an appointment with her GP to discuss my fears then take her for her own appoimtment.

The problem is that she is terrified of her Dad knowing she is anything less than perfect. The thought that he was thinking she had a "special friend" nearly sent her over the edge the other day. I have never seen someone so upset that thier Dad may think they were in a relationship.

Sorry, getting sidetracked, the point is that the GP is her Dads GP and I know she feels in-secure there as she has already told me that she could never go to the GP for contraception or something like that. (Admittdly I don't want her having sex but I do want her to be able to get help to do it safely when she does!)

Her stepmother is constantly on one diet or another as is her stepsister so we are onto a loser there They also advocate "low fat" stuff (ie eat special K bars rather than a grapefruit for breakfast because Special K bars are low fat hmm)

You are right 13 is tough anyway which is why I want to get this right!

Cali, I hope your friend and her DD get through ok.

NCbirdy Fri 24-Oct-08 20:18:22

MadMazza, I think you are right - I would love my little girl to trust me with anything - but, of course, we all know it is not quite like that!

Bloodandchatkins, thank you for your thoughts, I would guess that councilling would need to be after we/she knows there is definitly a problem or do you think you can use it as a tool to help a person realise that they have a problem with something?

Do you think that, if your parents had found out, they could have helped or do you feel i twas something that you had to come out of on your own?

googgly Fri 24-Oct-08 20:34:03

Be quite direct about helping her - change doctor if necessary, but make sure she has appointments and keeps them. My experience of this is that the worst thing is parents doing nothing, because they're afraid of confronting the child, or afraid of making things worse. For the teenager it just feels as though they're parents that don't care and can't take the trouble to realise how dramatically awful your life is.

Buy this book for a good account of how it feels to be an ED sufferer. Though this is of course a description of a much more advanced stage, it should give you some insight.

Try to help her have fun in her life. It's such a pressurised age, and so difficult to relax and enjoy anything.

cali Fri 24-Oct-08 20:39:09

Going to her Gp on your own could be a good starting point, is there another GP your dd could see at the same practice?

As you said earlier, she will probably find it easier to speak to someone who does not know her, iykwim.

It's a pity about her stepmother being on a constant diet, not exactly helpful when you have children of an impressionable age!

My friends dd's is getting help now and will hopefully be better soon. It was almost a relief when it was out in the open after several months of suspicion.

I hope everything works out for you all and that things get back to normal soon.

TheProvincialLady Fri 24-Oct-08 20:41:54

NCBirdy I am sorry you are going through this difficult time. It must be so worrying for you. I will share my experiences with you and maybe you will find something useful.

I started at 14 with anorexia and later went on to develop bulimia. Like yesmynameisigglepiggle I would get very angry if confronted about it in any way - mainly because I was so ashamed but also because I felt my privacy was being invaded. I lived in fear of my mum finding out but she never seemed to - then as I got older I felt resentful because it was so obvious that something was badly wrong but she would never acknowledge it. Like if she ignored the problem it would go away - it pushed me to treat myself even more badly because I felt that I wasn't ill enough to be taken notice or care of IYSWIM? I would never confide in the family doctor either.

For me the earky warning signs of bulimia could include (but not be restricted to):
Smelling of vomit
Drinking a lot of fluid with meals (helps to get the food back up)
Bad breath
Rushing straight off after meals - not necessarily to the bathroom, could be a bedroom
Lots of loo roll being used (to hide remnants of sick or disguise noise)
Grease floating in the loo
Bits of food under the rim or in the sink
Excessive use of air freshener in the loo
Plastic bags full of sick in the bin
Anxious if not able to be alone after eating
Does not seem relaxed at meal times
Food goes missing from the kitchen or there are lots of food wrappers in the bin
Bloodshot or watery eyes, especially after meals
Mood swings
Eating mints or chewing gum when she didn't formerly
Red knuckles
Putting on a show of eating when you are around but you might find food uneaten eg in the bin
Wearing baggy clothes
Pasty skin, spots
Eating either unusually high or low calorie meals

You do need to talk to your DD about your concerns and get her checked over by a GP, even if you let her change GPs and see them alone in the first instance (though she is quite young). If she does have a problem then it is best to start treatment ASAP. For some children her age it is just a temporary experiment and passes.

I hope everything works out ok for you and your DDsmile

Oh and this website is useful here

TheProvincialLady Fri 24-Oct-08 20:45:31

Oh yes and another thing - taps running constantly when in the bathroom or having baths soon after mealtimes. HTH.

NCbirdy Fri 24-Oct-08 22:23:01

Sorry I had disappeared! I am finding this a bit mind-blowing to be honest, it is so hard to find the balance between allowing a child to find their own way and protecting them form all the things that can go wrong on the way. (I am sure all of you are perfectly aware of that too!)

When I was young I was so ill (not food related) that I lost nearly half my body-weight and my mother didn't once ask if I was ok .... so I know that I have to let her know I care but I also know I can't smother her. After all, at this stage I don't actually know that there really is something wrong!

Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and ideas, it is really helpful to hear of ways that a person can try to cover this up so as I can keep my eyes open. I would love to find there is nothing to worry about but I am determined not to bury my head about this and hope for the best (like my Mum did!)

My daughter already has a councellor whom she sees periodically so I thought I may go to her in the first instance, just so that she is aware of my concerns. I know she cannot tell me anything and i wouldn't want her to say anything to my daughter directly. However, if the conversation turned that way, then she could perhaps have a better idea how to lead the ocnversation etc. (ie places to get help etc)

TheProvincialLady Fri 24-Oct-08 22:29:59

You sound like a very caring and thoughtful mum - I am sure you will handle this as well as can be done.

Bloodandchatkins Fri 24-Oct-08 22:30:51

If your daughter already has a counsellor she sees sometimes, then it would be great if the counsellor had an idea of your worries. Like you say, she could keep it in mind when talking to your daughter.
In answer to your earlier question, I felt tworn between being so disgusted and ashamed with myself that I would have been horrified wth anyone knowing, but at the same time I knew I needed help, and actually felt quite let down and resentful that in the end I had to seek it myself ?
I did tell my mum when the counselling started but didn't tell her what it was for. DOn't think she knows now, though we are very close really.
I think I just wished I had someone to talk to about it, a friend even, someone to rationalise it and be supportive, and point me in the right direction. In my case it was only wanting to get pg in my early 20's that made me seek help. because I wanted to sort myself out before I became a parent.
Best of luck to you, you sound like a great parent, your daughter is lucky to have you !
It must be very hard for you though and you have my sympathies. I have two dds and dread them reaching that age !

NCbirdy Fri 24-Oct-08 22:32:03

TPL, thank you so much for that - I really appreciate your thoughts. x

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