Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday morning at NEDA

This morning's program featured two parents and a husband, all of whom had family members who had anorexia, all of whom had the same therapist. I have tremendous respect for all three of these people, who obviously went through tremendous suffering. I'm happy to say that all three of their family members recovered and are now doing well--but only after many years of being ill. One spouse was ill for 10 years; one of the children was sick for 6 or 7 years, and the other for 10 years.

One of the parents made a comment that for me crystallized everything that's wrong with the way eating disorders have been traditionally treated. He said, speaking of his then-11-year-old daughter, "My wife and I quickly had to accept the fact that this thing was bigger than we were, bigger than our family. There was no way we could help her. We had to turn to the professionals."

His child's recovery followed a fairly typical trajectory: years of very slow progress and relapse, until, as he put it, "She *decided to join us in the fight against her illness."

I got tears in my eyes at that moment, tears of rage for the clinicians who disempowered this family and made them believe there was *no way* they could help their daughter, who taught them that their daughter had to "choose" to get well. For all the families who have accepted that over the years, who have sat at dinner tables watching their children starve and felt there was nothing they could do. Who, frankly, wasted years of their own and their child's life in useless and even counterproductive treatment.

I am so grateful for family-based treatment, for having my role as a parent validated and for being able to help my daughter. Another of the parents said, "I wanted to just march in there and get this thing fixed! But we had to embrace the illness and accept that it would be with us for a long, long time."

If only she'd been told about FBT, how might her life and the life of her daughter have been different?


samsi77 said...

Harriet, I just want so say what an incredible pleasure it was to finally meet you and to be able to spend time getting to know you these past few days! I think that you are a gift to the eating disorder provider community and to the parents afflicted out there. You are doing a terrific job advocating for effective treatment and empowerment of parents and families and your presentation was so well done and consolidated the important pieces for parents, providers and consumers alike to hear. Keep pushing and beward, behold the power of the golden Fork!!!!

Harriet said...

I like that--the power of the golden fork!

Stephanie, it was a pleasure meeting you too. You're an awesome advocate for your patients AND parents and I look forward to your coming to Madison!