Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I need your advice and wisdom

As you no doubt know if you're reading this, I've let this blog languish for a long time now. Too long. I won't go into the reasons for that lapse here, but I do beg your forgiveness. And so it's fitting that for my comeback post, I'm asking you for advice.

The advice isn't for me but rather is for a woman I'll call Mary, who's in her mid-30s and has been ill with anorexia since she was a teenager. She's been through in-patient, residential, intensive outpatient, outpatient treatment--you name it, she's been through it. And she is still sick.

Mary is smart and motivated. She understands what she has to do to recover: she has to eat. As for everyone with anorexia, eating is terrifying for her. Those of us who have re-fed a child or teen or young adult with anorexia know how very hard it is for someone with the illness to eat, and how much they need someone to stand with them and stand up to the eating disorder. Mary wants that very badly. She doesn't want to die. She wants to recover and knows, at this point, that she can't do it eating on her own.

Mary's dilemma has made me think long and hard about the need for a different level of care. I think one of the reasons FBT (the Maudsley approach) is successful most of the time is because parents care about their children in a different way than, say, administrators or caregivers at a residential facility care about their patients. I've come to believe that that love is part of the cure, maybe because it motivates parents to hang on through the toughest moments, or maybe because it's part of what breaks through the cognitive distortions of the illness. It doesn't matter why, really.

So I wonder: What if we created something like halfway houses for refeeding people with anorexia? Not residential facilities, with their (perhaps necessary) rules and restrictions and inevitably institutional feeling. More like a small house, with 3 or 4 people living there and round-the-clock nurses who developed real relationships with their patients. Who really cared about them. Who were capable of empathy and affection and, yes, maybe even love sometimes. There wouldn't be hours of group and individual therapy, because those things really don't help people until they're more or less weight-restored, so the cost could be much lower than the one to two thousand dollars a day cost of residential care.

What I'm really talking about is a kind of foster re-feeding home. I've given a lot of thought to inviting Mary to my home and re-feeding her, but there are some logistical challenges involved that I'm not sure are solvable.

So I put it to you: Do any of you know of resources for someone like Mary? Resources I'm perhaps not aware of? And what do you think of the idea of creating refeeding homes for people with anorexia?

I'm eager to hear from you. So is Mary.