National Eating Disorders Association

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Daughter wants to leave residential treatment facility after two days

My daughter just self-admitted (she is 22) into a well-known and highly reputable residential treatment facility yesterday in the morning. She was relieved to be entering the program, after taking a nose-dive the previous two months back into her anorexic / bulimic behaviors. Accompanying the ED, she has been battling severe depression and anxiety that is off the charts.

This evening, just 36 hours after our arrival at the residential treatment facility, I received a call from her and she was crying. She told me she wanted to leave the facility tomorrow morning, she isn't ready to let go of her eating disorder, and wants me to pick her up. Her plan is to go back into a day-program and she would have referrals from the residential facility for local treatment. (Last month, she enrolled in a day-program locally and lasted four hours. The first day, they put food in front of her and she walked out, never to return.)

So, I tried calming her down and encouraged her to tell me what she was feeling. She was crying, sounded so very stressed out and begged me to pick her up. Then threatened me that she would never speak to me again if I didn't pick her up the next morning. (This really doesn't worry me - I know she loves me.)

Again, I asked her to talk to me before I would agree to anything. She said that she was in a "hell-hole" and that all of the residents were miserable. She wasn't able to finish all of her food, she is crying at every meal and snack time, all of the residents are doing the same. She needs to attend a program where she can come home to the love and support of her husband, family and friends every day and that she just can't do the residential treatment anymore.

I told her that she has the love and support of all of the above while she is there. We think about her constantly and are praying for her recovery. I said that no-one expects her to "finish her meals" on the second day. However, I said, we do expect that she work on herself, her therapy, focusing on what is happening inside of her and gaining knowledge. Again, she told me to come pick her up and that she had to get off the phone immediately. I told her I wanted to speak with her therapist in the morning before I would commit to anything. I told her I wasn't saying no, I was saying I have to talk with her therapist or "someone" to find out what we ALL should do.

She wasn't happy, said goodbye and hung up the phone.

I am frustrated, scared beyond belief and simply have no idea what to do. If I pick her up, am I enabling the ED? As she stated she isn't ready to give up the behavior, should we just pick her up? Could it make things worse if we refuse to pick her up? I support her in every sense and I love her beyond words. I won't ever give up, that isn't an option.

Her husband is emailing her therapist now, as we really need guidance. I am hoping someone reading this can respond, if they have had a similar experience.

Thank you.

Hi MichProper, thanks for

Hi MichProper, thanks for reaching out. I can hear how much you care for your daughter. This sounds like a very challenging and delicate situation. I do not have a similar experience, but from a former ED sufferer’s perspective, it sounds like your daughter is very scared. Entering treatment is pretty terrifying, especially in the company of other people with ED’s who feel scared too. When the ED feels threatened, often the first instinct is to run away from the help. It sounds like she is letting the ED do the talking. ED thinking is very black and white - either all good or all bad. That certainly may not be what is actually happening at the treatment facility. I’m sure the treatment professionals want the best for their patients and are supportive. I don’t have an exact answer for you, but I would follow through with what the therapist recommends. I would also encourage you to look into the NEDA Navigators - they are volunteers who have first-hand experience with eating disorders and are well into their own, or their loved one’s recovery. Navigators are familiar with navigating the complex and overwhelming systems and emotions involved with seeking help and working towards recovery. Here is the link:
Keep us posted on what happens. Thanks for reaching out!