National Eating Disorders Association

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Don't want to go back

A year ago my daughter was hospitalized after being diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 12 (just shy of 13). She was placed into partial hospitalization, followed by intensive outpatient, and has been in outpatient recovery ever since. She was honestly doing well upon her return to school - she was happy to see her friends on a daily basis and doing well at school. However, in late September we started seeing signs that she wasn't eating all of her lunch at school. He weight began to drop. We started taking measures to have her observed in the cafeteria, and her lunch bag checked each day. Her treatment team advised to go back to supervised lunches at school, which she absolutely hates! She seemed to do OK with them last year when she had to be supervised, but says it's harder now because she remembers how much she hated it. She was getting rid of some of her lunch on the way to school, so I now deliver her lunch to school each day, and she is mortified. We have gone back to weekly sessions with her therapist, after only going once a month for a while. The treatment team is pushing to place her back into partial hospitalization programming because of the weight loss, but my husband and I are fighting it because we don't think something that drastic is needed, and we know the stress it caused the whole family. Her weight is stable but she hasn't gotten back up to a "safe range" yet. Today she blamed me for packing a horrible lunch and causing her stress that made it impossible to take a test at school and she fears failure. It is hard to hear the words that ED chooses to use for me in her moments of stress. It's hard to know that my choice of food for her causes her so much pain and stress. I know it is ED talking, but that doesn't make the hurt go away. She tells me if we just stop the meal plan that her disorder will go away. I know that isn't true, and she would not eat properly if not on the meal plan that she has. ED can't be trusted. I just miss trusting my daughter, and seeing her happy. Part of me thinks maybe she does need programming again, as I don't see weekly therapy sessions helping much, but it is so hard to think about going back to programming, 6 days a week. I wish I knew the right answer for what will get her out of this slump, and back on the path to full recovery.

re: Don't want to go back

Hi udeere--I'm so sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling again, especially after she had made such great strides in recovery. I first just wanted to remind you that relapse is a normal part of recovery, and these steps backwards don't eliminate all the progress she has already made. I think coming out on the other side of ED even just once can be a powerful motivator during or after a relapse--it was for me, since then I knew how badly I didn't want to go back there (like your title says too).

Second, I wanted to encourage you to trust your daughter's treatment team. I can't imagine what kind of stress and frustration it must bring on your family to consider sending her back to programming, especially during the holiday season, but they know better than anyone what's best for her. She may be struggling again for any number of reasons (school stress, social anxieties, the holidays coming up, etc.), but even she might not be conscious of whatever is causing the relapse. Going back to a more structured treatment program might be the best thing for her until she has enough self-structure to maintain recovery on her own again.

Finally, what are you doing to take care of yourself? Do your husband and you make sure to check in with each other and provide support when your daughter is pushing back about her recovery? I hope you're finding ways to stay positive and motivated, even when things are so tough. Thinking of you. Stay strong.

re: don't want to go back


I'm right there with you. My daughter was also doing well, had made the progression from partial hospitalization to intensive outpatient to outpatient group therapy, and seemed both happy and healthy. Now she's back in partial hospitalization less than a year later. We started back with intensive outpatient but only a week in it was clear that she needed more treatment.

I'm so sorry that you are going through this, too. It is hard - really hard. I know that relapse is a normal part of recovery but I was so hopeful and now I'm back to worrying about her life and future. Frankly, I'm exhausted but I have to hold out hope that this is a temporary step on the way. I'm hoping the same for your daughter.


Sorry to hear about the relapse. Our much older son once convinced us to let him just do his thing and it was disasterous. He lost considerable ground. It is the ED talking. I know exactly how you feel when you talk about trust. She was someone you trusted and now with the ED that is not so. We had the same thing. The ED will slip though any crack it can so you have to take steps to reverse things. She may not like it, but hopefully she will,understand once she recovers more. It was a relief for us for our son to be in the program as it took a lot of pressure off us. Please take care of yourselves as well.