Editor’s note: Family Based Treatment (FBT) is one of many effective, evidence-based treatments for eating disorders. Treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it should be tailored to the individual and will vary according to both the severities of the disorder and the patient’s particular problems, needs, and strengths. Click here to learn more about the various levels of care and methodologies.
Maudsley: the first time I ever heard that word I wanted to say, “bless you,” because, to me, it sounded like a sneeze. Doesn’t it?
Basically, for all you people out there like me who were unfamiliar with the word, Maudsley is FBT (family-based therapy) for eating disorders, where the parents are responsible for feeding the child and finding any acceptable way to be sure she eats. The parents are full members of the treatment process and an integral part of recovery.
When did I first come across this word? This word was the one option I was presented with besides being sent to a treatment facility to get better. I had just had a seizure precipitated by an over two-decades long battle with eating disorders, and even though I wanted recovery, I was afraid my behaviors were too entrenched to ever change. My goal was to stay at home and be able to go into work while going through the recovery process. Before I met with my eating disorder therapist and realized how sick I was, I was convinced I was going to participate in outpatient treatment. I know it sounds crazy, but at the time I had such low self-esteem that I was convinced I’d be replaced if I left work. In my sick mind, I’d lose everything, because, after years of isolation, I felt all I had left was work. I also worked with my dad, so I was always with a parent. My eating disorder therapist thought it was a perfect combination for us to try Maudsley.
What did that entail? To kickstart my Maudsley recovery, I’d be moving back home to my parents’ house. I’d also be working with an eating disorder therapist twice a week to walk us through the Maudsley process and my regular therapist (also twice a week) to process emotions, all at the daunting age of twenty-six. If I weren’t making progress, I would be sent to a residential treatment facility—no ifs, ands, or buts.
Was it challenging? Extremely! Moving back home as an adult is not easy. Then having my parents take the reins of your eating—your control and the only coping mechanism you have ever known—was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my entire life, and I have given birth to two babies! It is also extremely draining for the parents because they become the primary caregivers. They are the chefs, putting together the meals. They are the nurses, watching you eat and making sure you don’t make yourself sick after meals. They have to be policing you all the time. As an adult, this comes with a level of guilt. I often felt like a burden and like I was ruining their lives. Also, for people with eating disorders, self-esteem and self-worth are low. We don’t feel good about ourselves, and the eating disorder makes sure of it. We constantly feel like we aren’t worthy, and it becomes hard to fight for ourselves when we start to hate ourselves for the amount we are fighting with our parents. Your parents will know that it is really your eating disorder fighting being fed, but when you are in it, that differentiation is hard to make. You want to give up, but your parents, loving you and knowing you the best, know that anger isn’t you, and eventually you all start to fight the common enemy together: the eating disorder.
Maudsley is an intricate and intimate process, based on unconditional love and trust in each other as a family unit. What results is far more than recovery—it is a closeness and richness in relationships that becomes a gift, the silver lining of a very dark cloud. My family and I are all better people because we shared this process together.
I would say to any parent of a child with an eating disorder, “Don’t blame yourself; don’t blame the child. You are all victims of this disease. If you stick together, you can break it.” As for me, it’s six years later and here I am in recovery.
Dani Sherman-Lazar is an eating disorder advocate, vice president of a transportation company, and a mother to two daughters. She has been published on Scary Mommy, Bluntmoms, The Mighty, Eating Recovery Center, Kidspot, ellenNation Project Heal, Love What Matters, Cafemom.com, Beating Eating Disorders, Her View From Home, Motherly, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Recovery Warriors, Kveller.com, Humorwriters.org, and That’s Inappropriate. Follow her on her blog Living a Full Life After ED and like it on Facebook. Her book Living FULL: Winning My Battle with Eating Disorder is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2O4mJId.