National Eating Disorders Association

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RAVI2016
PARENTS OF AN ANEREXIC PHD STUDENT

We are new here and this post is about our daughter who is 29 years old and is an international PhD student in a university in USA and is suffering from Anorexia. She was diagnosed with Anorexia during 2011 while being a student in UK. Since her weight had fallen below the minimum acceptable medically, she had to be admitted to a specialized hospital in London, UK where she spent a couple of months. When she recovered, she completed her studies in UK and returned to her home in her home country.

Since she wanted to study further and had got good grades in GRE, she was selected by a university in USA for doing PhD with full fee waiver and a scholarship for four years. So, she went to the US in 2014 and joined this university and has been doing PhD since then.

Things were fine for her during the first two years of her course and she was doing great getting all 'A' grades and good feedbacks from her professors. However, about 4-5 months ago, the professor who was mentoring her went on a long medical leave and she started working with a new professor who had just joined the university. What started as a small difference of opinion, soon took an ugly turn when she received a series of emails containing abusive language from one of her professors which lead to her breakdown and resurfacing of her Anorexic thoughts. She started struggling with her eating and taking a lot of time in her calorie counting leading to her failing to fulfill her hour wise commitment to the department though she continued working and submitting her work from home.

However, things have started going from bad to worse for her since then. Though she is duly registered with her school's Disability Resource Centre, the school authorities have not only been insensitive to her medical condition but are refusing to accept this as a disability. The school has withdrawn her fee waiver, has stopped her scholarship and her dean has even asked her to take a leave of absence. He has also told her that to seek an admission elsewhere and she will have to apply again if she wants to join back any time later.

All this has made life miserable for her and being alone in an alien land with no help as added to misery. Also, with nothing else to keep her occupied, she is sliding back into anorexic state. She has drawn herself into a shell and is not communicating with others. We as her parents are really concerned about her health and well being specially since we are not there with her physically. We have contacted every possible office of the university including its highest level but they are not responding.

Though her training during her hospitalization in London has helped her to continue a calorie counted eating, she is losing weight rapidly. She is also losing her self-esteem, confidence and even desire to live but is refusing to return back to us with what she calls a stigma of not being able to complete her PhD. Her financial condition too is a cause of concern to us as she is no longer getting any funds from her school. Further, though she had been seeing a Doctor in her university, lately she has been refusing to go to him either. We are really in a fix as to what to do and how to help her.

We are looking for an advise on two specific things, one how to support our daughter medically and provide her the best possible recovery treatment in the US, and two, how to seek help and co-operation of her school in rehabilitating her in the course once she is in a position to do so as we feel that once she joins back, it may be possible for her get hold of herself and bring her life back on track. We would also like to know if the US law provides her with any rights or privileges on account of her medical condition and if yes, should we consult a lawyer for securing justice for our daughter?

2Joy2love
RAVI2016

Hi RAVI2016,
I am sorry to hear that your daughter has had her Eating disorder come back. I can only imagine the stress that you are feeling. It is so hard to have our loved ones affected by ED and must be so hard to be so far away. I am so glad that she is talking to you about it.
My daughter with ED is 16, but I do have 3 of my kids in college. One of them has really struggled with depression. She also went and talked to a social worker at the disability center at her University. They told her that if her doctor wrote and told the school that she needed something because of her disability that the school had to work with her. I realize that depression is different form ED, but I assume that the laws would be the same.
I know that the stress and worry over the scholarship is a big thing, I also know though that your daughter's health is so important to you, even more important then the scholarship or getting a PhD. It would be great if there is a way to have them hold the scholarship while she gets well, but that may not be possible. I do not know what resources are available for her from the school. Both of my girls that go to different Universities have free mental health care through their schools. I do not know if they have programs for ED's. ( I do not think they do)
ED is so destructive and overwhelming. She may need to take care of herself now and later figure out what to do with school. I know that when my daughter with ED was really struggling with her ED, that she could not think clearly, that she struggled to make decisions and after she was in the hospital for about three weeks and she was eating better, her brain started to function better again.
As for how to get her medical care, it might really depend if she has insurance and what they will cover or what you can cover for her. This web sight has great resources and help.
You may reach the Helpline at (800) 931-2237. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-referral-helpline has a place on the page that you can click and chat online.
I hope she can get the help she needs and get healthy. Then continue on with her dreams of finishing school.
How are you doing? I hope you can find ways to keep yourself healthy and can have the support you need through this.
2joy2love