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Anorexic granddaughter

(19 Posts)
Jillybird Wed 14-Oct-20 12:31:54

Has anyone had experience of anorexia themselves or had a close family member who has?

My 15 yr old granddaughter has been diagnosed with anorexia, she has been to the doctor and got a counsellor. Thanks to lockdown both parents are working from home and can fetch her from school at lunchtime in order to make sure she eats something then.

I'm sure she fits all the right categories, she's an achiever, just second place in her class at school. She has worked solidly during lockdown, not so her younger sister who has had o be forced into doing maybe an hour a day. She's very sensitive and easily upset. She's very kind and caring. We talked, last time I saw her before lockdown, about what she might do when she grew up. She wants to be a micro-biologist but doesn't want to go to university. Why not? Because she doesn't want to go to live away from home...

She rings me every week to check how I am. This week she said "I guess you know what's going on?" I said yes, and asked when it started (April, she said) after which I felt suddenly at a loss as to what to say next. I asked questions about school (which was probably the worst thing to do), told her about 'Who do you think you are?' with Paul Hollywood whose dad must have been in the same regiment as her great grandad (my dad) because he was in the same places at the same time during WW2. Then ran out of things to say.

So sad, as she's been the shining star for the family. She's pretty, clever and absolutely delightful. Her younger brother has Down syndrome and Autism so can be hard to handle and she shows the utmost kindness towards him. I'm devastated for her parents who have been struggling very much with her brother who decided not to sleep more than a few hours a night and I know my daughter-in-law will be beating herself up for concentrating on the boy while her daughter meanwhile is getting ill...

How can I help them? What do I talk about with my darling granddaughter? What helped you if you suffered from anorexia yourself?

Luckygirl Wed 14-Oct-20 12:48:08

I was interested in this bit: she's been the shining star for the family. I wonder if that has simply been too great a burden for her to carry? That is not a criticism; but maybe her role as the one who is not only normal but shining is too much for her.

I am thinking that maybe your role is simply to be a rock. To hug her when you see her (with masks on!) and just be the one who quietly tells her you love her and are always there for her. I am in a similar situation with a GD ( though a gender issue) and this is what I do - it is all I can do.

But I absolutely identify with that sense of impotence as you watch her parents, whom you love, struggling with such a challenge. I find it very hard, and send a hand hold to you.

Calendargirl Wed 14-Oct-20 13:01:20

Agree with Luckygirl, the ‘shining star’ is probably a burden, no offence intended.

OceanMama Wed 14-Oct-20 13:31:34

I have been there with my daughter. She was a shining star but it was never a burden because it came naturally and easily to her and there was never any pressure. If her brother is autistic, there is a very high chance your granddaughter is autistic too. There is a high correlation between autism and eating disorders.

It's not simple because there are often multiple factors involved. For my daughter it was a combination of finding a lot of social positive feedback when she lost a bit of weight encouraging her to lose more, and anorexic friend who encouraged her to lose weight and autism. There is also a strong genetic component.

I recommend getting the highest level support you can and just loving her. You cannot take this seriously enough.

silverlining48 Wed 14-Oct-20 13:57:42

I also had a shining star, very academic, popular, bright, kind who started along this awful journey at about 14. It was very distressing. We were lucky that she didn’t need hospital input but she lost a great deal of weight and they were dreadful times. I had no idea why it started and for years after I checked that she was eating and worrying it may return. It never did thank goodness.
You can only be there for your gd, don’t ignore what is going on but don’t ask too many questions about why; she probably has little idea herself.
I understood from books etc that it can be about control, because everything else might be not be in her control.
My girl is grown now, but we have never really discussed this time so many years ago, so am still in the dark. Am just grateful it ended before it got too bad.
Best wishes to you and your gd. Patience and love. You will all get through this.

blue25 Wed 14-Oct-20 17:42:20

There’s been a huge increase in eating disorders since lockdown in March. My daughter works in this area.

As someone else said, it’s to do with control. Everything feels out of their control, but they are able to control their eating/weight.

vegansrock Wed 14-Oct-20 18:44:12

It is more common in those who are perfectionists, so the family “shining star“ has to keep being the best, whether it’s top of the class, musical genius, or the best at loosing weight. Obviously don’t worry about passing exams or being the best at anything, rebuilding the relationship with food takes time. You might like to look at the BEAT charity website which gives lots of info.

BlueSky Thu 15-Oct-20 09:28:20

I have a personal, luckily limited, knowledge of anorexia. I was anorexic myself as a teenager. Is your GD slightly overweight? Mine started like that, plus every body else seemed to be slim. I also felt controlled by my parents, and I resented it. The more my mother tried to make me eat the worse it got and you become quite clever managing this. What stopped me eventually was a chat with my GP who suggested that if I was eating properly as I said, I needed investigating for serious conditions. This shocked me and I started to make an effort to eat more. Nowadays there is proper counselling and I trust your GD will overcome this.

Thistlelass Wed 21-Oct-20 21:57:03

She is 15. Ask her how you can help! Not her parents. You can ask them that question separately. If there are professionals involved in her treatment they should also be able to share guidelines for responding to her.

Astral Wed 21-Oct-20 22:11:28

I ended up anorexic as a teen through peer pressure, I was already thin but friends constantly talking about their weight, well I got obsessed. I even tried eating toilet paper to ease the hunger at first and eventually I started to enjoy the pain.

I think for me it was a cross between self harm and having control over things. A lot of things happened in my life that weren't in my control and I felt I needed to be punished for things that were happening that I didn't understand wasn't my fault.

I really don't have much advice except to encourage her to take control of her recovery. Maybe a focus on taking control of her health as I've seen this work for other anorexics. Running can be amazing and we need to fuel exercising bodies to grow muscle.

I really hope she finds something that works. It sounds like a lot of pressure she is under and anything that can relieve that a bit would be amazing!

Hetty58 Wed 21-Oct-20 22:35:03

One of my students had anorexia. I was advised to not talk about food or eating - at all. The real problem is behind that and not eating is just a symptom (or effort to remedy the situation) from their point of view.

Why do you overreact and talk as if she's failed? She's still the same person. Why assume that her mother will feel terrible for not giving her enough attention? It's as if you can't wait to allocate blame!

ElaineI Wed 21-Oct-20 23:35:17

DD2 works in CAMHS inpatient unit and with under 12 team. The IPU is full just now and the outpatient services are mostly over NHS version of zoom. She is trialling an art therapy group currently with some success. Involves collecting twigs, making cardboard hearts etc , henna art, working with stone art amongst other things. The girls and parents have given good feedback. Maybe your DGD would like that? It is important to chat about normal things too so don't worry about that - they are still the same person just unwell. As with any teenager they may look bored or not respond when you are talking but they will remember that you tripped up and dropped a glass on the floor or got overcharged at Tesco or were always hopeless at maths so keep talking but don't expect a response. Lockdown has affected many people mentally, probably all of us but for children, teenagers, students and the elderly it has overturned their entire lives, education, social groups, expectations of their futures, and loneliness and if this started in April then probably it has some bearing. If your DGD is a high achiever she will have listened to all the reports about exam grades, places at uni lost and students not having a normal uni experience and possibly fear for her future. This is one way she can have some control in her life but she is still the same girl inside. Her parents will be upset, worried, angry, blaming themselves but also have her brother to look after. Maybe as the grandparent you can focus on her, be normal, act normal, send her things - nice notebook, pretty pens, art stuff if you are far away or whatever interests her. It is a long hard road to embark on though so be prepared. Your DS and DiL will also need support. They haven't failed to notice. Anorexics are very good at covering up their weight loss and not eating even in hospital. One thing they might do is check privacy settings on her phone and computer as there are lots of web sites for anorexia where people discuss the best ways of losing weight and covering up amongst other things. It's great she has a counsellor but if things worsen they need to press the GP for CAMHS urgent referral as it is so difficult to get a GP face to face appointment just now and it seems you need to be passively demanding before you can actually see one. Anorexia is life threatening if not treated. I'm losing track of how many times DD2 has been kept on to do constant care when a patient has been admitted dangerously underweight. I hope your DGD comes through this with everyone's help. It is sometimes so worrying as a grandparent because you are anxious about the grandchild but also your own child and their partner and the other grandchildren. So sorry x

Flossieturner Thu 22-Oct-20 09:13:19

I think you are doing the right thing by talking about normal things in life. There is often a misconception that the person is punishing themselves or others. It is also a misconception to think that every Anorexic is depressed.

My experience is that Appetite disappears completely. There are no hunger pangs, no fancying a treat, no salavatimg at the smell or sight of food.

Parents do always blame themselves but it seems hers are doing the right thing by light supervising of meals. It is really important to keep the meals small, not watch her while she eats, and to look carefully at the texture of the food. If her throat closes at certain textures, she will not be able to swallow.

OceanMama Thu 22-Oct-20 10:01:44


One of my students had anorexia. I was advised to not talk about food or eating - at all. The real problem is behind that and not eating is just a symptom (or effort to remedy the situation) from their point of view.

Why do you overreact and talk as if she's failed? She's still the same person. Why assume that her mother will feel terrible for not giving her enough attention? It's as if you can't wait to allocate blame!

People love to blame the parents. It's definitely not her mother's fault, just as it's not my fault that my daughter developed an eating disorder. I was not controlling, contrary to popular opinion here. In hindsight, I wish I'd stepped in more strongly and tried to take more control as my daughter did not survive her experience with an eating disorder.

V3ra Thu 22-Oct-20 11:04:52

OceanMama that's so sad, I'm really sorry to read this x

Namsnanny Thu 22-Oct-20 12:33:38

oceanMama ... how very tragic for your family. I'm so sorry this happened. flowers

Namsnanny Thu 22-Oct-20 12:40:56

*^Why assume her mother will feel terrible for not giving her enough attention?
It's as if you cant wait to allocate blame!^*

I feel you have totally misunderstood the op Hetty58.
I do hope she doesnt feel hurt by your judgement of her.

OceanMama Thu 22-Oct-20 21:03:15


*^Why assume her mother will feel terrible for not giving her enough attention?
It's as if you cant wait to allocate blame!^*

I feel you have totally misunderstood the op Hetty58.
I do hope she doesnt feel hurt by your judgement of her.

That did stand out to me the first time I read it. I think mothers will feel guilty by default (justified or not).

It used to be that blame was assigned. Who got that blame has changed over time. At one time it was aloof fathers who were blamed for eating disorders. At another it was controlling mothers. Fortunately we now know it's way more complex than one factor. I believe we are moving past blame and starting to focus more on wider contexts (in mental health in general). But mothers, well, the term 'mother guilt' exists for a reason. Maybe that's what OP was meaning?

Namsnanny Thu 22-Oct-20 21:44:24

But mothers, well the term mothers guilt exists for a reason?
Maybe thats what OP was meaning?

Yes I thought so OceanMama. Your so right, it's easier to blame someone rather than take charge and look for a solution sometimes.
I can empathize with the pressure Mums are under nowadays. Of course it has also transferred over to Fathers too.
Who doesnt worry they have accidentally psychologically scarred their child at one point or another during their upbringing?

I was talking to my son the other day about just this subject. His take on it was social media and society have a large part to play too.