A calorie controlled recovery treatment programme for a complete cure from anorexia nervosa in just six months.
In March 2003 our then 13 year old daughter, Helen, was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, at which point she was on the verge of being emaciated. Her BMI was approximately 15.
My initial reluctance to accept this diagnosis was dispelled towards the end of the month when Helen became severely dehydrated and suffered a complete nervous breakdown as the anorexia finally took total control of both her mind and body. It may sound melodramatic, but it was as if she had become possessed. Helen’s reaction, when encouraged to drink a glass water in order to ease the stomach cramps caused by the dehydration, was uncharacteristically aggressive and resulted in an hysterical screaming fit which unnerved both myself and Fiona, my ex-wife. Helen flew into a rage and began to scream: “IT'S WEIGHT, IT'S WEIGHT, IT'S WEIGHT!”
At this point, we realised that we had no control over Helen whatsoever. However, by June 2003, only three months later, Fiona and myself had broken the illness and Helen was able to return to school. By September 2003 Helen had attained her perfect weight and the illness had been completely eradicated from her psyche. By January 2004, Helen was signed off by the adolescent mental health unit, her psychiatrist commenting that it was “one of the quickest recoveries” from mental illness that he had ever seen.
In order to break the anorexia, my ex-wife and myself devised a radical treatment programme which was contrary to the advice of the medical specialists and which, for a number of weeks, put us in direct confrontation with them. Throughout this period, I rigorously maintained the validity of our approach and predicted that the anorexia would be “done and dusted” by Christmas. Helen’s psychiatrist was extremely sceptical and was clearly concerned by what he must have perceived as my over-confidence. The very next day, Fiona received a phone call (May 2003) in which it was suggested that I was actively perpetuating the illness and we were both summarily summoned to an emergency meeting set for the following week. However, before the meeting could take place, our approach finally started to show results and Helen put on two pounds, thus attaining her highest weight in two months. As a result, the meeting became a rather muted affair and it was agreed that we would be monitored but essentially left to continue Helen's recovery via our own methods.
In the sections which follow, we have set out to explain exactly how we rescued Helen from this dreadful illness. We are not necessarily advocating our strategies to anybody else but we do sincerely hope that our account of Helen’s recovery may present some useful insights which might make a difference to you and your child.
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STEP 1: RECOGNISING THE SIGNS
STEP 2: SEEKING MEDICAL HELP
STEP 3: DEVISING AN EXERCISE PROGRAMME
STEP 5: CAREFULLY SUPERVISING ALL MEALS
STEP 6: OUTWITTING THE ILLNESS
STEP 7: CONTINUED VIGILANCE
APPENDIX 1: POSSESSION
(Helen's account of how the anorexia gradually gained total control over her, written in August 2004 at the request of a U.S. literary agent.)
APPENDIX 2: TERROR
(Helen's account of how frightened she was when first confronted with the medical establishment.)
APPENDIX 3: THE SIX WORDS THAT ARE ABOUT ME (Helen’s personal account of how miserable it felt to be anorexic, written in the April of 2003.)
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