This month’s recovery talk focuses on the personal experience of one of our adolescent clients Jannie from his mother’s perspective. This family’s treatment involved Maudsley Family Therapy.
Pauline who is the mother of Jannie’s family consists of a family of four, Pauline, Jannie’s father, Jannie himself and Mia. Pauline didn’t quite consider anything particularly significant happening at the time prior to treatment and mentions that ‘life just happens around you and you deal with what it throws at you, putting one foot in front of the other’. However, it was when Jannie had become picky about his food, beginning to cut out sugar and consuming only salad that Pauline started noticing. At first, Pauline believed that Jannie was being health initially, but after her instincts had kicked it, she had noticed that it was something more serious.
Signs and symptoms that Jannie had experienced prior to treatment was his mood change and stroppy. Although Pauline believed that this did contribute to him being a teenager. However, these emotions were significantly more intense than usual. Jannie would become angry quite quickly when he was usually a normally loving and considerate boy, which was another factor that contributed to Pauline wanted to seek out options and treatment available. A treatment option included Maudsley Family Based Therapy, in which Pauline had a sense of relief as she was willing to try anything to support Jannie’s recovery.
One of the toughest aspects of Maudsley that Pauline had shared was getting Jannie’s father to understand that they needed to act as one team and a united front against the disease. It became difficult when he would make different choices to what was agreed which essentially had enabled Jannie’s eating disorder. Shortly after, the family got on the same page and supported each other. Another hard aspect of treatment was the exclusion of their daughter as she had seen her older brother in a fragile and wreck less state which was extremely sad and scary for her. Mia, Jannie’s younger sister was included in some sessions and her parents had tried to spend more time with her, however, became challenging when both Pauline and her husband were mentally and physically drained from Jannie and his treatment which proved to be extremely challenging.
The lowest point during Jannie’s recovery for Pauline was during a dinner when Jannie wouldn’t eat all of his food which led him to being quite obstinate, stroppy and rude. This was not like Jannie at all which had helped both Pauline and her husband as it reinforced that this wasn’t truly Jannie but he had been taken over by this disease. Eventually, Jannie had run away from the dinner table and was unable to be found. Pauline had later found him hiding in his cupboard, rocking back and forth crying. Pauline remembers bursting into tears seeing him like that giving him a big hug and saying to Jannie, ‘I just don’t know how to help you.’ Jannie seemed to hear that and responded with a hug.
There were moments when Pauline could recognise that Jannie was on the right track to recovery including when he would not react when food was given to him or when Jannie would go out with his friends and eat junk food together. Food times became simpler and easier!
At the time, treatment with Maudsley Family Therapy was Pauline and her husbands’ number one priority, everything else came second. Pauline was lucky to be home for three weeks, which enabled her to focus on Jannie’s recovery, what he ate, when he ate, how he ate, getting him to his meetings, writing the journal, getting the comfort box. Having regular meetings with Jannie’s therapist at the time, Christie, reassured that they were doing the right thing, even when they felt the hardest and toughest.
Advice that Pauline provided for other parents with young people suffering with an eating disorder is to think about the child being taken over by an evil being, it was sitting on their back, controlling their behaviour and made the illness their enemy rather than their child. Pauline also stated to stick with the program, stay united and don’t give up.