Julia, Age 19, Exeter – UK
Anorexia Nervosa & Developmental Trauma
Julia was offered a place at The Wave in Primary Treatment. She had spent the past five years in and out of treatment for eating disorders in the UK. Having spent time hospitalised in central London and then transitioned from CAMHS to Adult Services, Julia’s parents (Penny and Paul) understood that she needed something different – something that offered community, companionship and an opportunity to change direction.
‘We knew that after almost 12 months in hospital and being ‘sectioned’ (under the Mental Health Act), our daughter needed a change that offered a new focus. I clearly remember my first call to The Wave, when Fiona talked about challenges, giving the chance for change to happen and mostly when I heard her say that full recovery from eating disorders is possible. I knew that The Wave was a place where we could try something different.’
Penny remembers that call well.
Julia joined The Wave on a bed-to-bed transfer accompanied by an experienced Eating Disorder Recovery Coach. When she arrived, she was met by her two treatment buddies (two is always better than one) and immediately found friendship in her peer group. Julia needed careful medical management and joined the ED Program following her stabilisation.
Julie remembers her early days in treatment, ‘I was really used to moving between hospitals and therapists offices, every time I said exactly what the doctors wanted to hear, left only to be readmitted. It was a horrible cycle that I just couldn’t, or maybe didn’t want, to break.’
‘I spent the first few weeks at The Wave telling myself that I didn’t really need treatment, that I had all the skills to manage on my own. I look back and almost laugh at how inflexible and rigid I was – with everything and everyone. I used my family therapy calls to do my best to convince my parents that I had everything under control and that I was ready to go home. Thankfully, neither my parents nor the team listened to me. They pointed out that my eating disorder was talking and trying to take control.’
Family Therapy in eating disorder treatment is essential. Stabilisation and finding a place in the community, and away from family, really made a difference to Julia. However much Mum and Dad disliked her eating disorder, they found it very hard to maintain firm boundaries with Julia (and her eating disorder voice). Their understandable fear for Julia’s wellbeing left them feeling powerless to challenge or confront the eating disorder alone.
This is one of the many areas where they experienced change as a family. In family therapy, Moe and Fiona were able to gently challenge the ‘black and white’ thinking and issues of control within the family. Penny and Paul were committed to their own parts in the therapeutic process and worked alongside The Wave therapy team to look at some of the relationships they themselves had with food and with their own family of origin.
Penny, Paul and Julia were able to use the facilitated sessions to repair the relationships in the family that had been under strain. Julia had found communicating with Paul almost impossible prior to treatment. Repair of the relationship was a shared goal in the family sessions.
‘I can remember the time when I no longer used the family to manipulate, I can remember actually moving through that and knowing that I had some way to go, but that I was determined to recover. This time I knew it was real. It felt a bit different.’
‘I’m so grateful that The Wave team stood by me and stood firm with my treatment plan. I managed to get to where I needed to be in terms of weight and I managed to find a relationship with my dad that I didn’t think was possible. I also found my love of horse riding again. This time I wasn’t worried about the bulky calf muscles or being the best, I was happy to be me. I actually really like the person that I am. I have friends, I have a family at The Wave on speed dial and I have my life back.’
Julia has now started University near her hometown and has continued to be an absolute superstar in recovery.
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