My Son Has an Eating Disorder

In the beginning...

by Lynne

As I sit here trying to write my first BLOG ever, I have all these emotions and feelings swirling around in my head. What do I say and where do I begin?

Four years ago my son, who was a freshman in high school, was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I was numb. How could this happen? What did I do wrong? He was always such a good kid. Well liked, good grades, thoughtful and honest. My happy go lucky kid never showed any signs of the turmoil that was brewing inside of him. I remember thinking "but he's a boy; this only happens to girls." I soon found out that ED has no gender preference and that there is a rise in eating disorders among males.

Our son came to me one day and told me that he thought something was wrong. Ever since watching the 2012 Summer Olympics, he had been cutting out fat and sugar from his diet in an attempt to become more healthy, but he was losing weight and strength. Tiny little hairs had appeared on his arms and the back of his neck. Apparently, this new hair, called lanugo, was a way for the body to keep warm. He also had patches of very dry skin.

After our conversation, I went on the Internet and did some research. As I researched, I realized that what my son was saying pointed to an eating disorder. I went into his room and told him that I looked online and that he should do the same. He was not very receptive and told me to leave. The next day he came to me and said he did look online and he realized that he had most of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa. We decided to visit his pediatrician. He referred us to a doctor who specialized in eating disorders. I now realize how important it is to have a good medical team consisting of a doctor, therapist, and a dietician. All three should specialize in eating disorders and communicate on a regular basis regarding the patient.

We were in the middle of baseball season and the end of soccer season. Watching my son struggle with running, kicking a soccer ball, catching and hitting a baseball was very hard to do. His body was deteriorating. He was always so strong and very athletic. Every movement he performed now seemed to be in slow motion. As parents, we all had to contribute to dinner for the team after games. Our son, who always ate anything, was now very picky and would not eat the dinners provided. He mostly stuck to granola bars. Later we found out that his baseball coach had provided him with an App to monitor fat and calories in foods. He had it on his phone and used it regularly to cut calories out of his diet. Other people noticed something was wrong. As parents, we decided to stop all sports. It was his idea to tell his coaches and team members what he was going through. We were so proud of him.

Within a few weeks, our son was hospitalized for 13 days. His heart rate and blood pressure were critically low. After his release, our real journey began. How do we help our son? What is the right thing to do? What should we do and what shouldn't we do? As a mom, I felt all alone in this process. My husband and my other son really didn't understand. I'm not sure if I understood either. All I knew was that this was very real to my son. It was really affecting his life. I missed the way he used to be and wanted to see him smile again. I read what I could on the Internet and books in search of coping skills. I had just started working a full time job and decided to go part time in order to allow me to be home more.

With summer just beginning, my son would be home all day. ED had also taken away his desire to be social. Before ED, he was always with friends and doing social things. Now he had no desire to do much of anything. Much of the day was spent in anticipation of the next time he would have to eat something. He always seemed to be in distress. Jigsaw puzzles and word puzzles helped him get through the time in between meals. I had to plan my day around being home for meals/snacks and doctor appointments. We had a meal plan to follow and he was not able, or allowed, to prepare them on his own. My whole world was now focused on getting calories and nutrition back into my son's body and getting him the psychological help he needed. I often wondered how long this journey would last. I needed to get a handle on this disorder and figure out the best way to help my son. I felt so alone and helpless. In looking back now, everything we went through was a necessary part of the healing process.