When we entered the alternate universe of mental health disorders, I thought that once the chemical imbalance was straightened out, we would be good to go. Unfortunately, for us, the self harm morphed into an eating disorder. I think it had been lurking all along, but the residential treatment center did not deal with eating disorders. Since we had bigger fish to fry, we put that on the back burner and just tried to find the right dosage of the right medicine to help our child not self destruct. On December 23, 2014, we drove our child home, the long term treatment ended. I was terrified. Would we be racing back to an emergency facility within three weeks? Could I care for my own child? Luckily, things did smooth out. No more police visits, or hospital visits or CPS visits. However, our child "coped" by eating as little as possible. She lost 20 pounds before we finally found help. This was our journey:
Although everyone talks about how evil health insurance companies are, I need to tell you that ours was super helpful and caring and understanding. They covered all of our child's hospitalizations and medication and therapists. Sadly, they did not cover nutritionists. We realized going in that we were going to be paying out of pocket for this, but the alternative would be to allow our child to slowly starve as body dysmorphia controlled reality.
I searched for a nutritionist that dealt with eating disorders. There weren't very many. When I found one that did, I made an appointment and poured out our story. She was very kind, she totally understood, having lived with an eating disorder herself, but she couldn't help. She wasn't licensed to treat patients with eating disorders. I cried. That may not mean much unless you know how I hate crying, especially in front of others. But I ugly cried with grief, frustration, anger and fear. How was I going to keep my child from wasting away?
Joining an eating disorder support group online was an inspired move. I wouldn't have known what to do without their advice, pep talks, and support. Everything I read said eating disorders had to be hit HARD. I found a place in Austin that specialized in eating disorders. Macallum Place was our answer. I remember when we visited, I hoped we could do outpatient, from 3pm to 5 pm Monday through Friday and all day Saturday, but after speaking with them, realized we had to do their all-day program in order to eradicate this very insidious mental illness. Dan was on a business trip and I didn't feel I could handle dropping the news that we were going to "hospitalize" our child yet again. My support group was there for me. I am SO grateful to this day for those faceless strangers who became my lifeline during that really dark time.
Once we did the paperwork, the hard part really began. Dan would make the drive to Austin in the morning before going to work to drop our child off and I would leave work at 2:30 every day for the pick up. Between us, we basically spent 6 hours on the road every day. I can't even remember how in the world we did weekends. But we did this for months. MONTHS! The toll fees alone mounted into hundreds of dollars. Our insurance company didn't bat an eye. In May, our child finally reached the weight requirement and graduated from Macallum, a place that holds good memories for our family. The staff helped us find a nutritionist (still not covered by insurance) as well as a therapist so we could transition away from such intensive therapy.
It's almost two years later. Things are stable. Eating isn't an issue. Yes, I still get triggered when our kid picks at the meal or won't eat everything, or chooses to drink a Boost if dinner doesn't sit well (it happens VERY infrequently). We're all still here. Things are much better. Not all the parents on my support group had such happy endings, so this was miraculous. I count this as a blessing.