I came into the world of anorexia when I was 12 years old. My sister who was 5 years older had a best friend, Laurie, come home from college with her after her first year. She was in my sister’s room helping her to paint it from a lavender purple to a light blue. Her jeans were hanging off her slim non-existent hips, wearing such a large t-shirt it was hard for me to understand why she was wearing it. She went back to college to return home for Christmas break looking so emaciated it was difficult to look at her. She returned to college, never to came home again. She had contracted pneumonia with her body so malnourished from the anorexia, she succumbed to the illness. She was 18 years old.
As sad as it is to know that an 18 year old college student needlessly passed away, it is terrible to know the staggering to realize that between 1995 and 2006 anorexia has jumped by over 119%. Worse many more younger children are affected by this horrific illness of the mind, starting as young as 8 years old. One would have to assume that this has little to do with fear of maturing given that they are still kids. At this age the development of the mind is still very concrete, taking information in quite literally. Being a hypnotist, working in the unconscious mind, that part of the mind that is literal, one needs to be very careful with the languaging that is used while one is in a hypnotic trance state, which is the state these kids are in 24/7.
Also as a hypnotist, I am well aware that the prime directive (main purpose) of the unconscious mind, is to protect the conscious mind from dealing with whatever may be too upsetting for it to know, even if the behavior is self-destructive. This is indeed the reason for repressed memories. With this in mind it is important to look beyond the presenting problem of the issues of the repulsion of food for the anorexic and the compulsion to eat of the bulimic. These behaviors “numb” out the feelings, getting rid of the unwanted negative thoughts telling the child that they are “to stupid, “unworthy of eating”,”unworthy of love”, or worse “unworthy of life”. Many of my clients speak of not even knowing why it is that they are even alive, many thinking that dying would be a better way to go given the emotional pain that they experience every single day. Also, do understand that for some anorexics, the starvation itself creates the release of the dopamine that results in “numbing” the mind from the constant negative chatter that is heard in the mind.
Until my eating disorder clients started showing up, I never realized how demeaning and rigid the treatment places were in dealing with their rather frail patients. No one goes to an in-patient unit unless it is seen as necessary. I looked into eating disorder treatment centers and the backgrounds of those who run them. Where I thought I would find some sort of formal training in the condition, none was to be found.There really is no underlying educational component involved to help work with this all too often fatal disease.Some people get involved with it because they have had the issue themselves. Some because their kids have gotten through it, the parents thinking they have found a better answer
The one over arching plan of action in these so-called treatment centers is the belief that if the child gets their weight up to “normal” they will be fine, as if the idea of being fat, and feeling gross upon the child leaving will set them up for success. If one looks up eating disorders on the internet, one will find many places where it is noted that the eating disordered person is looking for ways to “fake” their way through treatment to get out. They just want to live the way they know, feeling in control, even if it is really the illness that is in control of them. The clients who get better do ultimately come to this conclusion.
I would like to submit that one doesn’t just come down with this sort of deadly illness. There are always larger reasons why something like this is able to take hold. Though I am not in the business of blaming the family for the illness, I am in the business of seriously looking deep inside to figure out what sort of messaging was given at an early age in an effort to heal those hurt feelings. This will allow the family to feel healed, whole and complete. One needs to remember that the unconscious mind of a child under the age of 9 is unable to reason, rationalize or judge what a person in authority is saying, taking it in just as it is said. That doesn’t mean that because a parent said something that the child took in as hurtful is the cause of the problem. Rather,it is to become more aware of how we interact with the younger among us to negate this sort of unintentional degradation of self to occur as best we can. We are all human and as such all have our bad days.
Dr. James M. Greenblatt who wrote Answers to Anorexia: Breakthrough Nutritional Treatment that is Saving Lives also has a very important angle on the whole eating disorder issue. He states, rightfully so, that when one is malnourished the mind is unable to process information “normally” with the neurotransmitters and hormones being thrown out of balance. Therefore, it is very important to get the correct nutrition into the child, to allow the brain to function as it should.
My main issue with many of the treatment centers out there based on my clients negative response to them, is that they operate as rigidly as the mind of an eating disordered patient. This is the same person who is already tearing themselves down with a constant barrage of negative commentary inside the mind. Knowing this, it is my belief that goal needs to be opening up the eating disordered clients world. This is done by being more flexible, allowing for more choices, while learning to listen to their own bodies, all the while giving them praise and rewards for working in her own self-interest toward healthier living.This isn’t allowing them to manipulate the caregiver as they will do in every way they know how. It is to say, that being one step ahead holding them responsible for their double talk, while teaching them appropriate boundaries with others is much more helpful for them to navigate the world they live in outside of a treatment center. In short, they need to emotionally mature to equal their chronological age in order to “fit in” with others, one of the main complaints of this population.
The best way I know to get them to achieve good health on the mental and emotional level is for them to create their own “compelling future”, something that has more emotional significance to them than remaining ill as they get all the attention, even if negative, from being ill.
One way to get a teen-ager to gain weight is to let her know that those healthy babies that she so desperately believes she would like to have, will be possible only if she is healthy herself and able to nourish the developing fetus. Of course we don’t want young kids to get pregnant too early. However, the point here is to be aligned with the one thing that the client truly desires in life and work from there to help her to get her health back.
With this in mind, I am in the process of raising money through my indiegogo campaign which you can learn more about and contribute to at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/healing-eating-disorders-in-teens-and-children to develop a program to help the families of eating disordered kids to better understand the illness while helping them to heal.
This is so important because we are losing some of the smartest, most creative kids at such an early point in life, they don’t even know who they are, never mind what they would like to be when they grow up. It is through helping the families heal that the kids will be able to get well in a much more loving and constructive manner. This is the goal of the project. Please do what you can to help me to help these families save their kids. The research demonstrates that the earlier we get help to these children the better chance they have to become happy, healthy, productively fulfilled adults.
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