Anorexia/bulimia – a real life story – Part 2

A Real-Life Story – part 2 of 2 | read part one here

The Death of a Daughter. Bad Professional Advice

One Sunday night Lynn Carpenter came upon her daughter Sheena purging in the bathroom and grew frightened. She phoned the doctor on call and was adamant that Sheena receive treatment right away. But when she brought Sheena to the regular family doctor a couple of days later, he dismissed the seriousness of Sheena’s eating disorder. “He told us that we caught it in time and assured me that Sheena would work it out,” says Carpenter.

Looking back now Lynn reflects that “If only I had have followed my own instincts and gotten Sheena the intensive therapy she needed, who knows what would have happened? Instead, I took my doctor’s advice; I’ll never forgive myself for that.”

Sheena needed therapy but the Carpenter family doctor merely instructed the young woman to gain twenty pounds. Sheena followed the doctor’s order, but without any other supportive help, the restricting and purging continued.

Sheena’s world became even more isolated and involved with anorexia/bulimia and bulimia. She spent hours studying cook books. She became an expert on ingredients and their exact caloric count. At grocery stores, she could become transfixed for ten minutes or longer while holding a piece of fruit or vegetable.

At home, her mother became increasingly frustrated and distraught. “She would just move her food around the plate, or, she would chew, then put it in a napkin. I never knew when I would find regurgitated food somewhere in her room. It was very disruptive to our family life…,” she says, her voice trailing off.

Eventually Lynn began therapy to try and make sense of Sheena’s disordered eating. “I went because I couldn’t cope with Sheena’s eating disorder and because I didn’t understand it. The therapy helped me a little, but it wasn’t enough.”

Lynn tried to bribe her daughter to get some help and at one point Sheena was enrolled in a hospital out-patient program. But Carpenter feels as though Sheena only agreed to please her mother; she soon dropped out of the program.

Sheena continued to get sicker. One day, at 57 pounds, she lost total control of her bodily functions and then went into seizure. This landed her in the hospital and eventually onto the hospital’s psychiatric ward.

At first Carpenter was grateful. She thought her daughter would finally get the help she needed, or at the very least, the experience would scare her so much that she would then agree to do anything to ensure she would never end up in a hospital again. However neither happened. “She would call me saying ‘why mom… why are you doing this to me?'” Sheena finally agreed that if the hospital stopped the forced feeding, she would eat on her own. But she was made to eat in front of the nurses’ station. The staff locked the washrooms, to prevent purging.

Sheena pleaded with the doctor in charge of her care to start therapy but according to Lynn Carpenter her daughter’s pleas were in vain. “Basically, the doctor said the body had to be healthy before the mind could be healthy,” Lyn explains. Three months into the hospital stay, distressed and distraught, Lynn accepted her daughter’s request to leave.

When Sheena’s doctor finally called Lynn, she told him:

“There was no way Sheena should have been on the same ward as patients with other kinds of mental illness. Anorexia/bulimia is just not like any other kind of illness.”

On the advice of a therapist, Sheena moved into her own apartment. Although she was only fifty-five pounds she got a job as a security guard. Again Lynn believed that Sheena was showing signs of improvement. But after a few days when her calls were not returned, Sheena’s mother got worried and went over to see if her daughter was allright. She found twenty-two-year-old Sheena lying dead on the kitchen floor.

Carpenter was devastated; she simply couldn’t believe that Sheena had died. “She was so strong minded. She never believed she would die from anorexia/bulimia. She would always say to me ‘mama, this will never take me away.’ I wondered how many other mothers have wanted to believe this hopeful message. I only wish I had followed my gut, gotten help earlier, let her stay at home, and followed my own advice.”

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