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Daughter has mental health issues and is blaming the family
I am looking for some advice.
My adult daughter is suffering an eating disorder and has also recently been diagnosed with anxiety and OCD. She has had a few admissions into a re-feeding program and is currently there again. Every time I speak with her she won't give me any information which I respect however, at the same time she accuses me for not understanding what she is going through. I have offered to see the psychiatrist and/or the psychologist with her or alone to get more information and strategies to help her but she won't share them with me or allow me to speak to them. She tells me it is all because of everything I've said or done in the past and that I don't validate her feelings. It's not that I don't validate them but at times I must admit she does accuse me of things I've said which I haven't. I am more than open to take on her feedback but not when it's outrageous.
I have told her that it may be best I don't be around her at meal time (she tells me I trigger her eating disorder). I should ad that I am a healthy weight but I don't eat large meals as I have a medical condition where I feel better if I eat small meals regularly. She insists I eat a large meal with her but I just can't.
She will contact me when she want's something ($) from me or wants me to do something for her (I never accuse her of this but it makes me feel used). I want to help her and I am trying to understand what she is going through. I feel that she wants me to understand but at the same time shuts me out and shuts me down whenever I try to understand. Has anyone been in either her position or my position, I'd love to hear from you. Thank you in advance.
Thank you for being in our community and reaching out in a really trying situation. Supporting a loved one through something as distressing, distorting and consuming as those disorders can be is not only draining and distressing, but confusing as to what to do next; especially when it can make it so hard for the person themselves to know how to ask for help, and feel safe and heard within that help.
I cannot recommended highly enough our friends over at The Butterfly Foundation, who are dedicated to, and specialised in, these disorders. Hearing out your observations and concerns, I am confident they will be able to give specific and measured advice. Please find them here: www.butterfly.org.au or give them a call on 1800 33 4673.
If you just need to get a little more peace of mind for yourself, do not hesitate to reach out to us here on 1300 22 4636
In the meantime, I have no doubt several of our community members will want to reach out and support very soon. Thank you again for being brave here with us.
Hi Thelma, what you are going through is a very difficult situation and you should be proud of yourself for reaching out and wanting to be a part and improve your relationship with your daughter!
I personally have an eating disorder, ADHD and OCD. I have a friend currently in hospital for an eating disorder and I have experience in the medical profession. Sometimes people will not disclose information to protect others or themselves. It can be hard to talk about, they may not be ready, there can be a lot of shame and guilt and some may feel they want to save/shield others or not burden them, they may fear their reactions and having to manage their own and theirs.
Whilst she is in hospital, she may just need support and may not be able to focus on anything else like fixing things with you. Try to let her focus on herself and put everything aside for now. Focus on positive/fun interactions like bringing games she likes and doing them with her if she wants and has the energy. Let her know she can sit in silence with you, hug, or on the phone or just sitting next to her. Just being there can be a lot of support. Ask her what she wants. Be cautious on how you word your concerns, as it can add to her guilt, try to aim to show love and support and focus on her experience (for example "I would do anything for you not to have to deal with this" instead of "I love you and what you're going through would be really hard and I am here for you in anyway you want me to be"). Recognise she may want to talk about things and if she does, let her whilst remaining calm. Accept that she may have a different reality, you may disagree but you don't always need to discuss that, choose the right moments to discuss things. When she is angry or you, it isn't the time. In those moments, let her talk fully, ask questions to gain understanding, if you do understand tell her you understand (one way that helps is paraphrasing what she has said) and try to stay calm, calmly discuss it and if that cannot be achieved then decide to resume that conversation when both you are both in a better headspace.
Remember that you both can ask what they need, prefer and want and can tell the other. For example if she feels like you don't validate her, ask her how she would like to be validated or if you are feeling want more quality time ask "can we make time to talk or spend quality time together".
*Managing your Own reactions: It is important to express and show emotions and work through them together in the right time. When they disclose information to you, try to stay calm (no matter what they say), supportive and empathetic. Accept that their reality may differ from yours and that they may not want advice.
Consider why you are hurt they contact you only when they want something. Perhaps you want more time with them and for them to call to talk. Remember you can also call them to talk or organise plans. Even adults need their parents, and that is what she is showing by coming back to you, and you by always being there for her and not negatively commenting showing that you are there for her no matter what. Consider and set your own personal boundaries, and your own needs.
Let her know she can come to you for any problem, share anything and you wont judge, you'll support, that you care and love her and just want to be there for her and part of her life. That if you don't understand, that you will try to understand and that you will ask questions if and when she is okay with it to try to gain understanding. Also that she can tell you what she wants- not to talk about it, or to say everything without advice, etc. Whatever you choose to say, only say it if you mean it and can do it.
Perhaps research and understand eating disorders more. Double check/clarify her triggers. It may not be you but certain situations (like meal time). Right now she may need connectiveness. Fear surrounds meal times, and taking shared mealtimes away may not help. Perhaps discuss alternatives, like spending quality time eating at the table, not leaving till everyone's finished (unless they need space) and after do something together, like a puzzle, board game, etc.
You can seek counselling for yourself, without her permission, from a separate counsellor/psychologist. You can get advice about her, and talk about all that you are going through because you are also going through a lot! Remember that what happens in the conversations are confidential and you nor anyone has to tell anyone what happens in those session. It is your safe space, free of judgment. I wish you and her all the best!
Resources: Family Resources for Eating Disorders (PDF).pdf (ucsf.edu) | How to Help Someone with Anxiety | Johns Hopkins Medicine | A Step by Step Guide to Validating Emotions and Feelings | Tuuli Vahtra | ParentToolkit.pdf (nationaleatingdisorders.org)
Hello Thelma, I'm sorry your daughter has these illnesses, and my comments are suggestions as I'm not a doctor.
People can blame their family for having these type of disorders, whether or not it's true, only counselling will divulge the truth and whether you agree is up to you to determine.
Anxiety can create OCD, as I have it myself, and it can make us do things that people who don't have it don't even think of doing and for you to join her in counselling sessions probably won't be allowed because especially if you have OCD there are obsessions/compulsions we don't want other people to know because their reaction may be 'why do you need to do this'.
One way for you to learn more about these disorders is to read up about them yourself, then you will be able to home in on your daughter from another angle, rather than try and learn from her, because she may not tell you the whole truth and remember that everybody can be different.
Hi Thelma K,
Wellcome to our forums!
Im sorry this is happening, I understand it’s difficult.
I think your a great mum for wanting to understand what your daughter is going through……..
I have a lived experience of severe anxiety OCD, I have now recovered from this condition thanks to the professional help I received.
When I was going through OCD I would have horrible distressing intrusive thoughts usually about my loved ones…..
In the beginning of experiencing this disorder I felt like I couldn’t discuss these thoughts with my loved ones because I felt they were horrible and caused me a lot of distress.
On the inside of myself I felt like I was going crazy…. The thoughts would repeat over and over again I would have done any thing to make them stop……… with every intrusive thought my anxiety would sky rocket……. I wouldn’t have wished what I was going through on anyone.
As a mum to your daughter I can only advise you that when she does try to talk to you about what is happening inside her that you just be there for her and just try to understand with no judgment.
I understand when people with OCD do say things the thoughts may see very irrational to the person they are talking to but I believe that this is sometimes the nature of the condition on the inside OCD suffers feel very distressed by their thoughts people who don’t have OCD don’t feel like this from their thoughts.
People with OCD will go out of there way to make sure that nothing bad happens to the people they love……… eg if someone with OCD has violent thoughts, a loved one will go out of their way to hide all of the knives in the house…..
Has your daughter done any therapy for her OCD?
Some people with OCD will have avoidances if they are having thoughts of harming someone they will try to avoid the person…………….. ( even though they would never act out the thought)
I hope that your daughter can find a way forward from what she is going through blaming others won’t help but this is where she is at in her journey………… through therapy she can really learn to challenge these thoughts and realise that blaming others isn’t helpful but instead focus on herself to change from within and this comes from challenging herself.
Its her journey and you can only be there for her as her mum and friend.
Im here if you have any questions
Thank you, yes she is currently getting help and will continue with the help. She does want to get better. She's very up and down. I saw her today and just listened without commenting. It was a good visit. I think regular short visits are best at the moment. I have faith in her that she will recover. In the meantime it's heartbreaking.
I’m so sorry that your daughter is unwell and that you are both in such pain. I know your heartbreak; I felt the same when my daughter was in hospital dealing with OCD, she was just 13 at the time.
As others have said, it really helps to learn as much as you can about her illness. The best thing I ever did was find a counsellor to support me. She helped me to process my own guilt and grief, increased my understanding of OCD and gave me strategies to deal with care/support issues.
The most important lesson I’ve learned over the past decade is to look after myself better. You can’t care for someone else unless you first take care of yourself.
Please try to make time to do something you enjoy every day. Lean on friends and family for support. Try to eat and sleep well. Daily exercise (I just walk) will help, too.
Kind thoughts to you
That’s ok Thelma K I’m always here if you need guidance or support, please ask me anything.
I’m glad you had a good visit and I think it’s really nice that you listened to her.
I remember when I was in the grips of OCD I said some irrational things to my parents…….. a lot of mine where driven by the intense anxiety I was feeling due to the OCD.
I understand your heartbreak Im sure my mum would have felt the same, she could only be there for me……. I had some really emotional times with my mum…… I felt like I was stuck in a black hole but the black hole was the vicious OCD cycle that consumed my mind….. it really was horrible.
My mum would just sit with me sometimes or she’d help me with household things ………. She could see that I wasn’t functioning as I normally would ( I was too busy inside my mind)….. mum just did what she could to help just to make things a little less stressful for me even if it was just washing the laundry.
I really appreciated what my parents did for me during that really hard time of my life….. they would try to build me up even though they could see that I was falling apart.
Hold onto hope because you have hope, hope that your daughter can recover from this with the correct help.
OCD felt like a marathon for me I had lots of ups and downs as your daughter is experiencing but eventually she will have more ups than the downs once she can learn how to master her OCD……… and yes this is very possible to master.
At every phyciatrist appointment I’d have ….. my phyciatrists ending comment was you will master your OCD……… I’d wonder away still stuck in the cycle of OCD because I still had alot of work to do but now I completely understand because I’m now free of OCD it no longer rules my life.
Hang in there your daughter will get there….
Look after yourself aswell……
I found getting out of the house was helpful while I was battling OCD maybe yourself and your daughter could go for a walk in the nature and practice mindfulness..
Ut may even bring you closer together. ❤️