I recently took on a client that I would have never expected. She didn’t fit into my usual remit but her father was desperate and didn’t know where to turn for help.
This client was a teenage girl suffering from anorexia. She had undergone a dozen different counsellors over several years with no success. She had been systemised by society and the mechanical process that the medical profession had adopted. Her language was very factual and it was clear that she was telling me information that she thought I wanted to hear.
I’m not a trained counsellor but I am a qualified coach and my heart stretched out to this vulnerable child that had grown up far too quickly. She was in turmoil and had lost her innocence to a monster that she didn’t even understand. Her parents naturally wanted to protect their daughter and cocooned her from any harm that they could image.
It became clear to me that the process of protection, was also taking away any choices she had. It left the only control which she had “food”. She is an extremely intelligent girl who managed to control her calorie intake to the minutest detail. She had self-harmed out of frustration and her condition, although somewhat stable at this point, was far from where she needed or wanted to be. She had realized that her body was under-developed and would cause serious medical conditions in the long-term.
I couldn’t believe that the medical profession had let her down by not exploring the motives for change. They had “told” her what she should do and even “frightened” her with the dire outcomes of continuing this path, but never once asked her how she felt. They failed to highlight the positive emotions that make us all enthusiastic enough to change. Everyone that was trying to help her was just suffocating her spirit and branding her with a generic label that she didn’t want. It was becoming a self-prophecy of the box she had been put into.
I got to know this very clever girl and learnt to respect her views. Although the system had made her grow up very quickly, she was still a little girl inside and wanted to have the freedom of adolescence. Sure she would make mistake but she needed to have choices, she needed to have fun. She had lost confidence with her peer groups and couldn’t develop friendships, but she recognised what was holding her back. She had a vision of how she wanted to look, what she wanted to achieve and what the future would look like.
I gave her the trust that she was the best person to design her life and offered the support to get her there. I expanded her list of choices and gave her a focus greater than food. I wanted her to explore a new life ruled by her heart rather than her head. I wanted excitement to prevail over her stifling logic and I wanted to give her permission not to be perfect.
This is still a work in progress but I’m optimistic about the outcome. She is so much more positive about life and is getting healthier each day. I have changed her mind-set and improved her wellbeing. My heart fills with joy listening to her enthusiasm and watching her progress.
I wanted to update this post and share with you the outcome of this case. I will never disclose the identity of her, but I felt it important to bring this to a conclusion. A year has passed and along the way she has gain 2 stone in weight and at the age of 17yrs had her first period. She is healthy, happy and successfully riding her horse to win rosettes in the local county show. I am so proud of what she has achieved in such a short space of time.
I will always be her support at the end of the phone if she ever doubts her resolve, but she is strong willed and determined so I've no need to wait for her call. Onwards and upwards .............