At just 14 years old, Jill was a very active and accomplished teenager; she played basketball, soccer, ran track, sang in the choir, played the flute, and had exemplary grades. Everything seemed perfect for her. However, an eating disorder that ramped up quickly and erupted over just two months stopped her in her tracks.
Eating Disorders Take Control
Like many high school girls, Jill felt subconscious that others were judging her body. She was slimming down during her first try at track season, and she liked it. Her mom said, “As a busy athlete, it was natural for her to lose weight. She has always had a powerful body.” Jill began eating healthy and following a strict meal plan to maintain her weight. She also joined her elite soccer club over the summer on a trip to Europe, as she steadily increased her exercise routines, all of which led to increased weight loss. Jill liked her slimmer body, but her increased activity and calorie restriction had begun to take a dangerous turn.
As her weight loss increased over a couple of short summer months when she was out of the school year routine, Jill’s parents became increasingly concerned about their daughter’s health. They took her to a local counselor who ran tests and began working with her regarding her weight. A routine test detected a low heart rate and Jill was immediately sent to the ER and then to a hospital that was 3 hours away. At this time, Jill needed extensive help for her eating disorder. Diagnosed with anorexia, she was admitted to inpatient care that specialized in eating disorders, as well as self-harm. “When admitted to the behavioral hospital ward, we had no idea our 14-year-old daughter would be stripped away from us and that is exactly what it felt like. While she made good progress at the hospital, Jill was frightened and our entire family was traumatized,” shares her mother. She was in a complex hospital environment that was sterile with women and girls that struggled across the entire spectrum of eating disorders and self-harm.
What is anorexia?
Anorexia is a serious mental health condition characterized by weight loss. Individuals with anorexia will typically restrict calories and the types of food they eat. Additionally, compulsively exercising is common for those with anorexia. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental health condition, with an estimated 10-20% dying from complications related to the disorder.
Some signs and symptoms of anorexia include:
- Weight loss is often but not always noted
- Becoming withdrawn
- Exercising excessively
- Feeling cold due to lack of body fat
- Muscular weakness
- Preoccupation with food, calories, recipes
- Unusual eating habits (i.e. cutting food into tiny pieces, picking at food)
- Noticeable discomfort around food
- Complaining of being “too fat”, even when thin
- Restricting food choices to only diet foods
- Guilt or shame about eating
- Depression, irritability, mood swings
- Evidence of vomiting, laxative abuse, diet pills or diuretics to control weight
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss
- Frequently checking the weight on a scale
- Fainting spells and dizziness
Selah House Offers Hope
After eight days in inpatient care, Jill did make progress. She gained a little weight and her strength had improved. The insurance company indicated that she was out of danger and could go home to continue her recovery. “She came home for two weeks and we worked together as a family to manage her care. Jill was thrilled to be at home but still struggled and we struggled to support her. She was compliant with the expectations that were laid out for her. We continued to work with therapists and counselors to get Jill healthy again, but she began gravitating towards foods that were branded as “thin” and we knew we needed more.”
Selah House was different from the hospital setting; it offered Jill and her family a welcoming environment. Although it took a few days to adjust, they all knew they had made the right decision.
“Selah House was warm and loving. They wanted to laugh with her, cry with her. Selah House was an instant sisterhood,” shares Jill’s mom.
At Selah House, Jill could wear clothes that she felt comfortable in and she felt secure in the environment. Individual and group sessions allowed her to do projects, such as art, that spoke to the person she was. The patients were in her teenage age group and she could relate to their issues. A major difference at Selah House is the adolescent program, which allows our dedicated resource to work directly with the school to help clients stay current on their studies while they are in treatment. For Jill, this helped her focus and stay on track academically, and she still felt connected with her school.
Over a course of seven weeks, Jill’s family visited her regularly for extended periods on the weekend and could see the difference Selah House was making in her life. They were allowed to talk with her every evening. Selah House offers personalized care and recovery for each client. Jill’s family could see that as she moved forward, the team at Selah House was there to help her take her next step. They also helped her family take critical steps forward to support her return home.
“I could see the difference in her when I would visit. They gave her goals but were beside her to help her achieve those goals. At Selah House, our daughter felt like she was part of the family with the girls and the staff. They taught us, as parents, how to be firm but loving, which has helped with the transition home. Now that she has left Selah House, she still struggles some, but she is motivated, and she knows what she needs to do.”
At Selah House, we believe that you can achieve recovery and find sustained freedom from your eating disorder. We provide girls and women, Christ-centered, clinically excellent care using evidenced-based interventions that contribute to overall health, wellness, and ultimately recovery. Selah House offers multiple levels of care (inpatient, residential and partial hospitalization) and a step-down process for a stable transition after treatment. For more information about our program, please call our admissions team or complete our contact form. We are here for you and believe in your recovery.
Let all that you do be done in love. I Corinthians 16:14