When Anna Jones (48) watched daughter Ramona (now 17) develop anorexia at just 12 years old she never dreamed her younger daughter Kiara (now 15) would follow in her footsteps, with devastating consequences…
Sitting in our living room in summer 2006 with my daughters Ramona (then 12, pictured above) and her sister Kiara (then 10, pictured below), I couldn’t help but notice Ramona was looking very thin.
“Have some chocolate, Ramona,” I said, opening a box.
“I’m not hungry,” she replied.
‘Typical teenagers, always on some fad diet,’ I thought.
But soon I noticed her refusing second helpings at dinner and only eating tiny amounts.
“I’m just on a healthy eating kick,” she’d grumble.
She also insisted on skipping round the garden, working up a sweat.
“Ramona, what are you doing?” I shouted out the window.
“Just enjoying some exercise,” she gasped, her chest rising heavily.
Ramona went back to school and within a couple of weeks I received a phonecall from her head of year.
“Mrs Jones, we’ve noticed Ramona has lost a lot of weight and think she may have an eating disorder,” she said.
Panic raced through my body. How could I not have realised?
Picking her up from school, I confronted her about having an eating disorder.
“Don’t be silly mum!” she said defensively.
“Well, I think this has gone far enough,” I whispered.
I frantically dialled the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS), and they told me to explain the need for food and why it was important for Ramona to be honest about what she is eating.
We also contacted the school nurse who told Ramona to keep a food diary and build up her food intake.
Ramona was soon stabilised in her weight and doctors told us that she didn’t need to be hospitalised.
Relief washed over me. My beautiful daughter was going to be ok.
In January, 2008 my family was rocked again when my younger daughter Kiara was diagnosed with having ME.
It’s a debilitating condition which meant that she was bed bound for months.
Kiara had to take steroids and I gave her energy shakes to top up her levels, but, every night I’d see her slumped in her bed.
As the months progressed Kiara regained her strength, but her weight had gone up from eight to nine and a half stone because of the steroids and she began exercising heavily.
I was just glad she could do normal activities again like other girls.
But in August 2008 I noticed she was looking very gangly, and her cheeks were sunken and pale.
Soon she was refusing to even eat solid food and would only have protein shakes.
“Are you rebelling after your ME?” I’d say, exasperated.
“None of your business!” she’d snarl, clasping her shake defensively.
Three months later Kiara was down to five and a half stone and was too weak to get out of bed.
“Please eat,” I’d beg, tears streaming down my cheeks.
Her eyes would glaze over and a snarl would spread across her face. I was at my wit’s end.
I kept calling CAHMS but they said that because Kiara was refusing help they couldn’t do anything until we called an ambulance for her.
Finally on the 26th November 2008 I was told that a position had come up in Riverside Adolescent Unit, which specialised in eating disorders.
We had to lie to Kiara that she was going on a family day out and we all piled in the car before driving her to Riverside.
“You’ve betrayed me,” she shrieked as tears of anger filled her eyes.
“She’s away with the fairies,” a doctor told me. “Her brain needs sugar and if she hadn’t come in today she would have died,” he said.
Kiara was in there for four months and I gradually saw the colour come back to her cheeks. But back at home I saw that Ramona was now losing weight again.
“Please Ramona, not the both of you, I can’t cope!” I shouted.
Kiara had reached a healthy weight of seven stone and was about to be discharged, and I worried that Ramona would slow down her recovery.
As soon as she was home, Kiara began telling Ramona about some of the tricks the girls used in the eating disorder unit like water loading before weigh-ins or tapping your legs and never sitting down to burn more energy.
It was double trouble and I had to watch them both like a hawk.
I had to stick to some rigid rules like having no individual food cupboards, no diet foods, no chewing gum, no fizzy drinks and we had to watch them eat.
It was hard at times because the girls had learnt to be very sneaky and would coax each other on in their distorted thinking.
But eventually the girls started to encourage each other to eat healthily.
“Don’t weigh your cereal before you eat it,” Ramona will say to Kiara.
All I know is I love my girls more than life itself, our family has been ravaged with these eating disorders but our love for each other has kept us strong.
Ramona is hoping to go to university this year and Kiara is going back to school. Finally, I have my girls back and I will make sure I never lose them again.