Dana: The 8 year old anorexic

I first saw the documentary Dana: The 8 year old anorexic about 4 or 5 years ago
I remember that it affected me massively so I as was apprehensive as to whether to watch it again when I saw it was on last week
I decided to watch it
Dana was a little girl living in the UK
She was just like every other little girl the world over
Except for one thing
At the tender age of 8 she developed anorexia
She described how at first she gave up sweets
Then all junk food
Then meat
Then food altogether
She also exercised to the point of exhaustion
The documentary followed her as she underwent treatment
A 12 week stay at an in patient centre for children with eating disorders called Rhodes Farm
The other girls described the day Dana arrived
‘A black car pulled up, 2 people got out and then the screaming began, the new girl is here’
After a bumpy start Dana seemed to settle in very quickly and began to eat straight away
She steadily gained weight
It showed Dana’s parents coming to take her out for the day
Part of the deal was that she had to eat a high calorie meal and dessert while out
So determined to pass the test, Dana scraped every last crumb off her plate but when the dessert came she struggled to finish the massive piece of cake and ice cream
I could she that she felt she had to finish every little bit
Her thinking being that if she failed this test, she would have to stay longer in treatment
To my eyes it looked like she was ‘eating to get out’
She was questioned as to why she stopped eating but she couldn’t really give an answer
The other girls expressed concern  that she was holding all her problems in
That she was putting on a brave face
I would have to agree
Like so many of us, she seemed to be wearing a mask
Pretending that everything is ok when it so obviously isn’t
At one point she confessed that she had wanted to die but she didn’t say why
Because she was eating and gaining weight, she left Rhodes Farm after 12 weeks
Her mother said she thought Dana was recovered
That this was just a’blip’
I thought this was a bit naive of her to say as this as we can never underestimate the power of this illness
I hope and pray she’s right though

Part of me was shocked that Dana developed anorexia so young but part of me wasn’t
In this day and age it’s near impossible to escape the message that thin equals happiness and success
We see it in magazines, on the tv, on the internet
If Dana was struggling to cope it is easy to see why she turned to food
We are fed the message that losing weigh will solve our problems
Help us become pretty, popular and loved
I think back to my own childhood and I see that at first I turned to food to help me deal with life and as I got older I turned away from it
Too young to take drink or drugs, food is the nearest mood altering chemical to hand
Eating becomes a comfort
Then not eating becomes a comfort

It broke my heart watching this documentary
Dana obviously was in a lot of pain but it was never really explored
To my mind she left Rhodes Farm with the same problems she went in with
The only difference was now she was at a healthy weight
But gaining weight does not mean we are recovered
Yes, it is an essential part of recovery but it is exactly that, part
The real work happens in our minds
Changing our way of thinking
Changing our beliefs about ourselves
Learning to like and accept ourselves no matter what the number on the scale says
You can be a healthy weight but still have a very anorexic way of thinking
As I have often said I was just as sick at my highest weight as I was at my lowest weight

One the girls in the documentary was called Georgie
She was painfully honest
She said she looked at other girls leaving Rhodes Farm and she thought they looked fat
She said she liked her bones
Some of the girls described anorexia like another voice in their heads
One that must be obeyed
This is a great description, anorexia is like another person and I guess the reason why so many of us personify it
I call my anorexic voice anamia, a mixture of anorexia and bulimia

Dana is a young teenager now, maybe 13 0r 14
I wonder how she is today?
I wonder how all the girls from the documentary are?
The reality is that some of them will have recovered, some of them will still be in their illness and some of them will have died
It’s a game of Russian roulette
I hope that because they caught Dana’s anorexia so early that she will have a better chance of recovery
But it’s sad to think of her having to fight this for the rest of her life
I hope and pray it was, as her mother said, a ‘blip’ but I fear that it could have been the beginning of a life long battle
For anorexia is very powerful
It is literally a fight for your life
And no one can help
Getting well is solely down to the one person who doesn’t want to get well
Getting well physically can take months
Getting well emotionally and mentally can take years
Getting over it completely can take a lifetime
And the cruel thing is we never get to enjoy the one thing we crave the most, being thin, because we never believe we are thin enough
And like any addiction, there is always the chance of relapse which can hit you like a punch in the stomach
I don’t believe we ever fully recover
Again like anyother addiction, it is always there is the background but we learn to manage it
Like taming a wild animal, you can train it but there is always the possibility that it will bite you one day

I thought the documentary was well made and gave a realistic picture of eating disorders and their recovery
But anyone watching could see that Dana was not even nearly recovered
Her mother was so positive and so hopeful and that will help but it won’t make Dana better
The only negative about the documentary was that it showed some of the girls weights
I don’t need to tell you how triggering that is
When ever I read a book or watch a documentary about eating disorders, I always hone in on the numbers and focus on them and compare myself
I think numbers shouldn’t be included as it is not necessary, we don’t need to know specific weights

Has anyone else watched this documentary?
What did you think?

Ruby x

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3 thoughts on “Dana: The 8 year old anorexic

  1. I haven’t seen this documentary… I tend to agree with you though… I wonder if there is full recovery or just ways to manage… Now that I am on the path of being clean from my other addictions, I have come to exercise a lot and watch every single thing I eat… Just another way to manage…. My little girl is overweight but I try not to push her about it… I don’t want her thinking she is wonderful as she is… and she is… I don’t want her to think she will have to do whatever to become thin… I certainly need to be a better example…. you are a wonderful writer Ruby :)…. On Friday, it will be 49 days for me, yay!!!

  2. I haven’t seen that documentary but I loved that you said we never really enjoy what we desire which being thin because we never believe we’re thin enough I remember even in the depths of anorexia when it almost killed me I never enjoyed it all and when I “recovered” It was just because I needed everyone to get off my back which is similar to what you Said about Dana her eating to get out. I also began to eat whatever my parents made for me because I didn’t trust myself because of the distorted view I had/have of my body people were telling me I’m too thin so I decided to put my trust in them.

    I don’t think we can ever fully recovery as well because a person needs food to survive, you come face to face with your disorder every single day more than once a day unlike drugs or alcohol were you’ll have to completely avoid the stuff.

  3. i saw it and watched it to trigger myself in the early days of illness… I felt so sorry for those poor little girls, playing with fire. And it hurt that I couldn’t get to their weights, but as I’m more than twice her age how could I? It hurt, a lot of that programme hurt. It was like watching someone be tortured twice over.

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