Community Magazine

Rhodes Farm

By Rubytuesday
Yesterday, I once again found myself perusing Youtube for ED documentaries
It's becoming something of a Sunday afternoon ritual
I stumbled across one about Rhodes Farm
Some of will know Rhodes farm
It's a treatment center in the UK for children and adolescents run by Dee Dawson

I'm not sure exactly when this documentary was made, I'm guessing the early 90's or even late 80's but I know more recent ones have been made since including 'Dana, the 8 year old anorexic'
Dee described how she used to work in a hospital as a pediatric nurse and saw children coming in that refused to eat
She thought to herself that if she could only bring them home, then she would surely get them to eat
So that's exactly what she did
She opened her home to children and teenagers with eating disorders
Many of whom already had multiple hospitalisations
At first I was watching the footage and there were these tiny children wandering around and I was thinking 'Who are they?'
Then I realised they were Dee's own children
This was literally her home and her family and her patients all lived together
I was also surprised and somewhat perplexed to see Dee breastfeeding one of her children while in a session with parents
But I guess whatever works

We were introduced to a few of the teenagers
Simon really stood out to me
He spoke in a slow drawl and wore raggedy clothes
He was near death when he came to Rhodes Farm and Dee herself admitted he was an extremely difficult case
In his own words he said he was 'worthless'
But his personality shone through and he was so likeable
There was a touching scene with him and Dee's husband trying to cook and burning the food
Simon came across as very troubled
He absolutely hated himself
But even so it was obvious he has amazing potential

Another girl made for heart breaking viewing
Standing at 5'10 she weighed a meagre 41kilos
We saw her talking to Dee and telling her that she thought her mother also had an eating disorder
The girl left Rhodes Farm shortly after because they could not get funding for her stay
She left in the same sorry state the she came in
But the girl I could really identify with was Jackie
A soft spoken red head
At home she studied ballet, the one thing that brought her joy
We saw her watching videos of herself dancing and weeping
She said she felt like no one noticed her at home
She did dangerous things to get attention
I know that I did that as a teenager
Did outrageous things just to be noticed
Negative attention was better than no attention
I thought that Dee's methods really worked
Just the right blend of kindness and discipline
The kids obviously felt comfortable there
The house seemed to have a happy atmosphere and the kids seemed to thrive on this
The one common denominator I noticed with all the kids was that they all came from unhappy homes
Parents fighting
Parents separating
Parents remarrying
These kids felt unloved
Un noticed
In homes where they had no say and no control over what happened, they turned to the one thing they could control
Food became a weapon in a battle against their parents
They said with their bodies what they couldn't verbally articulate
I know my own home was a very unhappy growing up
My parents weren't happy
Us kids were definitely not happy
It's actually very hard to describe how things were then
There was a very tense atmosphere in the house
Largely due to my father
He wasn't physically abusive
But he was a drinker and was emotionally abusive
I remember feeling so unsafe at home
He was just so unpredictable
As I grew in to a teenager and my older siblings left home, I was the only child left
I was caught in the middle of my parents fighting and I hated it
I left home the first chance I got and moved away with my boyfriend
My father is now reaping what he sowed
We left
My mother left
We all moved away
He now lives quite a lonely life
He comes to stay with me a couple of nights a week when my mother is working
They actually swap houses which is kind of strange but it seems to work for them
I'm probably the one who spends the most time with him
Now that I'm an adult I can see that he's not all bad
It's not badness that makes him do the things he does
I actually think it's insecurity and a need for control
Just recently when I was in hospital my mother had helped me to the bathroom
When we came back my father had his hand in my mothers bag and was going through her phone
I was just too weak to say anything
But his heart is in the right place
He does his best to help me and I appreciate that
I guess when you grow up you see that things aren't always black and white
I know my parents did the best they could
They couldn't have foreseen the damage the would be caused
I can now see that just because you're an adult, it doesn't mean you know everything
It doesn't mean you've grown up
It doesn't mean you're mature
Adults are just as lost as teenagers sometimes
I know that Rhodes Farm is still running
Maybe not quite in such a relaxed way as was shown in this documentary given the way that health and safety is these days but I hope still in the happy and homely atmosphere that Dee has created
It gave updates at the end and most seemed to be doing well
I would love to know how these kids are today
A lot of them would be my age now
Statistics show that 1/3 will have recovered
1/3 will continue to struggle, living somewhere in between their illness and recovery
1/3 will never recover
Shocking but true
I just hope and pray that I am one of the 1/3 that do recover

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