Desperate Diets: Cassie's Family

Dividing the Family
Dr. Phil speaks with girls putting their lives at risk to be skinny.
Cassie loves her family and is aware of the rift she has caused. That's why she moved out of her parents' house three years ago. "I feel that I caused so much tension between my family that I feel like they deserved some time without me," says Cassie, remembering the worst fight she had with her mother, Jackie: "One particular night, she was trying to make me drink orange juice and I just flipped out; anybody trying to put one bit of calories near me. And the next thing I know, I've slammed her glasses off her head and just hit her. That was definitely the lowest point and the worst day I've ever had," she says, crying.

Cassie summarizes how her family feels: "Mom is fed up with trying to do anything because she's tried to fix me for eight years and she hasn't been able to so she's just run out of energy. My sister, Ellie, really resents me. I've caused Mom and Dad to fight; she's ended up having to be the one to keep the peace. I really want to be her big sister and be an example for her, and now I'm a really bad example for her and I think I've just made things really hard for her."
Cassie's family speaks out. "I really don't know that I could actually live with her anymore," says her mother, Jackie. "Because every time she goes near a bathroom, I want to scream. I want to put my fist through a window because I know she's purging and I just cannot bear it. She doesn't even see that she's unwell now. To her, this is standard behavior, to purge and vomit. It doesn't matter what happens in the world or in her life or in our family; nothing is bigger than her losing weight."

Cassie's father, Paul, admits he was in denial about his daughter's problem. "My wife and I do differ on Cassie's state. She watches Cassie like a hawk whereas I tend to ignore it," he says. "The one thing that I want Cassie to know is I love her, pure and simple."

Cassie's 17-year-old sister, Ellie, offers her viewpoint. "Her obsession to be thin causes a lot of conflict in the family. Everything is focused on Cassie and what you can and can't say around her," she says. "Her body is disintegrating on her. I don't think she can take much more and I don't think we can either."

"The main reason I wrote to Dr. Phil is I want my family to heal as a whole," says Cassie, admitting, "I'll never understand until I'm a parent one day how it must feel to see your child actually self-destruct."
Cassie's closest friend, Bianca, is also deeply concerned.

"Cassie's eating disorder is way more severe than a lot of people comprehend," says Bianca. "After she's eaten, she will sit there and constantly be swallowing because the food is starting to come back up. She says to you, 'I don't vomit up my food anymore.' She's lying." Bianca says she found laxatives hidden in Cassie's
bed. "I worry about Cassie all the time. I just want to grab her and shake her. I just want her to be better. My greatest fear is that she's going to die. I constantly feel that I'm trying to help Cassie and it's just really, really draining." Bianca begins to cry. "It's so hard," she says.
After seeing the interview with Bianca, Cassie is moved to tears. "It upsets me," she says. "Bianca and I have a really honest relationship, but I didn't know it was upsetting her so much. And I don't think that I realize how much people care about me sometimes. And I don't think I realize how much I'm affecting people's lives. That I'm making their lives harder than if I didn't have this problem."
Dr. Phil grabs Cassie's hand, leads her over to her family, and says, "You say you don't think about what it does to other people." He asks Jackie, "What are you thinking about your daughter at this point?"

"Just how much I love her," says Jackie. "And how much we all want her to get well. I don't want her to live her life in the toilet."

"Do you realize that her life is at risk here?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Absolutely. That's why we've come across the world to see you," says Jackie.

"What would it do to you, as her mother, if you have to bury her soon? Tell her what it would mean if you find that she's had a heart attack and has died and they call you from the hospital and she is gone," says Dr. Phil.

Cassie and her mother both start crying. "It would kill me," says Jackie. "And it would kill your father."Dr. Phil asks Paul about his denial of Cassie's problem. "Look at her and tell her what you see and hear," he says.

"I see a beautiful girl who's putting her life at risk all the time, every day. Who thinks she's controlling her life, and isn't controlling it at all. It's out of control," says Paul.

Dr. Phil addresses Cassie's sister, Ellie: "You resent getting pushed to the side and her consuming all the family energy. What do you want for her?"

"I want her to get better. That's all. I hate seeing her in this much pain. Her life just revolving around it and affecting everyone. I just want her to be happy," says Ellie.

"Tell her what you want her to do," instructs Dr. Phil.

"Get better, Cass. Get happy."

"Do you miss your sister? Do you miss the real Cass? Tell her."

Ellie breaks down. "I just want you to be your old self," she says, crying.

"I don't know what that is anymore," says Cassie.

Dr. Phil turns to Cassie: "Do you want me to allow you to continue to do what you're doing, or do you want me to use every skill, every ability, every resource I have to pull you out of this black hole before we bury you?"

"I want to use every resource. I just can't do it alone," says Cassie.

"Then you look me in the eye right now and you tell me, 'Do not leave me behind.'"

"Do not leave me behind, please," says Cassie. "All the doctors I've seen just give up on me. They throw their hands up in the air and say, 'I don't know what to do.' I know I need to put my trust in someone and I need to put in some effort and I'm willing to do that now. And I ask you, don't leave me behind."
Dr. Phil spells it out for Cassie: "You understand that when you say that, I am going to do just that. I will do whatever is necessary to get you treatment, to get you care, to get you where you don't have a distorted body image, get you where you recognize all the gifts, all the skills, all the abilities that define you and stop being so superficially consumed that you're worried about your weight because the rest of us couldn't give a tinker's damn what you weigh, girl."

The audience applauds.

"We're going to get you help, but you cannot run, you cannot hide and you cannot lie."
"I know," says Cassie. "I'm tired of running and hiding and lying. I want to deal with it, I truly do. I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to."

"We got a deal?" Dr. Phil asks.

"We got a deal," Cassie agrees, and gives Dr. Phil a hug.