After a year of being bullied, he had to be hospitalized for an eating disorder
Deirdre Fell-O’Brien’s son Liam loves soccer, bike riding, and watching football with his dad. But throughout his seventh-grade year, he grew depressed and developed an eating disorder that resulted in long-term hospitalization — all because of bullying he was experiencing at school.
Fell-O’Brien says her son turned 13 last month and should be enjoying middle school life, but instead is being treated for depression and an eating disorder at a nearby medical center. She shares that he’s been there for five weeks, which means he’s missing out on not just school, but family life. “He hasn’t been home or slept in his bed. He hasn’t been able to watch football with his dad.”
The mom explains that Liam started off seventh grade happily, with plenty of friends, an active social life, a taste for cowboy sandwiches, and a spot on the soccer team. “He made the 7th grade soccer team and was so happy and proud.”
But after the season was over and winter came, Liam gave back his iPhone. “He said, ‘Too much drama Mom.'”
Instead of hanging out with friends, he started staying home. There was an incident at the end of the school year where Liam came home upset that he’d been punched on the way to the bus, but he couldn’t name the person who did it and there were no cameras to catch it.
The school year ended and Liam made the soccer team again, but Fell-O’Brien says, “he didn’t pick up the soccer ball for the rest of the summer.” He spent a few weeks with his dad at the racetracks in Saratoga, and that’s when his eating habits changed. He would only eat one meal each day.
“I kept trying to talk with him,” she writes. “What is going on? ‘Nothing Mom, I’m fine.’ I took him to the doctor and he had lost about 10 pounds since June. Two days later he was admitted to Cohen’s Children’s Hospital.”
Liam was unhappy at the hospital and begged to return home and to school, a move his mom also thought best. She met with guidance counselors and the nurse to make sure he would be looked after and kept safe. It wasn’t long though, before Liam came home one Friday with a bruise on his face, which he tried to brush off as nothing. But that was his birthday, and while out to dinner that evening, he wouldn’t eat. Fell-O’Brien says her son lost five pounds during his first week back to school. The following Monday, he refused to go.
And that’s when he finally broke down.
“He told me he was bullied terribly in 7th grade. It started when he made the soccer team. Two kids told him he sucked and shouldn’t have made the team. There were unnecessary pushes and kicks. He was told he was weird, he was fat, his freckles were weird, his eyebrows were weird. They used horrible language and called him nasty words. I asked him how often it happened.”
“He looked at me crying and said, ‘Everyday Mom.'”
Liam stopped playing soccer because it was too upsetting after the previous school year, and told his parents about how he got that bruise. It happened in the locker room, where there was no one around to monitor the students. “One of the most vulnerable places for a child is in the Gym locker room. He was not safe as I had been assured he would be. I was told ‘Eyes would be on him.'”
While Fell-O’Brien and her husband initiated an investigation into the incident and dealt with a barely responsive principal, their son was readmitted to the hospital. He had to be moved to a more intensive facility where he had a feeding tube placed and is wearing a heart monitor.
Now Liam is telling his parents more about what he endured throughout his seventh-grade school year and explained that he never said anything because he didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. Meanwhile, the school’s investigation had stalled. “I was told Liam’s perception may have been different from reality,” she writes. “They just couldn’t find evidence that this happened.” This, despite the photo Fell-O’Brien has of the bruising on her son’s face.
She notes that the bullies are all still on sports teams and nothing at school has changed. In fact, they’re currently urging kids to wear orange shirts to show “unity” against bullying. “Seriously? What a crock of shit,” she writes.
Fell-O’Brien tells Scary Mommy that Liam is still in the hospital and has good days and bad, but that all the support he’s receiving via cards and letters of encouragement is helping. “I love him so much and I have to get his story out there because I don’t want another child to feel the way he did,” she says.
His absence is being felt at home, as his sister just celebrated her birthday and he wasn’t there. “It’s been terrible having him so far away…I was all tears singing ‘Happy Birthday’ because Liam wasn’t here and he should be.”
While her son continues to fight to get better, Fell-O’Brien has no plans of stopping the conversation about Liam’s story. “The school has closed their investigation, but this is not over. I want Liam’s story to be heard.”