I went back to work today after three weeks off on leave. Yesterday, we had a discussion between C, K, J and I about helping L. We agreed the ground rules of taking away all decisions, insisting on finishing and stopping life until food is finished. I called up at lunchtime to find she had gone out with her dad for a while. I was reassured that J was with them and confident he would push L to do the right thing. As I came home, L told me she and her dad were planning an outing tomorrow, perhaps just the two of them. I smelled avoidance strategies.
So this evening, I invited her father over to discuss J’s university arrangements – his father is his primary carer yet has somehow missed the fact that loans needed to be requested or accommodation booked. We filled in forms and I helped them with the guidance notes, all the while J humming away to Holst’s Planet Suite and chatting to his father about the Proms. J’s uncle called their dad while this was happening and they conducted a shouting conversation about a particular film the three of them MUST see this week, on a DVD. As if DVDs have an expiry date. Then I talk to him about L. She intends to spend the night at his house before their outing. I write down a list of everything she must eat from waking up, to coming back here. I specify how much should be in each portion and reinforce that she must not leave anything. I refrain from asking, even politely, whether it might be possible for him to put down his blackberry while I speak or make any kind of eye contact. K, my lovely assistant packs bread, yogurts, juice and cheese as these items are missing from his house. L becomes increasingly distressed and runs to the loo. Still the blackberry scrolling is more interesting. J is aware of her distress and I follow her. You can stand at the door of the downstairs loo without seeing the person on it and I stand there telling her I want to keep her safe. There is silence, but then I hear a quiet sob. L is not on the loo, but sitting there, tear-streaked and shaking. I hug her. I suggest her father comes to see her. She shakes her head. Her father cannot see her like this. For him, she is always cheerful, laughing at his weak jokes and offering to cook for him or do things with him. I suggest she comes and sits back at the table, but she refuses. Eventually, I tell her father that tomorrow is too much for her. But really we both know she planned an escape from the routine and the escape route was blocked. She cries, once again in my arms and I stroke her hair. Her father leaves and she recovers enough to smile and hug him. I grit my teeth and say nothing, until a whispered invective outburst to C later. Anorexia is foiled, but it is L who feels trapped