“Journey” it would seem is the word we use now to describe the experience of living through tough times. I see why, it describes a process which will be challenging, and which will bring us to a different place. Hopefully a better one, but not necessarily. The problem though, is that with most journeys, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. The journey I’m on feels more like being parachuted into unknown territory and not knowing where I’m supposed to end up or how far away the starting point was.
This is what I know. L has been making herself sick for about a year. Her interest in food seems longer, but I don’t know anymore if it was always a symptom, or if it became one, having first been, well, just an interest in food. She loves cooking, she’s really good at it and I’ve praised her for it, little knowing how it may just have been a ticking time bomb.
I know her BMI is 16. 14 or 15 is critical apparently. I know she has lost 3lb in the last ten days. I know that when she smiles like the old L smiles, that she is lying, hiding something, usually that she has thrown up the food I persuaded her to eat. Is that smile because she’s happy or is it a diversion.
I started this journey, thinking it was just a phase. I made myself believe that because L told me about the vomiting, that she’d be ok. I didn’t realise what a grip anorexia had on her, I didn’t know that it can’t be measured by BMI, but by how loud the voice in L’s head was. I thought she would tell me the truth, I didn’t count on her need to protect others being so strong that she would harm herself. Every day, I become wiser and look back at my stupidity with disbelief, but with regret too. Last night we sat in the kitchen. I’d held L after dinner, talking to her about how she felt, about how well she’d done to eat her meal and how much she deserved to let herself eat. The post dinner storm seemed to have passed. As we sat in the kitchen, L got herself an orange and a biscuit, dunking it in her tea. I didn’t comment, but inside I was punching the air. A whole biscuit that she chose herself! In tea with sugar. And then 45 minutes later, I heard her brushing her teeth in the bathroom. Earlier than usual. She came out of the bathroom, smiled that beautiful big cheesy grin, and I knew what that meant. I spoke to her and at least she only lied once. The old me would have believed her. The new me asked her when she’d last been sick – and heard that on both nights when I’d been away with work, she had been sick.
So if this is a journey, where’s the bloody map? Are we just starting and how long will it be? I know that in the future, the wiser me will know these answers. I know that the journey might be easier if i don’t know how long it is. Patience, everyone will say, is not my virtue. Is that where the word ‘patient’ to describe an ill person comes from? Because it takes time?