I am back. Six days away from L and anorexia. Actually, switching off was easier than I thought. I decided that as I could do nothing, that my calls to L would avoid any discussion of food, of eating or of anorexia. The only exception was asking her about the weigh in, and of course, she lost weight. Away at work for a week, in an environment where everyone wants your view, where there are endless queries, requests, problems to resolve, where I am on duty from waking up to going to sleep, it proved quite easy to forget about anorexia. Very few of the people there had any idea, and it almost felt as if life was normal and as it used to be. L and I spoke on the phone, about school or how she was and what was happening and it felt as if anorexia was a dream, a memory or history.
But now I am home and it is anything but a dream. Having found a pattern and a way of just about coping, I now have to learn all over again. These are the things I had forgotten.
How thin she is. I know this is about her mind and how she feels, but the physical evidence of her small, wasted frame feels unbearable. I hug her on my return for a long time and I think how my arms can wrap further around her each time and wonder if one day she will disappear altogether
Her fear of food – a single question about what she might eat sets a panicking response across her face, furiously calculating how little she can eat and avoid being pressurised to eat more.
How this affects all of us, her sister is worried and tells me how L didn’t eat much when I was away and how hard it must be for her sister to see this happen.
The feeling of swimming against the tide – everywhere there is advice on calories, healthy eating, warnings of obesity or celebrations of weight loss. The new regulations which make it compulsory to print calories mean that both L and I scan menus anxiously, with her working out how each item will add up.
I know it will take me only a short time to remember all of this and how each day I will learn more about anorexia and its hold on L and that I will probably learn more about myself too. I have found reserves of patience I believed I never had, because I know I have to wait for L to want to be well rather than making her well myself. I have learned not to blame myself and that I might help L if I can learn to love the way I look rather than engaging in that self loathing behaviour that we do so well as women. But for today, I just want to be with L and her sister, to do the things we do together. Perhaps anorexia can wait until Monday.