Most nights I go to bed with a slight sense of failure. I have a mantra from CAMHS in my head of three meals and three snacks and most days we don’t get there.
Today we did – and this is how it went. Breakfast – L had crumpet and granola with yogurt. Small portions of each – but this is good. Three different foods. At 12 I call her for a snack. Se looks worried. We choose a cereal bar and she eats it. She struggles with her drink, but manages it. I tell her, as gently as I can, that today we are going to get through three meals and three snacks. She seems tearful. I hold her hand and remind her that if she is to get better, it will be hard, that eating only the food she wants will not be enough.
At 2 we have lunch. Soup and bread. This goes ok, until I place her yogurt as a dessert in front of her. She shifts and squirms and says she has eaten a yogurt today. This would seem to mean she can’t have another one. I tell her to choose an alternative. She can’t and I know that food choices are difficult. She finishes the soup but sits in front of the yogurt. Resistant and stubborn. But quiet. I tidy up the lunch things and think what my next move should be. L protests that her sister K never ha to finish her food or have dessert. I ask her why she thinks that is. Se claims not to know. I tell her quietly and firmly that it is because K is not anorexic but L is and that is why. I also remind her that K has made huge efforts to be less fussy. The yogurt sits there. It remains unopened. I take a carton of smoothie and a banana and pear and place them in front of her. I tell her she can choose the fruit, the smoothie or the yogurt. But she must have one of them. I go back to tidying. After a few moments I hear the sound of the smoothie carton being opened. She finishes it and I praise her. She begins to cry. She doesn’t think she can do this. We retreat to the sofa, for Kangaroo time as we call it. K comes in she sits one the other side of me and the three of us hug. We talk about how things are. K tells us she finds mealtimes difficult and it makes her moody and cross. We think about this, wrapped up together on the sofa
At 4 I take L a snack. A slice of fruit toast and some juice. The toast is eaten. The juice sits in the glass. She doesn’t want it. I tell her she must have it and that the only way of not having it is to choose something else. There are more tears. L eventually chooses milk. We go back to the kitchen. She drinks it and it doesn’t seem as hard as I thought. I tell her that drinking the milk makes me more proud of her than if she had climbed Mount Everest. She smiles. Then I tell her some gossip I heard that makes her gasp and laugh and cover her eyes at the potential embarrassment of the person involved. We go back to her room and I change her bed while chatting about other things. At 7.30 we have dinner. A family friend is there. L is withdrawn and sad, but still eats. She chose two potatoes, some stew, and lots of vegetables. She eats over half.
I have arranged after dinner for L to choose a film. She seems unable to choose as she so often does. I think her anxiety levels are so high that making decisions is really difficult. Eventually she chooses a childhood favourite. Her brother watches it with her. She turns it off after a short while and she and I watch a favourite episode of a programme. I bring her a snack – a yogurt and an orange. She eats them. There are no tears.
Sunday nights are tough – the most likely nights for purging. But not tonight. I make up her bed with clean bedding and she thanks me as she always does. She hugs me and tells me I am the best. I tell her she is too. This is our thing now – usually completed by a fist bump.
Three meals. Three snacks. It feels like a marathon and took a lot longer. Most of my day has been spent encouraging and cajoling, thinking and planning. She is drained, as am I. Tomorrow I must work and will not be able to do as much. But today we got to the finish line and this is a huge achievement. One day, which we need to do tomorrow and the next day. I can sleep better knowing we got through.