As well as the Guardian article I read Laura Collins, “Eating with Your Anorexic”, which describes how a mother gives up on the professionals and decides to feed her daughter back to health. She removes choice, makes eating compulsory and gradually her child gets better. Why can’t I do this? Why can I not insist that L eats? I try. This morning, I try again. I make L scrambled eggs. I ignore that she doesn’t want them. She yells at me and runs to the bathroom, screaming. I stand outside and tell her that she will have to come out eventually and she will still have to eat. She comes down, tries to argue, then sits there like she is facing execution. I give her the food and wait. There are tears and I acknowledge that she is upset, but tell her she needs to eat. I win on the food. I lose on the milk.
At lunch I decide to prepare a chicken and couscous salad. She asks for a bacon sandwich. I insist it has cheese and refuse to argue further. She then picks apart the sandwich, scraping off the cheese. I tell her she still has to eat it. She sits there. She puts her head on the table and sleeps. Or pretends to. I look at her, the skeletal frame, her skin seems almost transparent. Part of me wants to cradle and protect her, but another part feels murderous rage. This disease is consuming L, right in front of us and destroying our home. And I can’t beat it – I think I am doing the right thing, but I can see L wasting away. She is such a gentle, kind and thoughtful girl, getting smaller each week, her bones weakening and her heart rate slowing. And yet I cannot encourage, persuade or convince her to eat enough to get well. I go to my room and howl, with rage and despair.