Today I have no time for eating disorders. Anorexia eats up most of my waking hours, as it does for L too. But today I have to work. I work full time, but in the last weeks, it has been incredibly hard, much of my energy and headspace is taken up by worrying about L, thinking how best to help her and my usual work ethic has been subdued to say the least. I am fortunate enough to have a brilliant team that have taken much of the strain of work as well as looking after me while I look after L.
But today is one of those days when work must come first. I am on a train to another city in the region where I work, heading for a meeting which may be difficult and challenging. Not for me, but for the person I meet, who needs to grasp exactly what is expected of them. I will approach it as I do most things by making clear that what I have to say to them can either be seen as hostile and critical or helping them to develop and I cannot influence how they respond. I can only change my behaviour, not theirs. Then a meeting with one of my team – ostensibly about how I support them, but will feel sustaining for me. Then a train to London, for a Parliamentary briefing of the MPs from the region in which I work on an issue which has a huge impact on many of their constituents. Some will listen and be helpful, others will be hostile. But this doesn’t worry me – these are things I can do in my sleep, and sometimes I do.
A drinks reception at the Commons – actually probably the worst part of the day. But I need to do that kind of networking to reinforce our message with politicians. Apparently, just telling them isn’t enough. Then home late, L will stay at her father’s house and I will text her as well as him, making clear she must eat and he must help her.
My job is about speaking up for others, managing and coaching others and most importantly, helping others who believe they have no power to realise they have extraordinary power if they choose to use it. And this is how I approach caring for L. I navigate through the health services to make sure she receives the care she needs, I argue her corner at every opportunity and I try to manage her care and support her to recover. But the hardest part of both my jobs is getting people and L to realise the strength they have, that the world can really change if they want it enough and are brave enough to make it happen. I am waiting for L to rise up against anorexia, to lead a coup against its tyranny and oppression and to remove it from the power it wields. I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t believe in the courage and strength of ordinary people. And I also believe that one day,
L will come through. I know how strong she is – because she is so like me, probably even stronger. I will look after her and I will be there every step of the way, even when I am miles away like today. But one day, she will decide to defeat anorexia and then she will be unstoppable and I will be so proud.