I’ve written before how the comments on this blog and Twitter have really sustained me over the last few months. To know that people have been through this and come out the other side and think I’m getting it right means a huge amount. Sometimes, though, I feel slightly taken aback by comments that I am inspiring – me? The title of the blog says it all, I feel I am just another mum doing her best and not always getting it right, but sometimes things work out ok. I try to write about the good and bad times – and the responses to the bad times genuinely give me strength to keep going.
But I am definitely human and for a while have thought about writing about the things I know I get wrong or find hard – because I too have felt inspired by others, but sometimes overawed too, as if I could never do what they have done. I was really touched by the comments of Laura Collins who wrote “Eating with your Anorexic” because having read her book I really felt both inspired but also overwhelmed because I couldn’t get L to eat as much. So these are the things that I get wrong or that tax me – written not to beat myself up, but to remind us that we can screw up or find things too hard, but it doesn’t mean we’ve lost.
I sometimes want to yell at L and tell her to just bloody eat, that I am sick of anorexia and if she just tried a bit harder we could get somewhere. I haven’t done it yet, but I have walked away from the table in tears saying that I give up. Oddly, L then often eats. But I know it won’t work as a general approach.
Part of me feels an envious fascination with L’s thinness. I wonder what it would like to be that thin and sometimes I can almost hear the ED demon whispering in my ear, doesn’t she look amazing, like a model, aren’t you just a little bit jealous? Wouldn’t you like to be like that, just for a while? One glance at her spine and being able to count each vertebrae from across the room generally silences this voice. I guess the ED demon just slinks back to L to whisper in her ear that we are all envious because none of us are as thin as her.
I don’t always have the energy to monitor every mouthful, coach, cajole and encourage every hour of the day. I sometimes want to come in after work and not bother with food or feeding. I am bored of anorexia and I am weary of its grip on all of us. In my darkest moments I think it will be easier when L is in hospital and it will be their job to make her eat and we can live normally for a while. I hate thinking like this and then vow not to give upon her just yet.
When I am hungry I am a little resentful that if I was L I could feast on the highest calorie foods on offer, without reserve or guilt and know that it would be good for me. When I shop with L and she hesitates over every choice, a voice in my head wants to scream out “Look at all the amazing stuff you can eat! Just to get better! Things all of us have to measure or avoid”. I never say this. But K her sister thinks this and sometimes L and I joke about it, how K dreams of a world where she is advised to avoid exercise, schoolwork and eat as much as possible. Even though we both know how K is desperately worried about her sister.
I have consistently told my children that they are beautiful – as well as clever, kind and funny. I have done this especially with my daughters, having always suffered from crippling self loathing from a childhood of being the fat ginger kid, I really wanted to bring up my children to love themselves and to feel great about who they are. What do I say to L now? I still tell her how kind and thoughtful she is, how I know she has tried really hard or done well at school – the A* grades still keep rolling in, despite her health. And I still tell her she is beautiful, but should I? I have modified it occasionally – she showed me her new jeans and a top recently and the breath caught in my throat when I saw how thin she looked. I told her that she was a beautiful young woman, but it hurt me to see how thin she is and that one day I hoped she would realise the way she looked before was more lovely by far. Her face still fell and I felt that I had hurt her. But how could I tell her that she looked great when she didn’t and it would validate her eating disorder.
I once was asked in a job interview what my greatest strength was and I told them it was humility. That strong leaders always remembered that they still could learn from others and that making mistakes wasn’t a weakness, but refusing to admit to them was. The panel openly laughed at me and I didn’t get the job – although some years later, I did. That doesn’t mean I believe in beating yourself up, especially as women, because there will always be others who will criticise and attack, so let’s leave it to them. But we learn most from the things we try and get wrong and from sharing failures as well as triumphs and this is what I am trying to do with this blog. It helps me and if that helps you too, I am really pleased.