We all know crash diets are a bad idea and don’t work, don’t we? Despite the allure of the headlines – Eat Only Grapes and LOSE TEN POUNDS BY LUNCHTIME – we know they are never a substitute for healthy eating, moving your body and realising that celebration style eating is best kept for celebrations and not every day. People are lured into the empty promises and decide that the diet will start today! By lunchtime, hunger is yelling like a spoilt child and by the afternoon, the dieter realises they’re not thin yet and then some cake says Hi, I look nice, and the best intentions are lost.
I think the same applies to recovery from eating disorders. I have seen L take deep breaths, look me in the eye and say that she is going to ace this recovery and that she can do this. She has got this and she is ready. Then comes a meal. She doesn’t know what’s in the meal and she falters. Ed yells at her and inside she thinks I can’t do this. I’m too weak. Anorexia wins. She expects that because she had the idea that morning that she is sick of anorexia, that she wants to get better, that everything will follow. It won’t. Food will still be a struggle, she will still cry and despise her greed and weakness. And none of those feelings mean that she doesn’t want to get better. It just means that it is really bloody hard. In exactly the same way as depressives cannot simply cheer up, anorexics cannot just snap out of it.
I felt this really strongly when reading the wonderful Lady Em’s blog , yellowbrickroad.wordpress.com. I am in awe of her determination to get better, but want her to be kinder to herself when she struggles with how hard it is. It has also helped me to realise there is a voice in my head which thinks that one day L will wake up and have got over anorexia, that she would run down stairs, fire up the griddle and make a stack of pancakes for us all and we will laugh at how daft she has been. That won’t happen. She is making good progress in the unit, but it will be slow and it will be tough. She is fighting a life threatening illness and that is never easy, as I have seen. She is now at BMI 16 and therapy will start. She will have choices and will have to start taking some responsibility for what she eats. She will cry and hate herself, hate those around her for taking Ed away. She will grieve for the end of her life with Ed.
One of the most important lessons I learned, along with not blaming myself, was that I can’t make this easy for L. No one can. I have to let her cry and grieve for the loss of Ed, because only through those tears can she move on to imagining her new life. What I see as a new start, she sees as bereavement. For now. I need to understand that to be able to help her. And I can only tell her that it will be hard, but it will be worth it. That she is worth it.