In two days, L’s school term starts. But she will not be there. Normally we are rushing around, getting uniform, renewing bus passes and buying new pens. It is Year 11, her last year at the school. It is unlikely she will set foot in the place until October.
Last term, rumours about L were rife. While no one spoke to her directly, her friends were constantly asked why she was so thin and why she never smiled any more. Her absence from school will increase the chatter tenfold. It is an all girls school. Anorexia is a Heat magazine illness. It is an unpleasant truth that there will be some at her school who think it is glamorous, on a par with drug and alcohol addiction.
L’s medical treatment should be kept confidential. The teachers need to deal with gossip and rumours. And yet, I wonder if a blanket of secrecy will help? At work I have an absolute rule that if a member of staff is off, the reasons for that are confidential. For long term absences it can be tricky, and usually the person asks that colleagues be told. Especially when it is cancer or a heart attack. You know, a proper illness. Not one where people look to blame others for causing it. Or think that the person is just seeking attention and should just pull themselves together. If L had leukaemia, she would tell people. Cards would be sent, prayers offered and her recovery celebrated. Anorexia has similar mortality rates. Yet there are some who think it is an affectation. L’s grandmother said only yesterday that she had always thought it was a fake illness in silly girls who just wouldn’t eat. Until her granddaughter got it, of course.
I need to discuss with L whether she wants people at school to be told. The school nurse, who has been so helpful, offered to speak to her tutor group about it. I have offered too. What do others think? Should L tell others of her illness, outside her close circle of friends? Perhaps it could be an opportunity to educate young women (it is a girls school) about this? I don’t know and on this L has the final say. It is her illness, not mine. But if she asks me for advice what should I say? Have readers of this blog been through this? If so, what helped?