I haven’t blogged for nearly a week, partly due to a major work event, which required me to spend most days in and around the Courts and partly because I’m not sure I have much to say. L came home last weekend and absconded from the cinema to go shopping. Absconded is perhaps harsh, she doesn’t yet accept that she is really that ill and needs to rest. When I found her eventually, I took her straight back to the hospital. She was really cross, and actually, cross is good. L needs anger to fight anorexia.
Back in the unit, the going is tough. She is struggling with each meal. Her pulse rate is high each morning and she feels dizzy and her vision is blurred. But because L is eager to please, she keeps up the act. She carries on telling everyone that everything is fine. We are called into a review. L tells all the professionals how she is getting on well. Then they ask me. I take a deep breath and I say what I think. How proud I am of L for her struggle so far. That I know this is really, really hard. But that I also think L is burying anorexia deep within her and not seeking to cast it out for good. I state that her willingness to please others means she wants to say the right things, but to really mean them is different. She is hugely articulate and bright and can talk a good recovery. But I know she spent a morning this week weeping in her room, that she struggles to sleep and that she constantly obsesses about how much she is eating. And yet she tells no one but me, and she only tells me because I push her.
I finish this and squeeze L’s arm. I don’t want her to think she isn’t doing well enough. I say to her, in front of the others that she needs to ask for help, that it’s ok to be unhappy, to get angry and that if everything was fine she’d probably be at home now. We talk through strategies to help her ask for support. It seems that time which is just L’s will help. Her time with the psychologist did result in her saying how fed up she was. But it will take time. L has had a lifetime of being the good girl, the helpful one, the girl who makes friends and is happy, who is mature beyond her years. I have called her Deputy Mum for so long. She has seen her brother struggle with Aspergers, her sister cope with bullying and watched her parents go through a terrible marriage breakdown which lasted over two years. Through all of this she has tried to help, to make things better and I feel she has depths of suppressed rage and unhappiness which only starvation will keep hidden. I feel guilty, of course, I do. I should have seen this, I should have been a better mother and not allowed her to do this. But I also know I am doing a good job now and that if it were my ‘fault’ I would be sitting in this hospital with three anorexic children not one.
Blame and guilt are not only unhelpful and pointless, they are also self indulgent. This is not about me, it is about L and the best thing I can do is refuse to blame anyone. It is not her fault, or my fault. There is an obsession with the cause of anorexia – if L had leukaemia, I doubt anyone would ask how it started or what the cause of it is. If recovery from anorexia is akin to bereavement, I hope we are at the bottom of the curve now, the part where it all seems hopeless and pointless and bleak. Because if that is where we are, it is also the stage before things get better. And it will take time, but we will get there.