A Turn for the Worse

L and I had a good weekend. I collected her on Friday night and we headed off. I was well prepared and packed a cool bag of food, her evening meal, snacks, the glass which contains 200ml and her favourite cutlery. I considered packing her favourite crockery, but stopped myself. Being with her grandmothers was good for L. She ate virtually without complaint, we did undemanding things and she seemed almost happy some of the time. Seeming truly happy is just too much to ask for at the moment, and what saddens me most is the forced cheeriness or the quiet murmurs of “I’m fine”. She seemed sad and listless and I just wanted to hold her as close as possible, most of the time. On Saturday night, her two best friends were at a 16th birthday party. Photos all over Facebook showed them grinning, laughing, surrounded by pouting, mocking young women. I thought about the contrast between their lives and L’s, where a trip to the wool shop for a new knitting project constitutes a big day out. I know that L could in no way have handled the party, the decisions about what to wear, the anxiety about her peers and her own crippling self doubt. There are not words to describe how bereft I feel for her. She is a wonderful, clever, funny, beautiful and brave young woman and anorexia is stealing her own life from her. I find it almost unbearable when other parents talk about their troublesome teenagers, being rude, getting home late, wearing too much make up, drinking or smoking. I know these must be worrying, but they are signs of a normal rebellious teenager too. I long for such a life for L.

We drove back yesterday – L seemed even quieter. I ask her how she is and she always tells me she is ok. I felt really unwell, either the driving or an unwise glass of wine on Saturday night brought the vertigo and nausea back again, as well as the familiar exhaustion. We got home, L helped me tidy the kitchen and clean up, biting back angry words about the state of the house. We watched TV, even some of I’m a Celebrity, which I loathe, but L loves.

This morning, things went from bad to worse. I woke up feeling iller and dizzied and went into full panic attack mode about the work I needed to do that day. I wonder if L heard me crying first thing. She seemed to struggle with breakfast, and then she disappeared to her room. I found her there, crying and wrapped up in her duvet. On the floor lay some jeans – which she had tried on and didn’t fit. It didn’t matter that she was wearing an identical pair, which did fit easily. Nothing mattered and no attempts to make her feel better worked. She refused to eat and I had no choice but to take her back to hospital, despite the fact that we had agreed to go see a film that evening. She sobbed so hard and so did I. But back we went and I talked to her team about what we call “her mood” – a euphemistic term for the spirit crushing overwhelming despair and depression which envelops her and which she won’t disclose to others. I told them she needed to be assessed for medication, which will happen tomorrow.

I had forgotten about the roller coaster. I had seen L’s progress on a steady incline, gruelling and arduous at times, but slow improvement. I had forgotten that on the climb up the hill, there will sometimes be avalanches which force her back a long way and all I can do is try hold on to her hand so she doesn’t fall alone. I will never let her fall alone or give up on her. Not because I am a selfless mother, but because without her, or K or J, I would be lost too. But no one warned me it could be like this. In the endless warnings and doom mongering about parenthood, from sleepless nights and weaning, through toilet training and starting school, to the much heralded teenage rebellion years, no one told me it might be nothing like this. That instead of partying, smoking, drinking and drug taking or under-age sex, the life with teenage children affected by mental health problems or autistic spectrum disorders, will be a different country altogether. Sometimes a wonderful place, always a unique place, but sometimes a bewildering and foreboding place where we just don’t know what will happen next.

14 responses to “A Turn for the Worse

  1. My dear dear Charlotte. You are a brave woman. Your child is lucky to have you. Hang in there. I will pray for you. I will also share your story with other parents, as they need your words.

  2. When I read this post I so very much understand L’s reaction it is almost unbearably painful even after all these years.

    I remember very well the first I tried on my “anorexic pants” after spending months in a clinic. I had thrown out all my size 0 clothes, but for some reason I just could not dispose of them. So I tried them on. I am unable to describe my anguish, but the self-loath at that moment was so intense I would have killed myself if my mother had not walked in at that moment. I was taken back to the unit right away, but every time I got home I would torture myself trying on those pants. I have been “recovered” for years now but I could bring myself to throw them away only recently.

    This is such a hard journey for both of you. I wish you, and above all L the best of luck. I will pray for her recovery. The only thing you can do is keeping holding on! (although it might also be advisable to throw away those pants!!)


  3. Thank you so much, all of you. Just back from visiting her, she is very low, but lifted a little, and is eating something at least. We have such a long way to go, and support from all of you means so much. Thanks again

    • Oh dear woman, I know this pain all too well. I’m about to leave my beautiful kind smart loving daughter 1000miles from home to try and save her life. Ed has a tortuous hold on her this time and she has been complete food refusal since oct 19. She does not want to die. But I can’t help her. I am not abandoning her. But I’m keeping her safe. I will not give up either. I believe in her recovery. But I have to accept the option we’ve been forced to take. I cry alot. Sometimes my chest and head hurt from it. But I pick myself up and move forward. It’s the only way I can go. Sometimes forward is more like resting, working walking in the park with my dog. It’s the best I can do. I feel your pain. But Ed and this illness needs appropriate action to behavior and often that ends on everyone suffering. We have to learn to tolerate this pain I’m told. I don’t know if I really can. I’m just faking it for now. Hugs to you. Stay hopeful your dear L needs that.


  4. of course you will not give up. every fiber of your being will ache for her health and you will see improvement, and hope. And then, when the setbacks occur, you will remember how good the hope feels and you will insist that it returns. and it will.

  5. The exhaustion, the bone-weariness of keeping hope and a forward direction: it is the one thing parents do best and only we can do but oh! oh! oh! so hard. You are not alone. You are doing a great job.

  6. Thinking of you and L, praying for you. It’s a hard road to be travelling, but remember you are not alone. You will come through this, I promise. Hang in there xx

  7. Dear “mum”
    You are the best mum she could ever have. You can do this. One slow deep breath at a time you can do it. We are all here with you. I hope you feel the love and light coming to you.
    Also I just heard about a ritual a treatment center does. They have the patients bring all of their “sick clothes ” and they burn them in a ceremony.
    You are not alone.
    Becky Henry

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