It is L’s review today, as she completes her fourth month as an inpatient. Her nights at the unit, though are few and far between and we know this review will look at her moving to becoming a day patient, perhaps as early as next week. She is terrified at the prospect. Becoming a day patent also involves re-integration into school. She is close to her Stage 3 weight, which means more responsibility and she knows she isn’t ready for it. I know too. Any opportunity to eat independently always means finding ways to eat the minimum or to avoid altogether. And the prospect of eating something not on the list, not in the programme is completely off the table altogether. 12 days into advent and L has not eaten a single chocolate from her calendar. She cannot taste someone else’s food or even have a cup of tea outside of a snack because it is Extra and therefore Wrong.
Four months after admission, her body, although still extremely slim, looks like a young woman again. She is a long way from curves, but I cannot see her bones any more. People don’t turn and look at her in the street and her friends at school will not talk about their worries behind her back.
But her mind belongs to Ed. It feels as if she has struck a deal to keep control, to follow the program, to keep us all happy, but her eating remains controlled. She examines all food items with suspicion. She claims an absolute preference for certain foods, and I know without a doubt that this is research on the internet at weekends to find the lowest calories. She will not eat something unknown or unmeasured. Unsliced bread is impossible. Home baked food is unthinkable. Ed is still in charge. I know she loves her family, but she will not listen to us or trust us. When I talk to her about eating different things at different times, she smiles, but still does the same thing. Her head tells her this is Safe and eating New Food is Dangerous. But she is in so much danger from Ed. He could take her back any time.
This was the week I was supposed to get tough and push her to eat more, to eat different higher calorie foods. But the truth is I am too ill and tired. C is doing all the cooking and I can’t bake cakes or get out to the shops. Every time she comes home her weight drops or stays the same and she eats less, she admits this. I will fail her again I know. But how do I get Ed to leave her thoughts and mind? She has had intensive therapy for four months and it hasn’t worked. When I get better, I can cook and buy food, change the rules. But I am not a therapist. I am just her Mum and however much I love her, it isn’t enough to make her better. Every day that goes bay is another stolen from her by this dreadful disease. I want her to become a gladiator, a slayer and to fight back against it. I know how hard that would be – but I also think it is the only way she will ever become safe.