As agreed, L’s period of being an inpatient ends on Friday. We pick her up from the unit around five. As this is also the end of term for K, there is a real ‘breaking up for the holidays’ feel to the day. L has her duvet, Hattie the Cat, her wash bag and Christmas cards and presents. I realise that this is the last time we will ring the bell of the unit entrance – as L becomes a day patient, she will have her own transport to and from each day clinic. I feel a real sense of contentment – my daughter is back at home. On the car journey, there are some warning signs. I mention a special Christmas snack list. L tells me she doesn’t need snacks any more. I freeze, I know this isn’t the treatment plan for Stage 3. She relents and admits she can choose snacks. But this a worrying development. Dinner is hard. She takes ages to eat a simple pasta bake. She cries after the meal. She tells me she can’t do this. But she is doing it, she is trying to do it, as anorexia screams in her voice that she is too weak. It settles down as we watch Love Actually, our Christmas film that we have watched every Christmas since it came out.
But this morning it is really hard. She hesitates over breakfast. She eats cereal, but there is no sign of juice or toast. After cereal she sits and doesn’t move. I remind her, several times, to no avail. So I make the toast and pour juice. I put it in front of her. She looks at it. No attempt to eat it is made. I use the broken record technique. I ask her in the same tone of voice to eat it, please. She doesn’t. I tell her I need to call the unit. She becomes upset. I am really upset too. This is her first morning since leaving the unit and she is not eating breakfast. K is there and upset too. L and I argue, and then I lose my temper. I tell her I bloody give up and leave the kitchen in tears. I go to my room and cry in bed. I decide just to get on with the day, but I am devastated. I clear away breakfast as L weeps. I can’t comfort her, I can’t tell her it is ok of she doesn’t eat. I run a bath and decide to just shut everything out. I open a face mask I bought – a mask of stretchy cotton soaked with face serum. I am supposed to leave it on for 15 minutes. Then I need something from downstairs and go into the kitchen where L and K are sitting. I realise I look like a cross between a mummy and a burns victim. We end up laughing, though I try to have a supportive conversation with L, though she laughs and cries at the same time.
Later, after my bath, I go and see L who is in bed. We hug and I say we have had Dolphin, Rhino and now Kangaroo. It turns out her periods started again this morning and to her this means she is healthy. But if her weight drops, that will turn around again. But it is fantastic that her periods have begun again. But healthy will be when she can eat without counting, take second helpings without hating herself and where she does not take every option to cut food intake.
So we make up. But I feel bereft and exhausted. This is going to be tough. Part of me wants to give up and tell her I will not keep nagging her. But I can’t.