To say I found backing off a little hard is an understatement. For me, it was as hard as it would be for L to make chocolate brownies and scoff them all in one go. At the appointed hours, my mum-of-anorexic voice kicked in wanting to ask about her snack, suggest a meal or think about how to make food easier. After 3 day, I admitted to L I wasn’t coping, and neither was she. Her sense of responsibility did not emerge. I could see efforts, especially when she knew I was upset. K would come upstairs and report on what she was eating. But most of the time, I wanted to weep, feeling that same powerlessness as in the early days watching my daughter starve herself to nothing.
So today, I am back in charge. I feed L. It is a deal, just for today. I wake up excited, I have planned banana porridge and frozen raspberry smoothie which I hope will soothe her mouth. L’s face is at turns, amusing and pitiful. Amusing when she does her comedy Yay, which we both know drips with irony. And pitiful when she views a drink with fear, suspicion and dread. But she does it.
What of tomorrow? I don’t know. The problem is, we both know that restricting and resisting food give her short term mood gains. She feels happier. She gets back that empty, powerful feeling inside, she feels the bones stick out again, a message from Ed that she is stronger. But ultimately it will lead to misery as she ends up back at the bottom of the recovery ladder having to climb it all again. My promise of happiness is remote and vague. It is like the promise of heaven – it might be there, but you have to lead a worthy, sin-free life to get there – and there are no promises. Ed is the bad boy, promising immediate joy, sprinkled with danger and spiced up with the ability to defy those in power, the doctors, the parents and school. What do they know anyway? Ed is like the cat and the fox that lead Pinocchio away from school, promising adventure and riches. We all can see they mean no good, all of us, except Pinocchio.
Every time I tell L it will get better, I can hear how empty my words sound to her. The future is a very faraway place. Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow, food will feel like an enemy to her, and those who prompt her to eat will be resisted and mistrusted. That is the hardest thing of all perhaps. This morning, as I made everyone breakfast, I joked to K that I was being a proper mother, making food for my family. But deep in my psyche, is a yearning to nourish and feed my child, and that needs to be stronger than anorexia’s yearning to destroy her.