I hope JK Rowling doesn’t object to me using this extract of her wonderful writing to demonstrate what it is like helping a child to eat when in the grip of an eating disorder. This is for a particular Mum, but for any Mum who has to do this and doesn’t think she can.
This extract is from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Harry and Dumbledore are looking for a Horcrux, which will help them defeat Voldemort. Dumbledore tells Harry that in order to get the Horcrux, Dumbledore must drink a powerful potion, and that Harry’s job is to make him drink it, come what may. They need to do this to defeat the forces of evil. In their case, Voldemort. In our case, anorexia.
As he drained the goblet, Harry watched, terrified, his hands gripping the rim of the basin, so hard that his fingers were numb.
“Professor?” he said, anxiously, as Dumbledore lowered the empty glass. “How do you feel?”
Dumbledore shook his head, his eyes closed. Harry wondered whether he was in pain. Dumbledore plunged the glass blindly back into the basin, refilled it, and drank once more.
In silence, Dumbledore drank three gobletfuls of the potion. Then halfway through the fourth goblet, he staggered and fell forwards against the basin.
“Professor Dumbledore.” said Harry, his voice strained. “Can you hear me?”
Dumbledore did not answer. His face was twitching as though he were deeply asleep, but dreaming a horrible dream. His grip on the goblet was slackening; the potion was about to spill from it. Harry reached forward and grasped the crystal cup, holding it steady.
Dumbledore panted and then spoke in a voice Harry did not recognise,for he had never heard Dumbledore frightened like this.
“I don’t want……don’t make me.”
Harry stared at the face he knew so well, and did not know what to do.
“…don’t like…..want to stop….” moaned Dumbledore.
“You can’t stop, Professor,” said Harry. “You’ve got to keep drinking, remember? You told me you had to keep drinking. Here….”
Hating himself, repulsed by what he was doing, Harry forced the goblet back towards Dumbledore’s mouth and tipped it, so that Dumbledore drank the remainder of the potion inside.
“No…” he groaned, as Harry lowered the golden goblet back into the basin and refilled it for him. “I don’t want to….let me go”
“It’s all right, Professor,” said Harry, his hand shaking. “It’s all right, I’m here-”
“Make it stop, make it stop,” moaned Dumbledore
“Yes, yes, this’ll make it stop,” lied Harry. He tipped the contents of the goblet into Dumbledores open mouth.
Dumbledore screamed, the noise echoed all around the vast chamber, across the dead balck water.
“No, no, no….no…. I can’t….I can’t …..don’t make me, I don’t want to….”
“Its all right, Professor, it’s all,right!” said Harry loudly, his hands shaking so badly he could hardly scoop up,the sixth goblet full of potion; the basin was now half empty. “Nothing’s happening to you, you’re safe, it isn’t real, I swear it isn’t real- take this, now take this…”
And obediently Dumbledore drank, as though it was an antidote Harry offered him, but on draining the goblet, he sank to his knees shaking uncontrollably.
“It’s all my fault, all my fault” he sobbed, “please make it stop and I’ll never, never again…”
“This will make it stop, Professor,” Harry said, his voice cracking as he tipped the seventh goblet of potion into Dumbledore’s mouth.
Dumbledore began to cower as though invisible torturers surrounded him, his flailing hand almost knocked the refilled goblet from Harry’s trembling hands as he moaned.
“Here, drink this, you’ll be all right,” said Harry desperately, and once again, Dumbledore obeyed him, opening his mouth even as he kept his eyes tight shut and shook from head to foot.
And now he fell forwards, screaming again, hammering his fists on the ground, while Harry filled the ninth goblet.
“Please, please, please, no…..not that, not that, I’ll do anything…….”
“Just drink, Professor, just drink …”
Dumbledore drank, like a child dying of thirst, but when he had finished, he yelled again, as if he’s insides were on fire.
“No more….please, no more”
Harry scooped up a tenth goblet of potion and felt the crystal goblet scrape the bottom of the basin.
“We’re nearly there, Professor, drink this, drink it..”
He supported Dumbledore’s shoulders and again Dumbledore drained the glass; Harry was on his feet once more, refilling the goblet, as Dumbledore began to scream in more anguish than ever, “I want to die, I want to die! Make it stop, make it stop, I want to die!”
“Drink this, Professor, drink this,”
Dumbledore drank and no sooner had he finished than he yelled, “KILL ME!”
“This – this one will!” gasped Harry, “Just drink this…..it’ll be over…all over!”
Dumbledore gulped at the goblet, drained every last drop and then, with a rattling gasp, rolled over on to his face..
I’ve abridged this. And, if it were an anorexic, there would be no gulping, no draining. The goblet would be sipped, a finger would be dipped in and licked. There would always be some left in the bottom which we would have to insist on being finished. And all along, every instinct we have is being subverted. How do we cause such anguish to those we love. How can this potion we administer cause such pain. It may not be real harm being caused, but the distress and despair on the face of a beloved daughter is completely bloody real.
In time, evil in the form of Ed, can and will be defeated. But there are so many battles and so many Horcruxes to find. For those looking for respite, time spent reading the wonderful books of JK Rowling may well be the antidote you need.