It has been quite a week. Major events at work, a trip up North to visit family and of course a week trying to look after L and help her with her recovery.
This week, she had the first stage of her braces fitted. Yes, just when you think eating couldn’t be any more challenging, along comes an orthodontist, who fits metal brackets to each tooth, tells you only to eat soft foods and avoid juices and sugary drinks. I go with her in a snatched hour from work, in which I should be meeting the most senior person in our organisation off the train (Thankfully delegated to one of the wonderful women with whom I work). L is completely at ease in the dental hospital, she climbs the stairs to the orthodontic clinic, knowing her way around and seeming effortlessly confident. I watch how the staff smile at her as she chats politely, asking questions and as always I am so proud of her. Later, when her braces are partly in place, I ache at how self conscious she seems and how her hand flies to cover her mouth when she laughs. c has had teeth out this week, too and evening meals are even more of a juggling act between what everyone will, can and should eat.
On Friday, we have a session with L’s psychologist and her primary nurse. L has been working on issues of identity, looking at who she will be when she has left her eating disorder behind. She shows me flip chart paper with large circles drawn on it. In August, the circle, which represents L was almost all entirely eating disorder, with one new moon sized sliver remaining of L’s identity. Today, she is about half and half. Of course, during our teenage years, our identity shifts and develops – the L before the eating disorder was a little girl compared to the young woman emerging as her recovery progresses. Getting back to the old L would mean a girl who thought the latest “Now” album was the Fall Out Boy fan who wears flowery DMs with dresses.
We head North for the weekend. It is my adopted mum’s birthday. It is only L and I going. We travel largely in silence to a sound track of L’s music. She assumes I will hate her music, and perhaps that is my duty, but actually it is ok, although in the last hour of the journey I plead for some Emeli Sande. We arrive, my mum is delighted to see us all, especially as my. Rothes are both there along with my niece and nephew. Throughout the weekend, L is lovely with her grandmother, spending ages on the new iPad showing her how to use it.
And then we are back home and it is Sunday, with hours to go before another week starts. I make risotto for L’s supper; I am delighted by how delicious it is, having added Parmesan cheese and lemon chicken juices, but it is so distressing to see her pick at it looking terrified. I insist it is finished, despite C unhelpfully intervening that as we spent so long in the car, perhaps finishing doesn’t matter. K and I both instantly look at him with a look that says Shut Up Now. After dinner there is more distress, at how much fat she ate and that this will turn to fat on her. I try counter this but it is no use. Eventually, I go through to the kitchen and fold up washing. C remarks on how distressed L was and suggests it is because she has had a long day in the car and isn’t really hungry. I haven’t the energy to explain that this isn’t a “bad day”, but that it is just a normal day in a normal week when living with anorexia and that every meal is hard and will continue being hard for a long, long time. But these are all things I have said before, and C just thinks I am being negative. Instead, I take K her washed clothes, call L to have her first evening snack and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.