Speaking the Truth Out Loud

For any abuse to have power over the abused, it must be kept secret. Abusers rely on fear and when those under their spell begin to tell the truth, their grip loosens. Getting L to talk about the anorexic thoughts inside her head is so, so hard. We both know Ed is there, we recognise when his presence is strongest, but it is virtually impossible for her to talk about the detail of how she feels. At best, she manages a faint whisper, while she is folded in close to me and I struggle to hear.

Tonight, as I arrive home, she is in bed. She is flat, deflated and tired. I go up to her room and she is lying in bed. I climb in next to her in my work clothes. Harry the cat climbs on top of both of us and makes his cat chirruping noises. I tell her about my day and ask her about hers. She has been with her friend; she describes her friend’s prom dress and what they did all day. We go eat dinner – I know she ate fish fingers, chips and beans at lunchtime and she struggles with the pasta. Her head is bowed and her conversation is scarce. Sadness emanates from her and we all feel it.

After dinner I hug her on the sofa and she is quiet. I try to get her to,talk. I know why she is so upset, that Ed is screaming at her for eating two proper meals. We talk about what the anorexic voice says and I ask her to tell me what the voice is saying and in what words. “Too much” is the only response. I ask what too much is. More silence, then she tells me the number is too high. I know this is calories and I ask her what is enough, what is too much. When she was at the lowest point she had a figure in mind and I ask her to say it out loud. Eventually she does, it is such a tiny amount. We then talk about more figures, from when she went into hospital, when she came out and finally, what figure is in her head now. She finally tells me. It is not enough to maintain weight and she will continue losing. She knows this, when I ask her what this figure will do.

All of last week’s fight is knocked out of her. She is small, thin and scared. She is sad and hopeless and there is no sign of anger. But perhaps saying those words out loud will make a difference. It is just possible that she may want enough to turn this around. But next week, I am away, when I come back home I still have to work, long hours and away from home at times. I feel pretty hopeless too and there are no words for how much I hate this illness. Tomorrow, we are back at CAMHS and I will discuss a new meal plan with them. Impossible as it seems, I have to take some control back – if only I had a clone I could send out to work for me while I stay at home and try and help my daughter rid herself of this illness which could kill her. I just need to work out how to be in two places at once….

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2 responses to “Speaking the Truth Out Loud

  1. So sorry. I remember endless days and nights of the same torment, I could not speak and Anorexia would not even allow me to sleep in my bed some nights, as extra punishment for completing a full meal. It was terrifying and torturous. I believe that L will escape the torment, as I did, when my brain was sufficiently nourished so that I had the strength to fight back and not stop, no matter the punishment from AN.

  2. Saying things out loud can be so so hard but also incredibly powerful. Well done to you both for persevering, speaking and listen. I really hope that this is a step forward and can continue even though you’re going away. Could you set a phone call in bed or on the sofa, so even tho you’re not physically there, the context of a safe space for L to start saying these things out loud could be there until it becomes easier elsewhere? You probably do that already anyway. Just ssomething that helped me when I started to voice what was going on in my head. Having the safe sace of my form tutor’s office where it was okay to voice those terrifying words knowing they could be contained there and wouldn’t mean everything was going to fall apart because I’d let them out. But maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. I do know that without that starting place I would not be doing what I am now, so for that incredible teacher I’m eternally grateful.

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