The lovely Laura Collins sent me an email once in which she said she never intended to parent like this. I didn’t understand it then as much as I do now. Over the last couple of weeks while we have been away in Dorset, the control of L’s food lapsed somewhat and now we are back in charge, Ed is fighting back. Today, the silent resistance ended. L picked up her lunch and threw it across the table, breaking the plate. She stormed upstairs and I heard crashing and screaming. I picked up the largely intact meal, replated it and went upstairs.
Ed has a new weapon. Over the last few weeks, I have realised that L is cutting herself. Scars at the top of her legs revealed themselves when she wore a bikini and yesterday as I tidied away a pillow case, L tried to hide it. I opened it up to see blood stains. She lied at the time, but I confronted her. I told her I knew and not to lie to me and her silent ashamed face told me the rest. Consequently, her room is searched, sharp objects removed and her time alone needs to be monitored.
This feels less and less like a home and more like an institution. C and I are exhausted, K is perpetually anxious, but continues to hide in her room and even J lost patience today, as the plate went flying. I no longer feel emotional about her anorexia, I just feel cold and determined. I reject her last minute negotiations as I know the control is as much part of anorexia as the restriction. Today we sat for half an hour as I refused to exchange her banana for an apple. Because I know the apple is what Ed wants and to defy Ed is the aim, as much as eat the food. I am much stricter, she is banned from the kitchen until food is ready and I am not seeking consensus with her or Ed. I want victory, I want to obliterate anorexia, defeat it absolutely so it never returns. I want it to rue the day it ever set foot in our lives. And to do that, I must be cold and hard at times. When your beloved child begs and sobs, it is so, so difficult to sit there and say the same words over and over again. In my rest time, I watch back episodes of Spooks, a guilty pleasure of mine. I am modelling myself on Ros, the spy who is ice cool and determined. I am immune to her pain, when that pain is caused by anorexia and the struggle of eating. I sit at the table, scrolling through Twitter and the Internet to provide distraction from the tear streaked face. I stroke her arm and tell her she can do this and she will do this, no matter how long it takes.
I miss her, of course. I miss how she was and the time before anorexia. Except, now everything is tinged with doubt. How long was she under its spell before I knew? Which L was the real one, if any? It is as if Ed has grown a new L from the kernel of the real one, so convincing and deceptive I can no longer tell them apart. I dream of smashing L open to rescue the small girl trapped inside, to be able to grab her and run away, to start again and get it right this time. But these are dreams and in the waking nightmare that is life with anorexia I grit my teeth and get on with it. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this, but now that it is, we just have to keep on putting one foot in front of the other.