Early on in CAMHS treatment, L’s psychiatrist told us that anorexia controlled people in different ways and cited the story of a patient who always had to leave some food on a plate, even a single pea and this food represented the control of anorexia. At the time, I snorted inwardly and thought what does that matter? As long as she eats most of the food and at the time a single pea left behind would be a triumph. But later on in L’s journey, when her body is no longer skeletal, I know so well what this means. L’s desire to choose her food, to pour out cereal herself, to change food at the last moment, to stick to certain food types are all signs of a deal struck with anorexia. Like a love note hidden in a wall, a message in a bottle or a secret song, these are promises to Ed, that while they may be parted, he will remain part of her life.
And so these bonds must be broken and despite her weight being closer to healthier than a year ago, I have realised I need to be stricter. This morning I made her finish every drop of milk from cereal, every crumb of toast. It took an hour and the subsequent sobbing lasted just as long. We then went straight into a snack and then a short break before lunch. She cried and cried, telling me she couldn’t believe how much she had eaten and that she wanted to die. I told her that this was defeating Ed, that pictures of sandwiches on Instagram are not the real face of recovery, but that this grind of eating, crying and eating some more was what recovery was like. Grim, relentless and painful.