Monday, October 19, 2009

"Having a social life is a lot of work"

Thursday evening, as Emily was trying to line up her social calendar for the weekend, she remarked that "Having a social life is a lot of work". That one little phrase, caused a mini avalanche of emotions in me. I was relieved that she is engaging with her friends, which she hasn't really done in a year. I was saddened to think that she has been missing out on so much living. I was dumbfounded, yet again, to realize how oblivious I have been for so long. I was filled with hope that she will continue to stay engaged and experience the joys and challenges of adolescent friendships. I was amused by her sense of humour.

The weekend was full of normal person activities (NPA), including a birthday party on Friday night, which allowed Derek and I to go out to dinner by ourselves, a visit to the Farmer's Market with a friend, a Saturday night outing with more friends, a clothes shopping expedition on Sunday and the crowning achievement, doing morning snack at school with her peers (she had been joining me in the car in the parking lot for snack).

Each of these events posed significant challenges for Emily but she wanted to find a way to make them work for her. Each act of independence from Ed is a cause for celebration in my books. The strategy is to get her so engaged in her normal life that she will be more motivated to give Ed the boot. When she asked the Team about doing snack on her own, their response was, 'can you trust healthy Emily, to eat?' Which I thought was a very interesting way to put it and I will use that approach with our next challenges.

For the birthday party, which included a supper buffet, she chose to eat supper before going so that she wouldn't have to deal with making food choices there. She is allowed to eat whatever she likes beyond what we feed her, so the Team told her to eat party food if she felt like it, but to not put any pressure on herself. She wasn't ready to eat in front of her peers but she had a big snack when she got home because she was hungry. She commented that she liked being at the Farmer's Market because she was surrounded by so many people enjoying eating so many different kinds of food and they didn't even appear to be concerned about what they were eating. I am not sure if she believes she will ever get to that mind set. I know it is only since this whole thing came up that I have realized that I have to make a conscious effort to simply enjoy my food without thinking about whether or not I can afford those calories.

The shopping trip was interesting because she really loved the clothes at H&M but she had to work so hard not to let choosing sizes and looking at herself in a mirror bring out Ed. She said it was about a five or a six out of ten on the anxiety scale, the jeans were particularly hard. I guess bathing suit shopping is a little way down the recovery road. She managed to meet the challenge to the tune of a little over $200 so all in all very successful. Then we had a smoothie in the Food Court which was also tough on her, especially since there was a table of teenage girls nearby who were creeping me out with their intense stare in our direction. (I think they were mesmorized by Emily's gorgeous hair).

In spite of these wonderful improvements, she is still very attached to Ed. One of her therapeutic goals this past week was to find a way to stop focussing so much on her food at meal time. We work very hard to distract her with games and conversation but she sits and stares at her food, moves it around her plate, eats tiny bites, eats the easy i.e. low density, low calorie, foods first, complains of feeling too full to finish and sometimes she just sits there while tears well up in her eyes trying to find the strength to take another mouthful. Some foods seem harder than others. She really struggles with eating chicken or ground beef, which are the only two none vegetarian proteins she has managed to eat. I spent several hours scouring some websites for new recipes based on things I know she likes, but the vegetarian options require larger portions which she can never finish. But even with her struggles at the table she continues to gain weight. Last Thursday she was up to 106, which is really great considering how much more active she was. She is taking in enough calories and she is eating many meals much faster than she did initially. And her need to be distracted when she is finished a meal has lessened in some cases too.

This week's meeting with the team will be the first one where she will start doing some cognitive behavioral therapy on Ed. She has been doing a little bit at each session but this week she will spend a significant chunk of time alone with the psychologist and social worker and then Derek and I will join them to find out what her goals for the week are and to discuss any problem areas. I am still a little concerned with the affects of the Zoloft because although they are keeping the dose at the 75 mg level, to me she seems a little too happy, but then again I don't know who the real Emily is anymore, maybe without the depression and anxiety she is a really cheerful person.

Yesterday I felt a sense of mental relaxation that I haven't felt since all this started. It is amazing how comforting 'normal' can be, when you haven't had it for a while. It feels like the very worst is behind us, even Emily has said she feels that way too. I know there are far worse situations that a person can experience but I would not want to relive the last seven weeks and I wouldn't wish it on anyone else either. We are grateful for all of the support we have felt along the way from everyone who is out there wishing us well. Keep the jokes coming. I look forward to having a big celebration feast with all of you when Emily is ready to enjoy it too.

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