Saturday, October 31, 2009

In our family we usually celebrate milestone events by getting together to share a meal or at least a cake. But one of the hundreds of things that suck about 'Ed' is that he has put the kibosh to that family tradition, at least for now. This week Emily achieved a significant goal in her fight against anorexia - she reached her goal weight of 110. But although it was the hardest thing she has ever done we didn't turn to her and say 'congratulations, you did it', and it didn't even occur to Derek and I to take a private moment to acknowledge how relieved and grateful we felt that we've all made it this far. Instead we just moved on to the next topic on the list of things we needed to discuss with the team. Our only acknowledgement to Emily was that she could switch to skim milk and cut out one snack a day. It wasn't until the next day that I realized the magnitude of this milestone, Emily is weight restored and we have finished phase one of this treatment process, only two phases to go.

That prompted me to read about the next phase of treatment in my reference books which state that the goals of the next phase are:
  • for us to maintain management of the eating disorder symptions until Emily shows evidence that she is able to eat well and maintain weight independently
  • to return food and weight control to her
  • to explore the relationship between the anorexia and normal adolescent development issues i.e. self esteem, body image, relationships, independence
I don't allow myself to envision Emily eating independently yet because it seems so far off. While she is eating snacks and lunches as school she finds it extremely difficult to eat in front of her classmates and she will only take what she considers 'healthy' foods to school. She still isn't comfortable with the idea of having any family members in for a meal or with going out to a restaurant. She will eat what I feed her but won't participate in choosing or preparing it. She will help herself to snack items occasionally but only if I give her permission. The Team have advised to work on these challenges one at a time until she is comfortable with it because stacking them up will be too overwhelming for her. I have found that when she sets the challenge for herself she will meet it, like snacking and then lunching at school, but if I try to get her to do something she won't do it. Tonight we are going to a Halloween party and I will be curious to see if she is able to eat anything. Maybe eating in front of ghosts and goblins will be easier. She mentioned that Thursday is pizza day at school and she would like to be able to participate in that soon. We tried take out Chinese recently and that didn't go very well. Damn I want my old life back! Actually what I want is to go back about five years and get to do it over in a way that would prevent Ed from getting through the door.

As for the last goal of this phase, exploring the relationship between Ed and adolescent issues, I am very afraid of what that will entail. I am exhausted from phase one and don't know how to muster the energy to learn the new skills and behaviours that the Team is promoting for her healthy emotional development. The kinds of issues we have to deal with loom large in my tired mind. She needs to become less attached emotionally to us because right now she can't even sit in a movie theatre with someone between she and I. She needs to develop peer relationships that are more appealing to her than her relationship with us and she hasn't spent any time with friends in over a week. She needs to become accepting of her body image but she won't even go swimming yet because she doesn't want to be seen in a bathing suit. She also needs to get ready for dating and be comfortable with her sexuality and at this point in time that seems at least five years away to me. And our reward for her achieving all this adolescent development is that we get to deal with the kind of typical adolescent behaviour which we all know drives adults crazy.

Apparently one of the purposes 'Ed' is serving is to be a big wake up call to the fact that how you parent a child is vastly different from how you parent a teenager. My new term for this stage of my life is 'full frontal parenting', and if that has military undertones it is meant to because I feel like everything about my parenting style is underseige and that I am having to regroup and remuster every 10 minutes.

But old habits die hard and I gave into one yesterday and cooked a dutch apple pie to for us to eat and celebrate Emily's successful weight restoration. She gave me a quick flash of Ed's disapproval over the idea of celebrating but she tucked in and ate most of her normal sized piece of pie leaving behind a piece of crust that frankly I left behind too because it wasn't homemade.

And now it is time to figure out what to cook for supper, make my party appetizer, get my costume ready and finish putting up the Halloween decorations. And if anyone else asks me what I do all day I am going to lose it.


  1. Good for you. Dealing with all of that--all day, every day--isn't easy. I've been the anorexic daughter and now as an adult (and a recovered one) it's so much easier to see the strides parents and others take to insure a happy life for their loved one. My years of struggling as a teen and college student are years in the past now, but I remember them well and you sound like the kind of person who is doing more good than perhaps you even know. I'm an ANAD eating disorder support group leader now, have a popular recovery website, and am a moderator on two eating disorder recovery forums... and hope to be a mother myself very soon, so I just wanted to say, for it's worth--I think you're an excellent mother based on what I've read and I commend you for everything you are doing to help Emily.

  2. Arielle, thank you for your words of encouragement. I didn't realize that anyone was reading my blog, other than family and friends, so it was nice to hear that my reflections might be of use to others. I have been wondering whether or not my daughter will make a full recovery. I would appreciate hearing how you knew when you were fully recovered. Thanks again.

  3. Well, I struggled for several years before I considered myself fully recovered. I was in therapy for about 6 years. BUT almost that entire time I was set on recovery. I wanted no part of anorexia, even though it had me in its clutches. I always wanted to be better, I just didn't know how to let go or how to get there.

    I worked at everything very hard--therapy, nutrition, self-help, family stuff, etc etc... and even when I was at a healthy weight again, I still had the thoughts sometimes... and I still wanted to act on them and restrict my food intake, so I don't consider that "recovered." I went through long periods of time hating my body, even though body image was only a very small part of my eating disorder.

    I knew I was recovered when I didn't need therapy any longer, when my mind was fully my own again, when I always made the right choices without second guessing myself first, when I had gotten to the root of my problems, and when I felt like I was living my life instead of just living with an eating disorder. Being in recovery was a wonderful thing, but I consider being in recovery--even when I was doing very well--a very different thing from being fully recovered. I now consider myself fully recovered...for about 3 years. Before that I was healthy and well, but ED wasn't completely gone from my life or my way of thinking. I'm 25 now and I'm completely happy and ED free. That's what it is, I guess--you know you are fully recovered when you feel FREE on a daily basis. Not 50% of the time...or 80% of the time, but 100% of the time. The ED now feels like a part of my past...instead of part of my present. It's a part of my past that allows me to help others, but it is not part of my life. :) I'd be happy to elaborate more or talk through email, as I know I didn't answer that question in great detail here, but I didn't want to write you a novel length blog comment!

  4. Reading your blog is very helpful. Great job on W/R to your team and Emily