Thursday, October 22, 2009

When pimples mean progress

Emily is continuing to make excellent progress. She gained two pounds this week which means she is only two pounds away from the bottom of the ideal body weight range for her age and height. And what is really amazing is that she has actually come to realize that she feels much better at this weight.

The advantages of her reaching the goal weight are that she can switch from 2% to 1% milk, her hair has stopped falling out and she is able to take on more physical activity. She will be starting phys. ed. tomorrow, but is only able to let her heart rate reach 120 beats per minute for this week, and she plans to start walking to school. I was concerned that she would have to increase her caloric intake to compensate for her physical activity but that is not the case because once she is at the goal weight she would have needed to reduce her intake in order to not continue gaining. But by adding physical activity she can maintain the same food intake and maintain her weight. Well that's the theory at least. The down side of reaching her goal weight is an increase in acne because her body is producing estrogen again and I am sure many of us can relate to the horror of teenage pimples.

Healthy Emily is present so often now that when Ed shows up it is readily apparent. She becomes totally silent, motionless and gives off a very troubling aura of intensity. I can spot Ed at 50 paces these days, I don't even have to see her face to know when it is happening because the change is so dramatic. Sadly she turns into the girl she has been for the last year so we are very familiar with what Ed looks like only now we get to see it in contrast to healthy Emily.

Emily has managed her morning snack at school with no problem and we have progressed to me bringing lunch for her to eat in the car and she takes her dessert into the school to eat with her classmates. Her motivation is to have more time to socialize with her classmates. She is really enjoying school, and the people there a great deal. She started taking German and Mandarin and I am in awe of her ease with speaking German. Her teacher asked her if she had taken it before because she sounds so natural. She is also playing the piano again and she has been jamming at school with a couple of other students, both of whom are outstanding musicians. There is a school fundraising event this weekend, a bake sale on Spring Garden Rd. in front of the Gardens, on Saturday between 10-2. She is looking forward to participating and even hopes to be able to make some marble squares to sell. So if you are in the area on Saturday bring your cash and get some goodies.

Today, she set the goal of taking her school blazer off during class. She is the only student who wears her blazer so she is starting to feel like she is standing out. When I met her at lunch she said she did it. It was harder than she expected it to be at first but it got easier after a while. Ironically, she noticed that a couple of kids left their blazers on today. She also commented that she has the most 'fitted' white shirt which made her feel a little awkward. In fact the white shirt, which is one of her H&M purchases from the weekend, is very flattering, so although no one said anything about her not wearing her blazer I am sure that the boys in her school noticed.

Emily thinks she might try lunch on her own at school tomorrow. Derek and I are both apprehensive about that but we have to let her decide if and when healthy Emily is ready. And we will have a contingency plan to compensate for any uneaten food. She is planning another weekend of socializing with friends just like a real teenager - phew that's a relief.

Her session with the Team yesterday gave her some tactics to use to reduce her Ed thoughts at meals. She is going to tell herself that 'yes this meal is hard, but it will be over soon and then I don't have to think about eating again for another three hours'. She is also going to try to go to school all day instead of just mornings, so today is the second afternoon she has stayed this week. She has been avoiding Thursday's drama class and can't quite articulate why, so it will be interesting to hear what she discovers about herself today.

She told me last night that she feels like she is not in the same league as the rest of the students in her class because they all seem to be very smart and accomplished at one thing or another. She said she is the least motivated student in the school. I missed the opportunity to ask her how that made her feel but today when she told me she signed up for an extra course, grade 11 biology, I realized that she might be feeling the need to work harder to feel like she belongs and deserves to be there. I plan to explore that with her tonight and give her the chance to label and voice her feelings rather than suppress them. I have been reading up on how all eating disorder patients suppress their feelings through starvation because the process of restricting food intake is a very time consuming distraction from all other thought processes and activities and one of the physiological affects of starvation is that it numbs the mind. Emily can't really remember much about the weeks before she went into the hospital because she was so starved that it is all a blur to her, but she does remember that it wasn't as hard to endure as the first month of treatment was. So now she has the opportunity to learn how to express her feelings in appropriate and productive ways so that they don't fester inside making her need to rely on Ed to help her suppress them.

The challenge of course is that Derek and I are both emotional suppressors so it means that we have to learn to do this ourselves so we can model emotional intelligence for her. Many of us think that suppressing our feelings is a sign of emotional maturity but in fact it is not because suppressed feelings not only cause sadness and a host of mental issues like passive aggressive behaviors and depression, they also cause physical illness. The alternative is to use our feelings to guide us through our lives by using them to understand what makes us feel good or scared or joyful or anxious. Today as I listened to the news about the Canadian dollar reaching parity with the US dollar I started to enjoy a happy memory of a shopping trip south of the border, but then the reporter started talking about how bad the rising dollar is for Canadian truckers, my little moment of joy got squashed by feelings of fear for the economy and sadness for the truckers. But I chose to use that feeling to guide my actions and change the damned radio to a station that was playing soothing music that took me back to my nice memories. Bad news makes everyone feel bad and yet we willingly expose ourselves to it relentlessly in the name of what 'social awareness'. How can we justify trading off our mental, emotional and physical health for a cursory knowledge of current events? I know that from reflecting on my own life and from watching Emily suffer so much that we ignore our feelings at great peril. But man oh man, it's gonna take a lot of work to change 50 years of conscious and unconscious habits. How ironic that the song, 'We've only just begun', by Karen Carpenter, who died of anorexia, is rattling around inside my head as I ponder this stage of treatment.

Well I gotta go finish cooking up my newest recipe, peanut chicken noodle something or other. Fingers crossed that she'll like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment