Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another week another kilo

Wednesday, at our meeting with the Team, Emily showed another weight loss and although it came as no surprise to me, I think Derek and Emily were a little surprised. I could see the Team shift into a different mode and intensity with this week's weight loss and I think that triggered a sense of relief in me because after the meeting I felt better than I had in some time.

Their response was to first try to understand what's been going on, which turned into a very humourous conversation after I finished my little bout of blubbering. We were describing the various and sundry ups and downs of Emily's world, including her first heartache over a self-professed bisexual boy who, unbeknownst to Emily, turned out to be dating her friend from school. And who was in fact waiting downstairs in the lobby for Emily to finish her session so that he could come and have supper with us after spending the earlier part of the afternoon with her. Derek suggested that they record this particular issue on their 'WTF' column, which just cracked all of us up. He can be so funny in these meetings, when he is recounting his observations, which I think is partly his way of handling his discomfort over sharing the intimate details of our life with outsiders.

The next part of the discussion was to figure ways to get Emily's food intake back up and we settled on adding three milk servings back into the mix, getting back to tracking the food intake to ensure that the Food guide values are met, and making her finish her dinner regardless of how much snacking she has done after school.

The final part of the discussion was around consequences to her if she was unable to get her weight back on track. The approach here is to take away physical activities that she is not nutritionally sound enough to manage, as opposed to taking away non-physical privileges like her phone or computer. We don't want her to be punished for having the disease because it is not her fault that it has kicked in, but we do need to keep her safe. Unfortunately Emily isn't doing very much physical activity so we don't have a lot of leverage here other than making her come home for lunch or no allowing her to go the Red Tail nature camp. But they have given her a week to turn around the weight loss trend before we have to impose some restrictions.

So far the week is going much better. Healthy Emily re-emerged on Tuesday morning and fingers crossed, has kept appearing for most of the day ever since. We haven't seen the teenage she-devil version except when Derek can't help himself and has to tease her about it. She has given into the new reality around the food and we haven't see Ed nearly as much at the table for the last three days.

I think I started breathing again some time on Thursday, but didn't recognize it until Friday. I was in a very bad place mentally from Monday to Wednesday when I had a sense that my negativity was mounting into an all consuming kind of mental numbness. I don't ever remember feeling quite this way. It felt a little like the beginning of depression but it was more oppressive than depressive, like my mind was caught in a vacuum of emptiness because it couldn't handle the fear any more. I felt like I was on autopilot and then I noticed it subsiding after the meeting with the Team and by the time I finished my run the next morning, it was gone - thank God!!!!

Now that I am reflecting on how I felt, I wonder if my new yoga practice had something to do with how I reacted this week. And if it did, I am not sure if that was good or bad. Yoga has been extremely challenging, both physically and mentally. I can't say I enjoy it yet, but it is a total distraction from everything in your life and it forces me to live in the moment if only for 60 moments a day. At the end of one of my classes, during the rest period, I started crying and so I just laid there for 5 minutes trying to cry quietly all the while filling up my ears with my tears. The class as focused on twisting moves which I later found out are the considered to be the physical equivalent of an emotional wringing out, which kind of makes sense to me. I hope that I can get more out of my yoga practice than flexibility and I am trying to be patient with the process of growing into my practice and so far I feel comfortable with being patient, which is not really like me, so that's a good thing.

Time to go make breakfast for Emily. She has water polo today, so I will be spending a lot of the day feeding her, but at least I enjoy cooking warm, filling winter dishes.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Relapse #1

If I had to concoct a recipe for an eating disorder relapse (and why wouldn't you use a food analogy here) it would look like this:
- Five days of a sore throat
- 10 days of mounting exam anxiety
- A dollop of post Christmas blues
- A shopping trip for larger sized clothes

Mix that in with parents who don't recognize that Ed is lurking around, and then can't acknowledge that Ed has come out of the shadows and into the light. Fold in a heaping dose of misplaced optimism that tiptoeing around Ed will make him go away.

Let the dynamic stew for 10 days and voila you have a full blown relapse, complete with anorexic thoughts, behaviours, anxiety over eating and a two kilo weight loss.

But I wonder if you can call it a relapse when there hasn't been a full recovery. Maybe in this case it's just called a setback. But from where I sit emotionally right now, the word 'setback' seems far too innocuous for the level of fear and dread and distress that we are experiencing.

Every morning I wake up with a hope that today will be better and so far everyday it has been worse. And what is different this time is that Emily's attitude is more tinged with teenage rebellion so she is fighting back with nastier words and tones. For the first time I feel like Ed is going to damage our relationships, which I find ironic because that was Emily's fear back when she was in the hospital and it didn't come to pass until now. Maybe she was too sick to fight us then, but now she is just healthy enough bolster Ed with all of her pent up teenage rage.

Today I have promised Emily that I won't bring up Ed all day. Which is hard to do on the one hand because I don't want her to think that Ed will go unchallenged. But on the other hand it is difficult for me to point Ed out to her because I know I risk igniting a tidal wave of emotion that not only swamps her but us too. I think I will keep a journal of her Ed behaviours today and maybe try writing her a letter tonight with my reflections on what I saw and what I felt and thought about what I saw. Maybe if I present it to her in non-confrontational love letter format it will be less offensive to her.

I think I just had an epiphany, as I wrote my last paragraph I remembered a show I watched on teenage brains. Using functional MRI's researchers have learned that teenagers tend to interpret every emotional reaction as anger and every conversation with authority figures as condemning and conversely they respond with anger to pretty much everything. Phew am I ever glad I remembered this because now I am less concerned that my actions and words are responsible for upsetting her. Probably whatever I do or say will piss her off, because well duh, she's a teenager. Now I am feeling very grateful that I forced myself to journal this morning, this revelation will probably keep me sane for the next little while and I have to say a little island of sanity is a good thing because there is a whole bedroom of looney tunes right above me.

I don't know where this setback will take us over the next few weeks. I do know that our lives are on hold in terms of the get away weekend that Derek and I so desperately need, my work travel in February, meals, menus, recipes, etc. And that sucks especially after a bit of time and space where things seemed 'normal'.

Thankfully we still have the team to help guide us through this and they are available weekly again for now. And thankfully we know a lot more about Ed, and about how to fight him. We know more about ourselves and our capacity to tough it out. And Emily is healthier and wiser herself. I think she forgot how strong Ed can be and how sick he made her, so this setback will serve to remind all of us of that this retched disease is a formidable foe.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chocolate Cake for Breakfast

If someone had told me four, three, two or even one month ago that we would be eating chocolate cake for breakfast to celebrate Derek's birthday I probably would have scoffed and said 'that'll be the day'. But today was the day.

Now it must be said that Emily was uncomfortable with the idea because she doesn't like change around eating habits, and she only had a small piece, but she ate it and enjoyed it. Who knows what kind of 'nutso' things Ed screamed in her head all day about it, but she did it and although she did it partly to please us, she also did it partly because she wanted to. Ah, the sweet taste of success lingers on my tongue still.

We had a very good Christmas holiday. We did some of our traditional things including many food related activities and we did some new things too. She just kind of went with the flow. I checked in with her, maybe too often, to make sure that she was comfortable with whatever was going on and she seemed to take it all in stride. She had her fair share of Christmas goodies and sometimes Ed kicked up, but not always.

She maintained her weight over the last three weeks in spite of having a sore throat for five days. Her menstrual cycle continues with lots of pimples, bloating, cramps and moodiness which are all great signs of her excellent health. Her energy level is good enough to allow her to do 8k runs. And she looks fantastic, if I do say so myself.

Mentally she tells me that Ed is only present about 50% of the time which she considers much better than 100%. I want him gone completely but he is not working on my timelines is he? Lately, I think she has been getting more uncomfortable with her current weight. I guess when you gain 25 pounds in four months you kind of can't help but notice it. But she realized that wearing clothes she bought about 12 pounds ago is a trigger for those thoughts so after her session with the Team yesterday she announced that she needed new jeans and new school pants. I wonder how many of us to quiet the nasty 'self improvement' committee in our heads with some clothes that fit properly and make us feel good to wear?

I have come to realize that one of my challenges for this stage of her recovery is to not let my guard drop and to make sure that we keep anchoring ourselves with breakfast and dinners at the table. Over the holidays things got a little out of whack for us and while a change was good in the short term I believe that we need to come together twice a day to break bread and commune for a lot of reasons. We have all but stopped playing cards or games at meal time because Emily doesn't need that level of distraction. Plus we added a lovely dog named Kismet to our clan recently and he provides more distraction for us.

One of the other challenges that we are facing right now is figuring out which of Emily's behaviours are Ed related versus puberty related. We think we are seeing a lot of normal teenage angst, defiance, snarky toned retorts, emotional highs and lows. But sometimes we aren't quite sure how to handle her because we are virtually brand new to the whole teenage parenting role. But at this early stage of the process I can usually laugh off her antics because normal teenage stuff is a treat compared to the psycho Ed stuff.

Things are good for us right now. Life is feeling more normal all the time. I don't wake up feeling panicky. I don't feel stressed about what to serve for meals. Emily has started making her school lunches and taking more independence around her other meals. We've seen a difference in her enthusiasm and appreciation for meals since she has taken on the responsibility of feeding and caring for Kismet. I know she is at a stage in her life when she needs to establish her independence and ironically Ed robbed her of that completely so we need to help her to regain it in ways that don't jeopardize her health or her growth. That will be a tough balance to strike but at least I know what I am up against and I am feeling rejuvenated enough to take a stab at it.

Happy New Year, Happy New Decade and Happy Birthday to my wonderful guy!