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.