Hurray. When we went back to the eating disorders clinic on 6 October, our daughter had gained 800 grammes. She was unhappy about it, but we were delighted, and so were the therapists.
They explained that her weight is still going to fluctuate, but we felt we had turned a corner. The relief my wife felt on hearing the news was palpable. So this means the extra food we have been giving her has worked. She is coping, not always well, with the food, and we able to make it work in our family environment. We are very pleased.
In the days following, our child has been down but she has said some encouraging things: it’s anorexia that is keeping her down and she can, at times, imagine what it will be like to beat the condition.
She and I were talking today about happy times. She is struggling the last time she was genuinely happy. I know how she feels. Nevertheless, we know we have had happy times in the past and have to have confidence that we will do so again. The best times have been when we have done something spontaneously, all of us together. It could be a coincidence, but all the examples I could think of were beautiful, warm, sunny autumn days like today, 10.10.10.
When the girls were tiny, we found ourselves one September at a kite festival. The organisers were brilliant. They had sent out publicity telling all children to come along with a favourite soft toy. Each toy got to go on a daredevil flight in a basket attached to one of the kites. They (the children, I can’t speak for the toys) thought it was magnificent fun.
Other times involved unlikely trips to the seaside, playing football on the beach, eating picnic lunches, taking advantage of unexpectedly sunny days. I believe these days will return. I believe we will be happy again. I will fight for that happiness.
Here are some other interesting points to have emerged from our discussion with the eating disorders team.
1. They much prefer to treat young people as outpatients rather than bring them into residential care. They regard residential care as a last resort. They encourage parents over an initial four-six week period to do everything they can to turn the child’s weight around while the child is living in the family home and going to school. The results of patients treated internally are less good. The team thinks that one of the reasons for this is that taking the child away “disempowers the parents”.
2. They acknowledged that a gain of 800 grammes in one week is more than the initial target set out by the professor in charge of the programme (he suggested 500 grammes a week). Our daughter was worried about that. They said they wouldn’t want her to regain weight too quickly. They pointed out that anorexia seeks always to be in control of what the sufferer eats. This week’s weight gain was, they said, an indication that our daughter was beginning to hand over a bit of control from anorexia to us. Praise God. Curse anorexia.