It's been years since I've written. I am unsure as to why I've gone so long, I've meant to write, but it's just gotten away from me. Probably we were all so consumed on our phones during the pandemic that I couldn't look at another screen, or maybe I didn't have anything to say. The truth is likely that I just forgot. But I am currently in a battle that is so deep and scary that I have to write about it or I fear I will lose my mind.
I am not sure I will ever post this writing. I hope I do, but I have no idea if that will seem like a good idea or not. My youngest child is entrenched in the deep embrace of anorexia and has been struggling badly for at least a year. This is a personal hell that only some people can relate to, but no one should be ashamed of. It has a deep and powerful hold on the victim, that as my friend says is like a bittersweet vine that climbs a tree and strangles it to death. Just when you think you've gotten to the roots, it shoots back and wraps its vines tighter and tighter.
As her mother it is my job to pull her out of this trench, to chop down these vines, and I can assure you that absolutely no one wants this job. It took me a long time to realize what was happening to my child, and by the time I let go of my denial and took full stock of how deep it was, my baby was drowning. It's been about a month since I woke up and poked the bear, and it's in full fury now. Anorexia gets loud and angry when you call it into the light, and most people who treat eating disorders liken it to someone living inside of your child (I think of it as a little tumor who talks, living on her brain and ordering her not to eat). The only proven way to kill that tumor is by calling it out and taking away its power. It has taken me the last month to see that there is no other way.
So for the past month we've been floundering around trying to figure out what to do. We tried a week of partial hospitalization, which didn't work well for Sofie, and made her depression and anxiety rage to a scary place, so we are now going it at home with outpatient supports. We may revisit the partial idea, or a residential placement if our work at home is not enough, but Jon and I have come to terms with the fact that regardless of what treatment choice we make, the rules and routine at home have to remain constant in order to fight this disease.
We have been fully practicing Family Based Treatment (FBT) for the past three days (we tried to practice this up until now but didn't see the full magnitude of how we have to completely commit in order for it to work) and it is HARD. FBT requires parents to take complete control of their child's eating habits in order to rid them of anorexia. It takes months to years to work, but it does work. I have been out of work, tethered to the kitchen, and fighting battle after battle over grilled cheese sandwiches and smoothies. Each time I win a battle and Sofie eats what I put in front of her, anorexia rages louder in her head. But the only way to quiet the beast is to eat your way to health. Her starved brain cannot make decisions that will lead to anything healthy, so I have to make them for her. She is angry at me for doing it, but also I know she wants help and can't find a way out on her own.
So here we are on day three, and I am hoping to keep this blog as a log for a bit to see how we do. Today I won a battle with a grilled cheese and I felt very proud of my accomplishments. I took her skiing today and she was the happiest she's been in a long time. I am dreading the next mealtime. Every meal fills me with anxiety until its done, but I have to maintain calm at all time and hold my ground. She has to eat, and anorexia cannot win, but man it's scary out here.
Sofie becomes a person I do not recognize when anorexia is speaking for her. She appears possessed and says things that my wonderful child would never say, in a voice I don't even recognize, and on several occasions I can hear Sofie poke through and whisper that she wants help, but doesn't think that she deserves it, or that she wants to eat, but she just physically cannot. After many years of terribly hard parenting times, it is amazing but this is the absolute hardest thing I've ever done. This battle is horrendous, and terrifying, and sneaky, and depressing. All I can do is try and hang on while I wave my machete and chop down the vines one by one.