Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Calling it a day

It is now over a year since I began this journal and I can hardly believe the journey that we have been on.

Waif, whilst still slender, is now healthy, strong and glowing.  In fact so much so that I find myself beginning to wonder if she ever had an eating disorder.  Then I read my first few posts and recall the absolute despair and all consuming worry that I felt just 14 months back.  I was so worried that she might end up being one of the 25% who end up dying in order to be in control.  I realise that Waif will have a life long vulnerability and that she will always be a quirky girl, a girl of extremes but now have high hopes again for her.

So what did the trick?

I wish I knew.  Obviously, we had access to world class treatment at the Maudsley Hospital and that cannot be a co-incidence.  Having said that, I can't for the life of me fathom what they DID that made a difference....we met once a week at Waif's worst, had a chat and had her weighed.  She cried.  Sometimes I cried.  She claimed nothing at all else was wrong in her life.

We also moved her schools in January of this year to a much less pressured place (away from the top 10 in the country girls' school she was at which has a reputation for being a hotbed of anorexia).  We got rid of the au pairs and I stayed at home for the year rather than working.  That meant I could keep her home for 1 or 2 days a week to ensure she ate properly, and could also supervise breakfast and tea as well as supper.  Perhaps these were all important factors too?

I wish I knew what worked as I would love to pass on any tips.  Perhaps it was for Waif the combination of happenings that all signalled to her that her weight was not cool.  It was not okay.  It was not attractive.  It was not healthy.  And that we loved her so very very much that watching her starve herself was the worst pain we have ever felt and my heart goes out to anyone still in that position, and doubly so to any girl whose waking and sleeping thoughts are dominated by the perverted urge to be skeletal.

So now I must let go a little.  Waif is 14 and extraordinarily determined, clever and hardworking.  She is a very demanding girl (she has delivered me a weekly menu which I have to stick to, and supper has to be on the table at 6pm as she insists on being asleep by 8pm) balanced by the fact that she is also an incredibly thoughtful and generous person - she helps out so much at home without ever being asked, cares well for all her friends and has an instinct for knowing who is hurting and how to help them.

Waif now does a video fashion blog.  She doesn't want me to watch it, so I don't.  I think this is where the sleeping has come from - she thinks she will grow more (her latest obsession).  She has lost the bags under her eyes completely and her face is no longer drawn and sunken.  In fact she is looking utterly beautiful :-)

Waif cycles to school and now wants to do it alone.  Twice in the past month, we have seen cycling accidents and had to call an ambulance.  Once was a woman who was cycling with a dangling plastic bag on her handlebars that got caught in the wheel and she went flying (no helmet), and the second time was a man commuting to work (presumably) all kitted out and being hit side on whilst engaged on a roundabout.  Despite this, Waif is refusing to wear a helmet as it will "ruin her hair".  I may trade a helmet for solo cycling.

Waif has always been a girl not to do things by halves;  if she is set homework, she does it forwards, backwards and illustrated.  I have no doubt that (barring, heaven forbid, sickness or injury) she will get a string of A*s at GCSe and "A" level and that she will rise to the very top of whichever profession she chooses.  If I ever needed to employ a lawyer/ doctor/ architect and Waif was one, then I would be utterly confident that she would be the most creative, most efficient and most industrious of the lot.  I am so glad that she is not throwing away all this potential.  Of course, I would also be completely happy if she chose not to pursue a high powered career but found self fulfilment in some other way (charity work, raising a family) which I have no doubt she would also do brilliantly.

I am so lucky to have her.  And also lucky to have had such lovely followers who have at times lent me moral support, sage advice and sometimes a much needed nudge.  Thank you and good bye.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Maudsley visit time

Phew, that went well.  Waif is at 45.3kg and 163cm - she has grown 5 cm in the last year so hopefully that means that she has eaten enough at some point.  And also, of course, put on about 9kg  :-)  :-)

We always have easy sessions when Waif has made progress.  She was asked if she missed Older Daughter, now away at school (no) and whether she was close to the relative who has just been jailed for killing someone (no).  So no problems there then ;-)

Waif actually opened up in today's session rather than being her normal monosyllabic self.  Or rather she is monosyllabic at the Maudsley...at home she chatters nineteen to the dozen, issuing instructions.  So today she shamelessly told the psych that the Hopspital's graphs of weight against time were not well set out because the time scale was not constant, being one square per visit rather than one square per month, and the interval between visits varies a lot.  She also admitted that she has pinned up a menu  list for me to abide by on the fridge, is expecting her room to be redecorated, chided both of us for not noticing that she had been wearing a yellow badge of late, told me I needed to sew a button on her jacket and wondered what I do all day as she tells me stuff to do in the morning and sometimes I have not done it by 3.30pm (um, my husband seconded her sentiment  ...grrrrr)!

The Psych looked on in bewilderment and is beginning to see why Waif had the nickname "Tyrant" when she was a very small child.  It is good to see her sense of humour and confidence beginning to return.

We are not needed to return for a whole month.  We are still aiming at 95-100% weight for age and height so have a few kg to go.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tonight I cried

I was on my email account half an hour ago when Older Daughter popped in for a chat.

OD has been at her new boarding school for a week now.  When we went to visit on Sunday, we bought her some provisions for snacks at the farmer's market - cheese and crackers, jam for House toast and some juices.

As I knew that supper was at 6pm and this was 6.15pm, I asked her why she was not at supper.  She avoided the question but I persisted.  In the end it turned out that she hadn't gone because she had nobody to go with :-(

She was a late entrant in the exams so has been squeezed into a house for 13-18 year old girls which does not generally take in new girls at 16,  unlike the sixth form boarding house.  Her two room mates are perfectly nice girls but I guess they didn't think of OD when they went for supper.  I wonder how often this has happened?

It takes a lot of face to go alone into a school canteen as a new girl and especially so when you are, as am I and OD, face blind - this means you cannot spot any tables of new friends to go and join.

I told OD to be brave and go eat but she said that she was happy having cheese in her room.  And toast.

This makes my heart ache for her.

I imagine her alone in her dormitory, eating a dry cracker whilst the rest of her House enjoy a slap up, raucous roast in the dining hall, sharing jokes and confidences.

I want to go and find OD, to hug her, and to make it all better   BUT she is 60 miles away and coping in her own way.  She seemed reasonably cheerful. Of course that simply serves to make me believe she is being brave for me and cry some more :-(    I am amazed that there is no kind of Buddy system for a new girl to ensure that she knows when/ where meals are and is generally invited to tag along.  I am certain that OD is not being deliberately left out.  She is the kind of girl that everybody likes.  It is closer to a benign neglect.  Probably the others drift off in ones and twos confident that they will meet their friends in the dining hall with not a thought to specifically "invite" the new girl.

All the same, this has made me cry more than when I left her 7 days ago and I hope it is not symptomatic of a more general isolation.

I am tempted to visit on Sunday (it is not an exeat weekend so would technically not be allowed) to check up on her.  It's tricky though as a day out on Sunday might have a completely counterproductive effect in terms of making friends in the boarding house.  Also Waif objects strongly.  She has been expecting full on attention once OD is away at boarding school and here I am mooning around, spending time on the internet helping with homework and talking of being away for another Sunday (Waif can, of course, come too if she wants).

I have to remember that OD is 16 and needs to be independent.  It's tough when your children start leaving home.  I am rethinking allowing Waif to board in 2 years time.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Resuming a normal life

My husband and I went yesterday to visit Older Daughter at her boarding school as she had an admissions ceremony in the cathedral for her scholarship.  Waif did not want to come.  As she is now 14 and has plenty of friends around, and we know all our neighbours well, I left her at home for the day.  I think that she is still quite jealous of OD's successes even though she will, I am certain, do as well herself in time, and even if she doesn't then I know she will do her best which is all you can ask for.

It occurs to me that this is the first day for 15 months that I have left Waif to feed herself.  I made a bolognaise on Saturday with plenty of veg (lots of carrots, celery, leeks and tomato) and left it in the fridge for her to heat up on Sunday.  A reasonable portion was gone when I arrived home (hubby went straight to Heathrow for a business flight) and the dog still seemed hungry so my fingers are crossed.

Waif is taking more charge of her meals now - making her own packed lunches and providing me with a weekly menu for suppers.  i am backing off as much as I can and not checking every day what she is packing although I do remind her that she needs a milk drink and a snack as well as her sandwich  She is trying to eat more vegetables now and less chocolate which seems like a healthy move now she is nearing her more ideal weight, as long as she still has enough main meals.  A banana instead of a kitkat for instance, is a better long term plan for a mid morning snack.

She told me the other day that they had all had to weight themselves and calculate their BMIs at school at the end of last term.  Hers was 15 point something.  She said lots of the girls were 16 or 17 and the teacher had told them not to worry if it was under 18 as they were all young (13 or 14 years old).  Hmmm...Waif now has it in her head that the Maudsley are aiming too high for her ideal weight.  We will need to talk this through on Thursday when we go.

My personal view is that Waif looks great as she is...and would look great at anything between her current weight and 2 or 3 stone more.  I can see she is at a minimum.  I can also see that had she never been anorexic, I would not find her current weight worrying so I empathise with her difficulty with the last few kilogrammes that she needs to gain  BUT, and this is a big but, I have read the research which all indicates that the higher the normal weight achieved in refeeding, the better the long term success.  If Waif were told she could ease off where she is,  she could consider her current weight as some kind of MAXIMUM and not a minimum on which to gradually add as she matures.  45kg would definitely not be enough for an adult of her height.  

Whatever, I am just so relieved at the progress we have made over the year and can now begin to think about plans for my own life in the coming months.  I am considering taking a Family Law masters at university and then practising as a family lawyer (I am already a qualifiied lawyer but have always practised commercial law until my sabbatical a year ago).  This would give me another year or two of being generally around after school for Waif before I launch back into proper work when Waif hits 16.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Working too hard?

Waif spent at least 12 hours over the holidays annotating Henry V which she is studying for GCSE and on which she has a module (her first) in October.  She did this off her own bat.  She knows that she is not allowed to take an annotated copy into the exam so she also has an unannotated copy.

In her last English lesson, Waif's english teacher saw that someone was without a copy of her play whilst organised Waif was in possession of two, and so she told Waif to lend hers to this other girl.

Fast forward to today wherein Ms English has Waif's annotated script at the front of the class with her and again sees another child without  a book.

"Waif" she said imperiously "Sasha can have your book, can't she, as you have two?"   Waif is shy and felt unable to say no.  All lesson, Sasha was reminding the teacher to give her the book but the teacher was not organised enough to do so and at the end of the lesson told Sasha to come at break for it.  This, I remind you, Dear Reader, is Waif's very own copy ordered and paid for by moi in the holidays and slaved over by Waif.

Sasha forgot to go to the english office in break but Waif did not.  Ms English was there but casually said that she could no longer find the book - "I had it earlier" she breezed.

Obviously, Waif is fairly distraught.  I know it shouldn't, but this episode has tainted her whole day.  Actually, maybe it should - I would be upset if I had devoted 2 or 3 days of my holiday to some noting and somebody else took and then lost it.

I fought the habits of a lifetime and phoned Ms English.  I explained that this book was Waif's and that she had invested a lot of time and effort into annotating it.  "Oh," she said "well that's okay then as we will be working through it this term and she isn't allowed to take an annotated copy into the exam so it doesn't matter anyway."

"That is why she has two copies; so she can annotate one and use the other in the examination" I spluttered .

"I will" I said, uncharacteristically icily "be most disappointed if she does not have it back within a week."

Am I overprotective?  Am I the only one to think that sometimes teachers do not treat children like human beings?

Waif wants me to see if she can move English classes.  Ms English did not endear herself to Waif in Lesson 1 of term when she declared that she found Henry V immensely dull.  That is not an inspiring start.

Monday, 6 September 2010

prison visiting

Waif, Hubby and I went to visit our incarcerated relative yesterday, she who allegedly murdered another relative.

We have never been in a prison before.  After our fingerprints were scanned in and passports checked, it was surprisingly normal.  The room where we met was very like a school gym but with some strange rules, like we couldn't stand up until our prisoner had left the room, and she couldn't take off her cardigan without permission.  Her coffee mug was a different colour from ours so that we could not spit something into a drink and then swap it with her.

 We talked about prison life, deciding that she was probably the only one there who had attended a finishing school on the continent.  She seemed to be a bit of a celebrity amongst the warders who identified us immediately as her relatives and all seemed cheerful and polite.

Sigh, it's still no fun being in prison, though.  She is locked in her cell for 14 hours a night and whilst it is a single cell and she has a tv (DVD player comes with good behaviour later), it also has a smelly toilet which can't be cleaned as the prisoners are not trusted with bleach.  There is a lot of self harm too which must be exhausting emotionally.  The other day she opened the door to her friend's cell to find her there with a plastic bag over her head :-(

Waif sat mainly listening.  I am not sure what she thought about the whole thing, but it must have some effect.  Hubby reckons this whole episode is something we shouldn't mention at the Maudsley as it is irrelevant but I think perhaps it is not chance that Waif comes from a family where issues such as domestic abuse are around but not spoken of.  Hubby's words of advice to Older Daughter on departing for boarding school - his distilled wisdom from years at public school - was "don't tell tales."  Even he admits that his family are not good communicators.

We had an eventful day yesterday actually as on the way to the prison we stopped for a walk and a picnic in Richmond Park.  It is beautiful there and reminds me of my childhood.  We saw a heart engraved into a tree with Stephen 4 Brenda  10.9.78 carved in its middle.  I searched my mind for a Brenda but couldn't think of one.  I wondered if I might see my own name anywhere (obviously, I didn't).  Anyway, after the idyll that was a sandwich in the dappled shade, overlooking herds of deer, dog calmly lying next to us, we saw a poor woman tumble off her bike.  She was in her fifties or sixties and had been carrying a plastic bag over her front handlebar and it had entangled with the wheel.  She went straight over the top and landed awkwardly.  Luckily, the car behind her stopped in time and did not compound the injuries.

She was briefly knocked out and was nursing a possible broken shoulder and wrist (or so it seemed to my inexpert eye) so we shepherded traffic away from her and summoned an ambulance.  Luckily a paramedic soon arrived to take over followed slightly later by the ambulance.

After we left, I pointed out to Waif that Fran might have avoided her head injury had she been wearing a helmet.  Currently, Waif refuses to wear a helmet on her cycle to school.  Waif countered by telling me to look at the stats and to see that she is less likely to have an accident if she is NOT wearing a helmet.

Sigh, I tried the emotional blackmail "Well, do it for my sake.  Think how awful I would feel if you were to fall off and hit your head and I knew I had not made you wear a helmet".  She came straight back with "Imagine how I would feel if you fell off and hurt yourself and I knew you didn't even need to come with me".  

I reckon I lost that argument!  It's tricky as a parent to strike the right balance between benevolent adviser and benevolent dictator.  On the whole I respect autonomy and have always encouraged my daughters to make their own decisions so this whole Maudsley method (parents take control over meals) has been quite strange for me.  It seems to have worked though, even if I suspect that we have been less rigid in meal plans than is often the case.

I am going to try to see the psychiatrist alone for 10 minutes before Waif's next visit to ask a couple of questions about our family life that I don't want to ask in front of Waif.  I hope that is acceptable....we have only ever had family appointments.  Personally, I think it would be good if Waif could also have some time alone with the psych because teenagers often have issues they don't want to share with their parents.

Ho hum, 16 September is our next appointment.  Yikes, I realise that we have been failing to weigh Waif weekly - she is starting to look so much healthier that I guess I haven't wanted to upset the applecart but I know I should do this and will tackle her tonight after school and suggest we get a number down.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Back to school

Waif started term today with a seemingly light heart :-)     She is starting her GCSE courses and also wants extra curricular art, piano and tennis lessons.  I am concerned to see that she does not overextend herself so we are playing it by ear.  So far, I have arranged for art lessons after school on a Monday (with a lovely lady who just had a picture in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition so clearly has talent but, more importantly, she is a very gently spoken, encouraging, calm woman with just grown daughters of her own).  Piano lessons are to be on Fridays.  I am holding out on tennis, with a promise of the odd lesson at weekends if she has the energy.

Waif woke up with a jolt in the night last week (yes, she is back in our bed) saying "I can't do as well as my sister in GCSE's because I am only taking 9".  Sigh, I wish she didn't feel that she was in such direct competition with Older Daughter because they are so different and both so talented.  I can't help thinking that her ED began as a competitive thing with OD as OD, being 2 years older, grew first and attracted attention that Waif was not yet getting.  Now she herself has grown and filled out a little, Waif gets plenty of wolf whistles and admiring glances.  Cycling with her is a completely different experience from doing it on my own - all the van drivers merrily allow us plenty of space and time to change lanes, turn right etc and all with cheery waves  :-)   Oh to be young!  Anyway, it turned out today that her englishes will constitute 2 GCSEs and her maths also (maths and further maths) so in fact she is taking 11 GCSEs.  That seems like more than enough but I still hope that she is not going to work herself into the ground for a string of top grades.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Waif has now had her birthday, although not yet a party as many of her friends are away.  I will have to change the blurb on the side bar about rescuing my fading 13 year old daughter, to something more optimistic about my healthier looking, beautiful 14 year old.

We have been away to the Italian lakes to stay in a beautiful complex with tennis and a pool.  Lots of swimming and reading was done.

Eating on holiday is always tricky.  Waif seemed to be back to her old habits of making excuses:  she didn't like the fishfingers we found in an Italian supermarket even though they were still Bird's Eye, she didn't like their style of bread etc  I had thought it would be easy as pasta is her favourite food and obviously good quality ice cream is a cinch.

She did look thinner on her return last week but she gaily announced to me that she had weighed herself and was still at 44kg (fully clothed), which is 97lbs, or just 1 lb off 7 stone.  7 stone would be a nice place to be even if still  underweight  :-)      I suspect the reason she looks thinner (which, yes, I am working on now we are home) is that she has grown like topsy.  She is now taller than I am in my heels.  I take this as a sign that she is getting good enough nutrition.

Older Daughter has achieved a string of A* grades (9 of them) at GCSE which is fabulous but sets a very high bar for Waif who always seems to feel in competition with her sister.  I need to make sure that she does not overwork.  - she is taking her first GCSE next June (at the age of 14) and is sitting her first english module (Henry V) in October.  Hmmm.... my husband piled on more pressure by announcing that A's today are the equivalent of C's in our day.  Actually, I reckon this generation of teens work much harder than we ever did.

We have also had stress in the way of a family tragedy - a murder (alleged) by and of a reasonably close family member.  I  realise this is quite dramatic news and don't want to go into details but suffice it to say that Waif is back in bed with us.   We are NOT that kind of family but there were obviously things going on about which we knew only the tip of the iceberg.   This will linger on until and after trial in 6 months time and see dark family secrets spread over the newspapers come the Spring.  Perhaps we are not the perfect family I thought we were.

On the way home from Lake Garda, at Stansted Airport, we passed the thinnest girl I have ever seen.  Her thighs were like bare bones  :-(     My heart went out to her and her family and couldn't help thinking that she was not going to live long unless she got some serious help.  It is selfish, but I am thankful that it was not us with her ie Waif that was that thin.  Although some readers have the impression that I am casual about the Maudsley and about recovery, I can assure you that I am not.  If I were allowed only one wish in the whole of my life it would be to make Waif better and I know that the Maudsley is the best place for it, and indeed it seems to be working.   Waif has been slow but steady in recovery and yet is 7kg heavier than this time last year which is the difference between life threateningly ill and "too thin".   In some ways, slow recovery seems to me to be logical as Waif will not have to make dramatic alterations to her diet when she gets to her goal weight.  She will just eliminate the between meals chocolate bars and late night ice cream and be left with a healthy, robust diet.

On a completely separate note, I am due back to work next week but have not even spoken to my employers (blush). I had a vivid dream the other night that I set up a charity helping anorexic girls and was giving talks in schools and had at last found something worthwhile to do.  Waif is keen for me to teach at her school...not sure that would be wise, although it would certainly be convenient.

Pictures later.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


We have the metrics from the Maudsley.  Waif has grown a cm and lost 0.3kg but the psych was reassuring about that saying it would be two steps forward, one step back and the graph is going in the right direction.  She also said that growing uses up lots of energy so some weight loss is not surprising, although it means our target is going up.

She gave us the choice of the last week in August, or the third week in September for our next appointment.  We are being brave about going it alone and plumped for the end of September.

Waif was in tears at the appointment as I knew she would be, at the weight loss because she feels she has given it her best.  I know she has, and now she is home I know she will put on more weight.

The psych caught me on the hop by asking what meals I cook.

Sigh, I am not very imaginative.  We generally have McDonalds on a Monday (fishburgers), salmon on a Tuesday as it is delivered that day, some sort of chicken the next day - usually roasted with some lemon and garlic or in a creamy sauce or as fajitas ( I don't eat meat so have refried beans in my fajitas), some sort of vegetarian dish on a Thursday like Thai noodles, cheese and tomato toasties or pasta pesto, then some kind of red meat on Friday (? bolognaise, lasagne, steak, sausages).  Then there will be a curry on Saturday night and a roast on Sunday.

I can see I should expand my repertoire!  It will be easier in September with Older Daughter away as she is the one who dislikes rice and pasta so we will be able to have dishes like risotto and ravioli.

Apart from whether Waif has put on weight or not, we do not seem to discuss much at the Maudsley. It seems to work on the weightwatchers principle alone.  There again, Waif has no obvious OCD tendencies, trauma or underlying depression so I am not sure what else they could work on. I guess I don't care HOW it works, I just care THAT it works.

Hmmmm... I do appreciate how very lucky we are that the world leading centre, the Maudsley Hospital, is on our doorstep and available to us for free.  I can't imagine how I would have tackled September to December  2009 without that crutch as I had faith in them.  I know I would always have fought for the best possible provision for Waif, and did stuff at home too (taking a break from work, moving her to a new school) but I am lucky that te best treatment landed on our laps so easily.  I am glad we didn't go for the private route (we have insurance and so could have chosen this) which would have involved in patient treatment at The Priory.  Being an inpatient, whilst sometimes vital, sounds miserable and life altering, without being wildly effective long term.  Whilst Waif has spent considerably longer putting on her weight (goodness, 10 months to put on 7kg), she is now in good eating habits and I am fairly confident that she will not relapse in the near future - whilst she is still at home, that is.

Maudsley again

We are off to the Maudsley again this afternoon.  Just Waif and me - my husband is working and Older Daughter is on a course.

Waif's goal was 46kg but she weighted herself yesterday and was 43.5kg so we are going to miss that target by some margin unfortunately which Waif will find hard.

I appreciate my commentators telling me to treat this seriously.  I can assure you that I do!  I have given up a year of work to devote myself to making Waif well and it dominates my day, every day.

On the other hand, I also feel that for long term recovery, and for her own mental health, Waif needs to have a life OUTSIDE and APART from anorexia.  I want that side of her life to grow and the ED part to shrivel.  Waif's weight loss in France was, she says, not due to her not eating everything she was offered.  She blames it on her need for SO many calories to maintain her weight and she did not have access to the limitless chocolate bars we now have at home (I try to remind myself that teeth are secondary to survival).

The whole experience was part of Waif's non ED life:  she saw how other families live ( including 5 hours of dictee and other school work on weekdays throughout the Summer!) and improved her ability to mix with others - negotiating with the cousins where she was not given the special privileges accorded to her at home owing to her status as "not well" and "not to be upset" - and improved her French.  

So, it was a difficult call, but all in all the French Exchange was a worthwhile interlude.  I am NOT saying that her weight loss was acceptable BTW and she will not be going on the Christmas Ski Trip unless she is 48kg by then.

We saw an incredibly thin girl walking in the park today.  Waif and I both agreed that she looked really dreadful - skin and bones, poor girl.

"I am not that thin" said Waif, slightly tentatively.  And indeed she is not.

"No" I agreed "but you were honestly like that at Christmas when we were all so very worried about you.  You look so much healthier and more beautiful now."

She does.  

Her skin now has back its youthful glow and the mottled purple veins on her thighs and arms have disappeared.  I hope she too looks back at photos of when she was skeletal with horror and not with nostalgia.

In fact, this morning someone in a shop suggested that Waif takes up modelling.   Hmmm.... whilst I am aware that any connection with the model industry would be disastrous for anyone with ED, I am using this as an aid.  Waif knows that she would need to be a good 4 inches taller than she is now to be a model, and she knows she must eat to grow.  Short term, therefore, perhaps I can use this to my advantage.

We went to my in-laws earlier this week and Waif's grandparents reckon she looks fine now.  Hmmmmm..... at 43.5kg I think she is JUST still in the anorexic range and without doubt underweight. They were trying to be kind and friendly but I am worried that they can believe that Waif is currently an acceptable size.  I had to explain to them that long term recovery is strongly linked to reaching a proper 100% target weight which they no doubt would consider fat but that Anorexia has a 25% death rate and that all I care about is Waif being healthy not, in their opinion, slim.  Their judgment is very difficult to cope with.

Waif's Grandpa you might think to be slim himself but he is not!   He has always been very tubby.  He just believes that girls should be tiny.  He looked very shocked when I said that Waif needs to put on another 5kg before we go to maintenance.  Waif's Grandmother seemed to take that on board a little and plied Waif with chocolate brownies when she went out for surfing lessons in the afternoons.  Also, to be fair, her Grandpa cooked her steak and chips with Bearnaise sauce (all home made).  Yum.

2 hours to go........

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Home from France

Waif is home!    I am sooooooo proud of her adventures.  Given that she was so trepidatious about going, the fact she lasted the whole trip is fabulous and in no small part due to the kindness of her host family - not to mention their 4 splendid homes around France: Parisian townhouse, country house near Versailles and then their chateau and pool in the South.  All the cousins were staying with their grandparents so there were 8 of them ranging from 4 years old up to 18.  Waif at nearly 14 fitted in fine  :-)

She is looking definitely thinner (and browner) than when she left, but immediately on arrival at Gatwick, she wanted to go straight to Marks and Spencer to buy herself a sandwich and a piece of cake.  Probably for my benefit :-)  but very sweet of her.  She said she had found it difficult that she could not help herself to ice creams and chocolate bars during the day and that that was why she had lost weight.

Her next appointment at the Maudsley is 5 August so we have to make sure to top Waif up again if she is not to have a miserable visit.  It also makes me realise that, if she were older, Waif would not be ready for 6th form boarding or for residential university.  We still have a way to go.

Whilst Waif was away, and OD elsewhere, I stayed at Champneys  :-)   and eating, running and relaxing.  These are the views from my room:

It was incredibly peaceful and enjoyable, but I am glad my girls are home now.

We are off to Devon today for a few days to see grandparents and then home for Waif's 14th birthday (yikes, I need to buy her present) and then away to Lake Garda for 10 days.  Our lives are so perfect, we just need Waif to be a proper size to complete the picture.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Postcards from Paris

Mainly texts actually.  Sigh, Waif was cheerful on the phone last night until I asked her if she was eating properly, then she sulked so we talked again later when she was more cheerful.

Then this morning I had a text asking if I could arrange an earlier flight home as she was feeling left out.  Then an hour ago she sent me another saying that actually it was all ok.

Having talked to a neighbour who has herself struggled with anorexia when she was young,and whose advice I value, I decided to mention something to the french family about Waif's eating.  I did NOT want to tell them about her anorexia or the Maudsley firstly because that would put too much of a burden on them and secondly because Waif would be embarrassed.   But my friend said that she had lost loads of weight on her french exchange when she was 14 and that I had to tell the family tl let me know if Waif was not eating.  So I mentioned to our friend (the aunt) when she phoned, that I wanted to be sure that Waif ate enough as she has a tendency to be too thin.

Anyway, 5 mins ago I got a cross text from Waif saying "What was that about letting me do it on my own?  You told them".  Unsatisfactorily, by text back, I countered that I had only said that I didn't want her losing weight because I love her and she has done so well and I promised that I had not mentioned AN or the Maudsley (I hadn't) and ended with "that's okay, isn't it?".  To which she replied "no".    :-(    Sigh, this is tricky but I hope I trod the line about right.  Perhaps I should have given Waif carte blanche to fail on eating but I don't feel happy letting go that much until she has a few pounds between her and anorexia.  The french family certainly don't know about all her snacks and needing 3,000 calories a day.  I hope this doesn't spoil her holiday and her ability to relax into the family.  Perhaps I got it all wrong.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

In France

Waif is safely arrived in Paris.  She seemed to have no last minute doubts and went off cheerfully on the Eurostar at 8.30am  :-)    She had texted me by 9.15 am to say she was missing me already but then I had a cheerful call from the Grandmere's Parisian apartment at lunchtime.  We have agreed that I will call her every evening at 6pm (UK time) which will be 7pm French time, having checked with FX that family dinner is usually later than this.

I am SOOOO proud of Waif.  Had she not gone, I am sure that it would have been a little black mark in her mind for years to come - the time she "failed" to go on the french exchange and that would make her feel sad every time she thought about it whereas now she will feel proud instead.

Even if she wants to come home in a few days time (and I would scoop her up and bring her home in a heartbeat), she knows that she took an important independent step, and would not be embarrassed if anyone asked her how the exchange went.  Actually, though, now she is there I believe she will stay the course as the lure of the 6 cousins and a  pool in the South of France is enough for most teenagers!   What a star.

I am anticipating her not putting on any weight whilst away and will be content if she maintains her 44kg (97 lbs) for the week away and then we concentrate on further gain when she is back.  Looking at the photos in my last post, I can see she really is still thin and I must not forget that.

Meanwhile I have some free time!  It is incredible how much of my attention Waif needs at the moment - seemingly most of the time.  Some of this is because she will not allow OD to help with the FX.  She finds sibling issues tricky.  To be honest, Waif was sometimes a little unwelcoming to the FX and has on occasion shut herself in her own bedroom with no explanation leaving the FX a little bewildered.  A few times, Older Daughter stepped into the breach only for Waif to accuse her of "trying to take over her friends".  Sigh, poor OD, she is only trying to help.  Also poor Waif for feeling that much of a comparison.  I know she has felt this way for several years - she is convinced  that everyone likes OD more than they do her.  This is so not true as they are both endearing in their own very different ways but can be self fulfilling if Waif starts sulking when OD turns up, smiling and unaware.   I wonder how this will change when OD is off to boarding school in September.

I am aiming to tidy and redecorate Waif's bedrooms (she is occupying 2 at the moment for some reason best known to herself when in reality she usually sleeps in my bed anyway).  She said to me that I don't unerstand that she dreams of having a beautiful bedroom and that interior design is where she spends all her time ont he internet and that it is the dramatic love of her life.  Not sure how impressed she will be with clean sheets and a good hoover  ;-)   I am looking into getting her new bedroom cupboards actually but have to persuade my husband that they will be a good investment - currently there are perfectly serviceable 1970's plywood cupboards in Waif's room but actually if we were to ever sell the house then proper wardrobes would be a must, so why not get them before Waif leaves home?

Perhaps I will post a picture or two and you can see what I mean.

Monday, 19 July 2010

I have been entertaining the French Exchange with Waif  :-)    I am not sure that she has not been a little homesick but we have tried our best.

We had a great day in Cambridge - punting and playing boules on the college lawns.

We then spent the weekend on the South coast at a lovely hotel I have been staying in since I was little.

Here are the girls on the pier

and here is Waif on the little Dotto train that runs along the front:

Waif is now back in the non-anorexic weight range :-)  :-)   but still underweight.  When in their bikinis and with wet hair, lots of people assumed that she and Older Daughter were identical twins.  This is great for letting my know that Waif is not so very thin any more but slightly worrying regarding OD who is probably also too thin.

Waif has been avoiding her snacks recently :-(   and minimisng her intake  eg   yesterday, in Selfridges on the 5th floor, we each chose our own meals from separate counters.  I had a fabulous falafel and humus wrap, the french exchange had a great chunky seafood oriental soup and OD had roast chicken and potatoes.  Waif came to sit down with a tiny portion of tomato pasta.  I conclude that she got herself a toddler meal from the Annabel Karmel counter.  I insisted on pudding.

The Aunt of our French exchange student is a very old friend of my husband's and phoned this morning to confirm return arrangements.  Her children will also be with Waif in France as they are staying at their grandparents' wonderful chateau near Bordeaux.  It has over a hundred acres of land and a beautiful pool overlooking the whole valley.  They grow their own vegetables but the Grandmere is a dreadful cook.  Yikes, I hope Waif eats.  I did explain the situation to our friend and she said that she would encourage Waif and that they had the opposite concerns about our French Exchange girl - they were worried she was putting on weight.  Hmmm...I reckon you can see from the picture that she is not remotely fat.  Their whole family are extraordinarily French wealthy thin.   Sigh, it's a healthy lifestyle though.

Waif will be delighted to discover that the 14 year old male cousin will also be there.  She is desperate to know some boys.

One other complication has arisen - Waif's return arrangements have been thrown out by the announcement of the imminent marriage of FX's uncle, whose Moslem girlfriend of 5 years is now expecting a baby.  It is unclear whether her own mother will be able to attend as she wears a burqha which is now to be illegal in France.    Anyway, the upshot is that instead of returning by train to Paris and then Eurostar with the 18 year old cousin, Waif will need to get a flight solo from Bordeaux to Gatwick.  I am sure this will be fine but don't know how/ when to tell Waif in case she uses it as a reason to pull out of the whole venture - she has been vacillating daily as to whether or not she agrees to go.  I suspect that the cousins' presence will be a big pull.  Waif has started packing which I have taken as a very positive sign as they are off tomorrow  :-o

I will be brave and tell her tonight.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Thank you to my commenters.  Yes, Waif is indeed insecure and controlling and was ever thus.  At the moment, she is my shadow.

I was just looking through my keeping box and found a letter that she wrote to H and me the time we went away for a long weekend on our tenth wedding anniversary and my mother came to stay and look after the girls (5 and 8) and the dog.

Waif was 5 3/4 at the time and I reproduce exactly what she wrote with only punctuation added.  Her version is of course decorated and illustrated.  It was waiting for us on her return:

To mummy and daddy,

wellcome back home.  I missed you when you went away.  I had a wonderfull time and I bet you had a wonderfull time to.

I still loved you when you went away.  I bet you missd me and [OD] when you went away for your holerday. I cryed in the nite becase you wernt in your bed.  I bet you felt the same.  I read lots of books and I'v lernt to sleep in my own bed.  It's jest it gowing to be a wellcome home nite.

When you are dead I will never forget you and I will still love you how much a loved you now because rite now I love you lots.  I hope you never die and when I want to do something for you I cry becase I am sorry for you and I rilly will never forget you never ever.

I wanted to hug you when you went away.  I bet you had fun in the swimming pool.  I like swimming to.

I could of got my nits from Granny.  We don't rilly kno do we?

Love from [Waif]

Sigh, she is the same girl now - so loving and dependent, and yet so capable in her own way......the writing is pretty proficient for a  5 year old.  I suspect she has the same fears now.  She is completely adamant that she will not go to France next week even though many trips have been arranged for her.  Actually, I have forced a compromise out of her - she has agreed to go for not more than 3 days.   I wish I could help her to see that you only live once and have to grab opportunities and this is a fabulous one.  THe Grandmere is to show the girls the sights of Paris and she is a wonderful woman.  Then Waif is to go to stay near Lascaux in a house with a pool, and will see cave paintings and chateaux.  I suspect I will be unable to change her mind.  Even when she says she wants to cycle to school alone, on the day she changes her mind and asks me to come too....  Bless her, I want to fold her up in my arms and never let her go, but I know that is not best for her so I need to help her to grow in independence.

Monday, 12 July 2010

speaking too soon

We have come off Wednesday's high and since then Waif has eaten very little  :-(   She tried to eat only a small cheese sandwich (one thin slice of plastic cheddar between 2 dry wholemeal slices of bread) for lunch today and missed her morning snack.

Sigh, it's a careful balancing act because her French Exchange is over - another 13 year old girl - and Waif does not want her ED mentioned or alluded to, so it is tricky for me to prompt her to eat enough.  Since the FX arrived, Waif keeps grabbing me in quiet corners of the kitchen and telling me that there is NO WAY she is going to France next week.

Sigh, Waif was like this when she was little:  in Reception (age 4) she would happily accept party invitations then, the day before, she would start telling me that she was not at all sure she would go and then on the day itself she would refuse point blank and I would have to make an embarrassing call to the other child's mother.  Eventually, I started refusing the invitations from the beginning.   Only 2 weeks ago Waif was berating me for making her exchange leg only 9 days long whereas her FX is over here for 2 weeks (this seemed sensible to me as a week away plus 2 travelling days  is enough whilst Waif is still in recovery).  I am wondering about the school ski trip in December to which Waif has just committed.

At the same time Waif has come back into our bed at night and has also tried to ban me from going out:  on Saturday night my husband and I had been invited out to a drinks party.  No big deal really but we rarely go out.  I knew that Older Daughter would not be around so had spoken to Waif some days beforehand to see if she and the FX would like a babysitter or at least some company from one of the older girls in our street.  She said NO WAY.  She is 14 next month and we would be nearby so that seemed reasonable.  Anyway, on the day itself, Waif was in floods of tears saying I could not leave her.  Partly this was tiredness as OD had had her 16th birthday party on Friday night and we were all up until 2am but partly this is a symptom of Waif's renewed clinginess.   Matters were not helped when H gave Waif a stern talking to about responsibility and sticking to commitments (re going to France) and about being a baby not wanting to be left on her own (re the party on Saturday night).  Reader, I didn't go.  H went on his own.

I am reading a book at the moment by Tony Parsons with a great line:  "When is it that a marriage gets to be more about the children and less about the man and his wife?"  Pretty much when they are born, I reckon.

I am trying to encourage Waif to not make snap decisions about France.  I want her to think about how proud of herself she will feel if she goes to France in contrast to the disappointment she will feel if she doesn't. Naturally, I will not make  her go but I sincerely think that it will be a blow to her self esteem if she pulls out and that it would boost her to face the challenge.  I will see if I can organise an earlier train for her to come back on, perhaps limiting her visit to 5 days.  I know that part of the issue is that the FX is a serious, quiet child from a very serious, academic Parisian family, but H and I know the Grandmother who is warm and bubbly and has arranged all sorts of trips for Waif and FX back in Paris and in the Loire valley (the mother works as a senior scientist) and I think that there will be other children around to leaven the atmosphere.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Maudsley again

Waif and I had a good visit to the Maudsley yesterday. She weighs 43.9kg   !!!!!   :-)   This is a massive gain of about 2.5kg on 3 weeks ago and she is on course for reaching her target weight of 48kg by September.  She needs to do this if she wants to be able to go to boarding school in 2012.  I am sooooo proud of her.  On the day itself, she was very upset because she had had an upset stomach at school in the morning and was worried that her hard work would be unrecognised, but even so she showed this great gain.

Waif suddenly LOOKS so much more healthy, and normal, and beautiful.

Older Daughter couldn't come to the appointment as she is doing work experience in a hospital this week, pursuing her ambition of entering medical school.  My husband was aiming to come but mixed up the times so missed it but actually it was a very short and easy session as it always is when Waif has made good progress. She only gets a complete grilling when she has not put on much weight.

In the later afternoon, we went to Waif's Prizegiving ceremony at school. It was a result as the guest of honour, Sir Isaac Newton (not really, but similar) was stuck on the motorway so we were spared the speeches and were able to escape into the late evening sunshine for drinks with the staff in double quick time.

I guess even when it goes smoothly, the Maudsley is a strain for Waif.  As is usual on visit days, she ended the evening in floods of tears and sobbing and wanted lots of hugs and cuddles.  Ostensibly this was about having some itchy mosquito bites but really it was a Maudsley day.

Today, I had a day out with Waif.  We went to the Hampton Court Flower Show - we took the train to Richmond and then cycled along the river bank for the remaining miles.

We stopped at one of the Conceptual gardens and fortuitously spoke to the designer as I asked him about his pink cornflowers.  He explained the philosophy to us:

Around the outside were tall thin perspex columns that could be blown with the wind (of fashion) and acted as a "cage" for the size zero models inside.  The size zero models were represented by tall thin drainpipes painted bright pink, and the audience and onlookers were multicoloured cornflowers.  "They think they are special but are just ordinary meadow flowers blown about by the lightest of winds of change".  The perspex pipes were the cage that is difficult to see but surely traps the thin models.  Waif and I were slightly dumbstruck.  It was very beautiful and I hope to post a picture of it in due course.

Sgh, we are not wholly there.  Waif was stressed out by the crowds on the way home and picked her skin so much it bled (her latest place is on her ear - there is usually one place on the go at a time).  Ho hum, perhaps that is within the limits of normal but it is sad for her that she is not more relaxed in the face of stress.  Poor thing.

Tomorrow, Waif's french exchange student arrives on eurostar and OD has her 16th birthday party in our house (yikes).

Monday, 5 July 2010

I love the Summer

This is Waif yesterday as we walked home from lunch at the pub, she, engrossed in a book (the sequel to Chocolat by Joanne Harris)

On 18 May Waif came in at 41.3kg on our super duper scales.  Today she is 43.9kg   :-)  :-)    She was wearing a belt today so, allowing for that, that represents a gain of 2.5kg in about 6 or 7 weeks.  I am happy with that.  Waif is happy with that.

Meanwhile, Older Daughter went for a check up last week and the nurse told her that at a BMI of 18.3, she should under no circumstances lose any weight.  Waif takes this as incontrovertible proof that we are a "light family".  I take it as a sign that OD should try to gain some pounds before she goes off to board in September where the choice and quality of food might not be as tailored to her likes (steak and chips mainly).

At the weekend, we went to a family party and stayed at a local hotel.  Waif and I went for an early morning run along the Thames in the beautiful sunshine that has set in of late, followed by a refreshing dip - in the pool, not the river!  Part of Waif's recovery is that we are not all spending every waking moment worrying about what and whether she is eating and we can begin to relax and enjoy family life once more.  Caveat:  I know, no complacency, after all she is still in the anorexic weight range and may still be at Wednesday's weigh-in at the Maudsley as I swear she has grown another inch - I now have to wear heels to match her height.

Oh, Waif has won 4 subject prizes at school (there is one per subject per year) wth prize giving this Wednesday evening (hmmmm...after a Maudsley visit in the afternoon).  I am minded to go and ask the Headmaster for an honorary scholarship.  Sigh, I had always thought of Waif as my less academic daughter.  Hmmm...she took longer to learn to speak than OD, and to be grammatically perfect, but her hard work more than makes up for it.  Yes, her perfectionism is also a worry to me.  My family all tell me that that is exactly how I was at her age.  I suspect it is true.  On the one hand it presents a problem:  I do NOT want Waif to be always striving for fear of failure, and completely agree with the commenter who pointed out that perfectionism is simply not achievable at GCSE, where there is an enormous volume of work, and will inevitably lead to incredible stress and fatigue.  On the other hand, academic success at school sets one up for the rest of one's life:  entry to a top university opens many, many doors forever in career terms and gives one options.  I don't want to squash Waif's achievements but do want her to know that she is valued even more highly for simply being her loving, kind self and that I would love her, we all would love her, just as much if she was bottom of the class.  Yet I still confess to being extraordinarily proud of her success.

Oh, and this is Waif last Friday evening, when we had a picnic in the park with some friends WHO HAD A BADMINTON SET :-)

 We have such golden lives.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Prize giving and more results

Waif has been nominated by her teacher for the school drama prize - I had no idea she was good at drama.  Someone is nominated from each class so there is no guarantee she will get the prize, but she is chuffed anyway.

She has also come top of the year in art, with 100%.  I am not surprised - the theme was the human body in movement and her prep included pen and ink, pencil and mixed media studies of the anatomy of the human form (free hand skeleton, muscle groups, different dance poses), photoshopped pictures of Older Daughter performing a ballet leap with superimposed images at different stages and each with different coloured tinges, bright watercolour effects of sky and background and lino prints that she had made herself.   Half of me, okay 99% of me, is so very very proud yet a tiny nagging corner worries that Waif is relentlessly determined to do nothing less than perfectly.

They had an outside speaker in school yesterday doing "Who wants to be a mathionnaire?" which was like a maths quiz with electronic voting.

Waif was cross as she had come second.

"Who came first?"  I asked.  "The teacher" she said "and he cheated as he had heard the same questions the period earlier with another set."

Today at Waif's school is World Cup Football day with events centred around footie for the boys, whilst the girls have a lecture and workshop on "Friendship".  I hope it is instructive - friendship issues are so important for pubescent girls, and so life determining.

Term is winding to an end as tomorrow is Sports Day (Waif is hoping to win the 300m - I have told her she needs more muscle mass to win the 100m) and Friday is a day off in preparation for Founders' Day on Saturday - Waif is heading off to on the Friday to Thorpe Park with some new school friends.  She is anticipating free entry with her Blue Peter badge.  H and I are worried about her Blue Peter Badges - she has the full collection (completely self directed) except for the Gold.  The only way to get a Gold Badge is to save someone's life.   Hmmmmmm...,,,first she has to put it in danger!  We are watching out for steep drops and uninsulated electric cables.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


We had a party at the weekend and my sister came to stay.  My sister is quite one off - very practical and no nonsense.  She casually told me that she had been in Waif's room and read her diary, and that Waif was being bullied at her old school just before and during the start of her AN:   I first noticed her losing weight rapidly in early 2009, tooke her to the GP in June 2009 and started at the Maudsley in September 2009.  I am afraid to confess that I now have also read the diary.  I know many of my readers will think that I have invaded Waif's privacy, and I have.  If it is any comfort, I have not read her recent diary, just the one my sister pointed to from Autumn 2008.  Waif had left it out on her bed so perhaps she wanted someone to find it.

My blood is boiling!  How dare a bunch of 12 year olds  - one in particular - pick on my kind, sweet, fragile Waif and make her life miserable to the point where she stopped eating?  It's heartbreaking.  I am SOOOO glad she is out of there.

Funnily enough, I had met the girl in question only once and had had such a strong feeling of disgust at her (I know that is a strong emotion to feel about a 12 year old but is not overstating the point) that I phoned the Headmistress a few days after and explained that Waif would be sitting the entrance exam for boarding school for Year 9.  My husband thought I was over-reacting and shouldn't mention the appalling behaviour at Waif's party.  In fact he wouldn't let me name names even when the HM asked for them.

So, some background.  Waif  is amongst the youngest in her year, having an August birthday.  On her twelfth birthday in 2008 she had a party here at our house.  The idea was some games and tea in the garden with a lot of her class - she didn't want anyone to feel left out through not being invited and, as it was the middle of the Summer holidays, we banked on about half of the class being away leaving a manageable party of about 12 girls.

As expected, about half of the girls, including Beatrice (not her real name) came along.  Many of them I had I had not met before as it was only the end of Waif's first year at the school and they live all over London.  I was firstly shocked by the NOISE that they made, and I am used to large groups of children, having been a teacher for a few years before I went back to law.

Beatrice speaking was more like a foghorn and she spoke rudely across all the others.  Her volume and size alone made her intimidating, as did also her hostile manner.   She commanded the swing seat in the garden as she held forth to her court, paying no attention to organised games or her hostess's wish to have a party.

I handed out food in the garden on paper plates.  There were not many thank-yous.  They then had ice lollies and threw the wrappers, paper plates and leftovers over our lawn without, seemingly, any concern whatsoever.  I am not really getting across the full atmosphere here of general hostility and presence.  Anyway, they were being so loud and so lively, and being all 12 and living next to the park, I decided to send them off out for half an hour to blow off some steam.  As they were so unruly, I asked my husband to go keep an eye on them whilst I cleared up.

He followed them at a distance with the dog but was forced to intervene when Beatrice, and some lackeys, started shouting "You're a chav, you're a chav" to strangers in the park, quite possibly putting themselves in danger as well as being appallingly rude.  These are all wealthy, supposedly well brought up girls.

He went up to them and told them to stop at which point Beatrice started loudly shouting "Rape! Rape!" at the top of her voice in the middle of the crowded Royal Park in London.  This was her host!!!  My husband is a man not many would mess with.  At 6ft 4 he has real presence.  I could truly not imagine what it must be like to be in class with this girl with less imposing teachers.  I reasoned that you would have to decide to be with her or against her, and either would be a difficult choice.  Waif's class was forever being put into detention at school for the setting off of fire alarms, leaving a turd (FFS) on the teacher's chair etc etc.  The problem with Beatrice is that she was also very smart and able to slide out of the firing line for blame.

Anyway, after this party in August 2008, I decided that Waif should sit for boarding school for Autumn 2009 as her name had been down anyway for years.

This is the entry from Waif's diary on 30.09.08.  Remember she is just 12.

Today wasn't really anything special...I have decided that I really want to go to boarding school.  By mistake my PE shirt in basketball was undone 3 buttons (I was wearing a vest!) and Beatrice goes "Waif, take you and your boobies elsewhere."

I am not the type of person to get offended by remarks or anything like that.  It's just that it's SOOOOO embarrassing because everyone burst out laughing.

But then again, I think of the two closest friends I have ever had: Lucy and Emma and I wonder if it's worth it, missing two of the main people in my life, not even mentioning my family I will miss when I board.......but I guess sometimes evil rules over good and bullies win.  When I start at boarding school I plan to make a fresh start with new friends and NO enemies."

I find this heartbreaking!   My lovely, kind girl contemplating wrenching herself away from friends and family just to escape the likes of Beatrice making her life a misery.  I am half inclined to send Waif's diary to the Headmistress.

Anyway, in case the time line is not clear, Waif took the entrance exam in February 2009.  I had no doubts she would get in as she is exceptionally bright.  But it was not to be - there turned out to be only one boarding place available in Year 9 for a girl and it went to another child who did better than her in French.  She was French.

This is when Waif began rapidly to lose weight.  She also expressed a desire to go to ANY school apart from the one she was at.  The school she was at is fantastic academically (top ten in the country in some tables) and although I questioned her repeatedly, she refused to tell me that she was unhappy there so my husband and I kept her there, wanting stability.  I can kick myself now!!!  I can't believe we didn't listen to her more carefully, or that she didn't feel she could talk to me about her unhappiness  :-(    Of course, I was working back then so my eye was also not properly on the ball.  I started my sabbatical in late September 2009 and, if you have been following my blog, you will know that almost the first thing I did was find Waif a new school.  By then her weight had slipped to 35kg and I was desperate to do/ try anything, and thought that she probably wouldn't be at any school for much longer, but in hospital.  Why did I let it get to that stage????

But mainly my anger is directed at that poisonous girl Beatrice.  I am certain she has many redeeming features (who doesn't?) and does not realise the havoc that she causes to a lot of children at that school, but even so....grrrrrrrr...

Oh, at the end of the party, I decided to say something to Beatrice's mother when she picked her up.  An hour after the end of the party, still her lift had not arrived.  I was watering outside the front of the house - half keeping an eye out for parents, when an idiot drove far too fast down our road, music blaring, skidded to a halt, reversed rapidly and mounted the pavement.  I was appalled, and then shocked as the man who stepped out of the car said he was there to pick up Beatrice.  I saw that there was no point mentioning her behaviour to him of all people.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Exam results

Waif has begun to get her exam results.  In biology (one of her only 2's for achievement) she came top of the whole year with 100% in a higher tier GCSE paper 2 years ahead of her actual GCSEs.  Yes, she over-revised. The psych had set her the task of doing badly in one of her GCSEs - for instance, Spanish or Latin both of which she is giving up.  She came third in the year for Latin and revised like mad for Spanish despite me trying to dissuade her - results should be tomorrow.

We have lately been having a little trouble with the journey to school:  Waif has not cycled for about 3 weeks as some children at the school told her that "only lesbians go on bikes" which she took to heart.  She is very concerned about being cool/ popular.  She has had her hair highlighted from quite blonde to very blonde and is now sporting a tan from Marbella at half-term and looks like the most feminine, fragile, beautiful girl you can imagine, and nothing like a lesbian!  She also dislikes the bus that she could take.  Apparently it is a very, ahem, lively bus-stop after school with all the boys and girls crowding to get on the bus.  Waif got pushed over in the tide as she was getting on the other day and is therefore nervous of that too.  I have suggested she wait for the next bus but actually her school is in quite a dodgy area and even I wouldn't like to be hanging around waiting for a bus on my own right there.  So I have been mainly driving her.  How will this fit in with my going back to work in the Autumn, I wonder.

Anyhow, Waif has announced that she does want to cycle tomorrow - perhaps she is more confident now that she is coming top in exams, and today came first in the year in sprint heats for Sports Day.  I used to be a runner (still do a bit) and am pleased that she is quick too.  It's a good sport to be talented in as you don't really have to practise.  Being a mixed school, there is always kudos associated with being an athlete.

Waif's last examination is tomorrow: her favourite subject, art.  They have been told to prepare at home on the subject of the Human Body.  Waif has had out books on physiology and has been faithfully copying out bone structures and musculature in a detailed way.  She has also photographed Older Daughter doing a high leap in ballet costume and has collaged a time lapse photography effect in black and white with tinges of colour on each image.  She has turned the combined image into a silhouette which she then made into a lino print.  Waif has also been copying out sketches of people in different poses in different media: inks, pencils, crayons, felt-tips.  She has probably spent a total of 40 hours preparing for her art exam tomorrow.  My only concern is that the final results are so exceptionally outstanding (I am entitled to be biased for I am her mother) that I have a horrible suspicion that the art teacher will wrongly assume that someone has done it all for her.  They have not.

If I can persuade Waif to send me copies digitally, I will show you some of her art work over the next few days.

Food:  hmmmm...despite being keen to be a proper weight by September, Waif will still not eat a morsel more than is on her meal plan.  Ho hum, she does at least eat everything that is on the list but there is definitely still a large element of control, and where there are options, the lower calorie choice is always favoured.  Hmmmmm...further to go.  With her french exchange coming at the start of the Summer holidays, I am going to face a difficult decision of whether or not to allow Waif to go away for 10 days.  Perhaps I need to be straight with the other mother and let her decide if she can cope and/or let me know if Waif is not eating and put her straight on a train home.  I don't want to let anorexia ruin her life.

Older Daughter's Friend has a mother who is a camerawoman.  ODF told me that her Mum helped make a video on anorexia for Beat where they filmed two identical twins, one of whom had had anorexia at 12.  She was a full head shorter than her healthy twin.  I may tell Waif about that tonight so that she is aware of what she is trying to avoid........

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The day after

The day after a Maudsley visit is always difficult for the Waif.  Initially, she used to have a day off school to recover, but that was not possible today as she has examinations.  Waif came into bed with us in the night, having had a nightmare about the Cumbria killings, or "the man with the shotgun" as she puts it.

Unwisely, I also chose today not to accompany her to school as I wanted to get to the gym (I have a triathlon in 3 weeks time and need to get some traning in and still have time for Mummy tasks and admin, like job applications (!) during the day so I got up at 6am to walk the dog, make packed lunches, find school shoes, protractors, compasses, cook breakfast and find my gym kit by 7.10am).  Unfortunately, at 6.30am, Waif discovered that she unexpectedly has a maths exam today that she had thought would be tomorrow, it then started to rain at 7.30am as she was setting off on her (mile and a half) walk to the busstop.  So I had a very tearful call on my mobile from her 200m from the house, whilst I was already a tube ride away.  I told her to go home and ask her father for a lift.  Then her key wouldn't work, and H wouldn't answer the door (he was shaving) and it was still raining (another tearful call).  It all worked out eventually but poor Waif was not in the best way this morning  :-(    

Yes, there is no doubt something in the 2 comments on yesterday's post.  I need to look again at Waif's perfectionist attitude.  The last thing I want to do is criticise her, especially for such a positive virtue in normal circumstances.  At least her new school is MUCH more relaxed than her old one.

I texted Waif mid morning to find out how her first exam went (she texts me over a dozen times a day usually) and she said "It was as I expected.  Most of them cheated."   :-o     She is funny.  She was unimpressed yesterday at the teacher who turned up late to start their exam thus ensuring that they missed break.  She will not forgive or forget lightly.  Shudder, I would not like to be that staff member at the next parents' evening, to which Waif will come along.  Also, her Head of Year has lost her history book....Waif is certain that she handed it in and then was away when they were handed back.

"But why would he say he didn't have it?" I asked her.

"He was too lazy to look" she retorted.

Sigh, I have no doubt she is right - her memory and organisation are faultless.  I also wouldn't like to be him either.

I predict one day Waif will be Prime Minister.

Monday, 7 June 2010

9 months review - gain of 200g

We were back at the Maudsley today after half term.  As it is 9 months since Waif started going, we had to fill in all the mental health questionnaires again.

Once more, Waif and I were both of the opinion that she is a very happy, sane child:  she is not obsessive about things, she does not have panic attacks, she has no feelings of worthlessness.  This is all brilliant!  As the psych noted, Waif is not a typical case.

The psych said that 9 months was the normal time for treatment and that ideally she would like to discharge Waif  BUT she can't as Waif is still only at 82% of her ideal weight (she began at 76% but the target weight has been going up as she gets older and taller).  Waif needs to be 95% of her target weight before discharge.  We asked the psych to tell us what this would be and she told us 48kg at the moment.  She also said that Waif would not begin puberty until she got to that kind of weight.

Waif and I are aiming for a discharge by September..she seems genuinely on for it!  7kg to put on in 11 or 12 weeks.  Wow.

In the real world, Waif went to Marbella for a few days over half term with her father and had a wonderful time in the sunshine, coming back blonde and tanned.  H said (correctly) that Waif can be demanding company.  She can.  She is demanding and rewarding:  she gives a lot and expects  a lot back.

Hmmm...I didn't mention to the psych (forgot) that Waif missed the last 3 days of school before half term as she was worried about her upcoming Spanish exam: she is giving up Spanish so has not put in much work but she does not want to do badly in the exam, so she is hamstrung about whether to be working really hard at Spanish to avoid a B, or whether to concentrate on subjects she will be continuing with.  She did 9 hours revision yesterday (Sunday) which is a bit OTT at 13 yo, but still impressive.

We got Waif's grade card - she basically has a string of almost unbroken "1s" for effort, achievement and organisation.  1 is outstanding, 2 is above average, 3 is good, 4 is poor and 5 is unacceptable.  There is a card to provide parental feedback which my husband filled in and posted (without consultation).  In it, he apparently asked what Waif could do to improve her history  (two 1's and a 2) and geography (ditto).  He didn't comment on her other 9 subjects where she was faultless!  Sigh, no pressure then!

Waif is such a sweetheart - I suddenly felt quite ill last night and she told me she would clear up supper and she brought me a cup of tea :-)  :-)   What a darling.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Dulwich Park and the Maudsley again

Given the glorious weather at the weekend, Waif made us all a picnic and insisted we went to Dulwich Park, whih was a fab day out.

Here is H at our picnic spot:

and here is Waif out boating with Older Daughter and a friend:

and then Waif went on the Victorian fairground:

The dog was a bit worried about Waif at this point  ;-)    They are pretty devoted to one another.

Waif has been eating well and less fussily - she now allows me to put cream cheese in her smoked salmon sandwiches and has eaten a few potatoes recently, tempted by the new season Jersey Royals.  At the picnic, she ate a large slice of pizza and then had an ice cream after boating.  Mind you, she needed the energy because after we arrived home she cycled to an hour's tennis coaching and back.

All in all, life has been less fraught and we have al been more relaxed at mealtimes so it was great at the Maudsley this afternoon to find that Waif had nonetheless put on 400g and now weighs in at 41.4kg (fully dressed).  This is the same as the visit before last and is, in itself, a record.

We are going for more of the same - trying to introduce some chips this time and continuing to eat healthily.  Waif is starting to look well, although she will look even healthier if she puts on another 5kg.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

New Scales

I picked up our new "super accurate" Weight Watchers scales last night and Waif had her weigh-in this morning before breakfast which is when she should be her lightest, and in only a light nightdress (whereas at the Maudsley she wears her heavy uniform).

My husband stood on the scales last night and was shocked to find he was 13 st 7lbs.  He is 6ft 4 so 189lb gives him a BMI of 23 which is in the middle of the healthy range.  Nonetheless, he is determined to lose weight now.

I stood on them this morning and found that I weighed in at more than I had ever expected!  I went upstairs to our old (Balance) scales on which I was then 5lb lighter.....hmmmm......I have had the bathroom scales a long time and always found they correlated with the gym scales pretty well.....I was already doubting the accuracy of the new "super precise" within 100g read - out on the new ones.

Ho hum, anyway Waif stepped aboard and the readout was 6st 7 lb.  We couldn't at that moment find a way to make it read in kg so didn't really know what that meant.  I have now discovered it is 91lb which is 41.3kg.   I would be surprised and pleased if this were not an overly high reading.  Bearing in mind that Waif was 41.0kg last Thursday afternoon in full clothes (?1.5kg) and straight after drinking 500ml of smoothie and eating two chocolate bars.

I guess it's not important as it is only the trend that counts but I want to do some research on the accuracy of those scales because leading Waif to believe she weighs more than she does could be counter productive as we near her full weight goal....      Could Weight Watchers make their scales weigh heavy to encourage people to join up? Is that a very cynical thought?

Our weekly weigh in will be Mondays henceforth.  I am aiming for Waif to weigh 42.8kg next Monday.  If she does, then I will celebrate  :-)

Waif has a lot of incentives to get to a healthy weight - a French exchange trip to Paris and the Loire in July, a ski-ing holiday in December and the need to be 2 years recovered to go to boarding school for the sixth form.    She has continued to eat well - at least as far as aa I know - I only witnessed breakfast and late night snack yesterday but Waif had earlier allowed me to put a little mayonnaise in her lunchtime cheese and tomato sandwich and hungrily ate her morning fishfingers.  Actually Older Daughter took Waif to Pizza Express for supper.  When they returned, OD came to tell me that Waif had had a tomato salad as starter and half a vegetable lasagne for main course.  I then found Waif and said she needed pudding (sponge and ice cream) and she tried to argue that she had had a very big starter so didn't need pudding.  I told her that tomatoes have next to no calories and that she HAD to have pudding.  She did  :-)  but had I not been home, I have no doubt she would not have.  Independence is still a way away.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Redoubled efforts

A picture of our local park that I took in early Autumn.

Thank you to my various commentators uniformly coming across with the message that I have to take this ED more seriously - that's exactly why I wanted to start this blog:  to hear advice from others who have direct experience and/or knowledge.

You will be glad to learn that I have redoubled my efforts and Waif has eaten enough food to sink a battle ship these last 3 days.

I have ordered a pair of scales (as recommended, ironically by Weight watchers) which I am picking up tonight from our local Tesco store. Waif wanted digital so that there were no disagreements about readings and parallax errors and also because she (wrongly) confuses precision with accuracy.  Nonetheless, these were the most obviously accurate scales I could find with a digital readout. We are supposed to weigh on a Monday morning but the base reading will have to be tomorrow (Tuesday).

I was particularly pleased to receive a link in one of my comments to some incredibly informative videos by an expert about caloric needs in recovering anorexics.  Apparently, whilst ordinary people need between 20 and 40 kcal per day per kg of body weight to maintain a steady weight, a recovering anorexic needs about 50 kcal just to maintain weight.  Waif at about 40kg therefore needs 2,000 kcal a day just to remain as thin as she is, without allowing for weight gain.  This explains how she seems (genuinely) to be eating more than anyone else in the family and yet not gaining weight.  The extra is thought to be burned up as heat and patients often report being burning hot at night.  Now that I understand that, I am aiming at more like 3-4,000 kcal a day.  That takes some doing especially when there is still resistance to fatty foods (fried foods, cream sauces etc).  That resistance is also normal -apparently anorexics develop a dislike for fatty foods whilst developing a craving for the sweet.   Waif also seems to be buying into the idea that she must recover more quickly, not least as we have talked about how she needs to have had 2 years at a normal weight before she can live away from home and she is keen to follow her older sister to her world famous outstanding boarding school for the sixth form.

Friday, 14 May 2010

400g loss  :-(     and that was with Waif drinking 2 smoothies on the way to the appointment  :-(

She has grown another 0.5cm and her overall % (wahtever that is) has gone, over the 9 months of therapy, from 77.9% to 82.5%    This is up, which is fantastic, but still within the anorexic range of sub 85% and not merely underweight.

We talked about how this might have come about.  I was totally honest about Waif's exercise - cycling to school, tennis lessons, the occasional swim and school PE and asked if we should reduce this.  The psych, surprisingly said no.  She said that Waif needs to learn how much she needs to eat whilst living a normal, active life and doesn't want her to put on weight only when sitting vegetating in front of the TV because then when she restarts normal activities, she will lose weight again.

So the only option is to increase the foodplan.  We decided to add a large piece of cake on.  I suggested lunchtime but the psych thought that tea would be better as food eaten at home seems to count as more.  Waif, surprisingly, agreed that tea would be better than lunch.

We are also adding in an additional late night snack of cheese and biscuits.

THe psych noticed that the food that Waif avoids (potatoes, including chips, mayonnaise, biscuits, cheesecake, cheese, pastry and all pies) are all the high energy foods that an anorexic might choose to avoid as perceiving that they are high calorie and advised that Waif needs to begin eating these foods normally.

I wondered whether we should be monitoring Waif's calorie intake to ensure it is over 3,000kcal a day but the psych said not.  She said that it is not good for anorexics to count calories as that makes them worse.  Of course, the first thing Waif does whenever I buy a new food is to check the packet for the calorie information and, if it is home made or I have thrown away the packaging, go on the internet for information.

THe first time I bought her cheesecake, about 3 months ago, Waif gobbled down 2 slices and I thought I had a result (as that was about 600 kcal in one snack) but the next day claimed she didn't like it.  The same thing happened in November when mince pies came back into the shops for Xmas.  Waif has always loved mince pies so I bought a couple of boxes.  Again, Waif wolfed down the first couple but by the next day (post internet searching on calorie information) claimed she no longer liked them.  So when Waif yesterday ventured that she didn't know about calories, I pointed this out and she didn't argue with me.

Instead of talking about "high calorie" food, the psych carefully talks about "high energy" food, in a positive way.  I shall try to emulate that.

In the end we decided as I have explained, on adding even more food to the meal plan.

It now reads as follows:


2 pieces of toast
2 fishfingers
Bowl of cereal and milk
apple juice

Mid morning snack

A doughnut
A juice


smoothie or yoghurt drink
chocolate bar

Afternoon snack
2 pieces of toast
hot chocolate or ice cream

50g cheese or 100g meat or 150g fish
150g carbohydrate
100g vegetables
sponge pudding and ice cream

Late night snack

200ml milk drink
2 biscuits or 2 pieces of toast (Waif always picks the toast - with no topping)
Cheese and biscuits

We have also decided to have weekly weighings.  The psych suggested we came to the Maudsley for that but it is quite a performance so I asked if we mightn't do the weighings at home.  Waif was keen on that idea too. The psych said that weighing at home can cause conflict but both aif and I thought this unlikely and want to give it a go - the psych agreed.

We are having the next 2 appointments fortnightly, then a 3 week break as the psych heads off to the Himalayas.

I am about to go online to buy a pair of accurate scales - Waif wants digital.  Waif wanted the weighings to be in the evening but the psych said they had to be first thing in the morning, which we are doing on Mondays.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Maudsley again

We have our visit to the Maudsley this afternoon.

Both Waif and I begin to get edgy before a visit. Both worrying about weight gain.  Waif said to me yesterday "Mummy, I don'think I have put on any weight this time".

I assured her that if she had been eating all that she was supposed to then she was bound to have put on weight although I agreed that she didn't look any heavier.

Aside:  Last week, she went in to the school shop to try and buy a second school skirt (in a smaller size - the school starts at 4 years old so they have all sorts)  and the man in the shop refused to sell it to her.  I am not sure why but she was very embarrassed and now wants me to buy it for her.  I have told her that it's not a good idea to be buying smaller clothes and that I would rather she grew into the skirt she has and am happy to buy her a second one if that is what she needs.

Anyway, Waif said that she had been eating everything.  I said that in that case, if she hasn't put on weight, we need to reduce her exercise and increase her calorie intake.  She then asked me for a week's grace, but I said no, if she has not gained then the cycling will stop.   I am now fearful that Waif may have actually LOST weight.

Meantime, Waif has apparent concerns over her teeth (so she says).  She has replaced hot chocolates with milk, which I can see is better for her teeth but represents fewer calories.  It's tricky but honestly I do realise (and thank you for all the comments) that weight gain is of prime importance and teeth can be fixed (ish).  Last night, she agreed to eat something exta as she had been swimming.  She chose an applie.  I pointed out to her that 3 biscuits would be more calories at wich she c=became very tearful and said she was worried that she never got to eat anything healthy as she was so busy eating junk food.  I tried to explain that with the amount she is supposed to be eating, she has plenty of chance to get enough "proper" nutrition - vitamins, protein, calcium etc AND eat biscuits, but she still ate only the apple  :-(  

Meanwhile I am trying to analyse my own motives for being keen on cycling to school and am wondering if I am being selfish - I enjoy the cycling myself, I do feel it's better for the environment and it saves a lot of money on petrol.  This last point concerns me - I can't honestly say that the saving doesn't influence me - about £40 a week I reckon with our high consumption car and the price of petrol as it is.  But if someone said to me that to make Waif better would cost £1,000 per week then of course I would gladly pay it, so why does it concern me?  Why can't I ignore it?  I am guessing that perhaps that is partly because I am on sabbatical from work and so not bringing in a wage and so feel that it is not my money to spend.  How stupid is that?!  

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Life goes on

Waif has been a little tired and emotional recently.  I do hope she is not overdoing things.  She has been eating more independently (round at other people's houses for tea, our with a friend etc) so Thursday (Maudsley weigh-in) will be telling.  I am hoping that the tiredness is not a reflection on not eating enough.

My good friend, the child psychiatrist, asked me last week how on earth I was letting Waif cycle to school every day when she is still so thin.  She asked me what the Maudsley thought.  Being absolutely honest, I am not sure that I have fully covered the point at the Maudsley but my general impression is that Waif is to be given as much freedom as is compatible with weight gain.  I guess if she has not gained any weight on Thursday then cycling will have to stop.  I am certain she has not gained the requisite 3kg in 3 weeks, but maybe 500g.  I am happy with slow and steady if it is being attained with a good, healthy, nutritious diet and exercise.  I fear that if it is all chocolate and ice cream then Waif will struggle to know what is a normal "maintenance" diet at the end of it and I def don't want her yo-yoing.

Meanwhile, she is doing well at school, coming top in lots of subjects:  maths and science as well as english and french.  Waif has asked me to give her extra coaching at home as she doesn't feel stretched at school and doesn't want to go backwards.  I had a look at her maths and saw she was doing second order difference in quadratic based sequences.  This isn't even on the GCSE syllabus, only iGCSE so I reassured her that it was without doubt progress.  Meanwhile, now that she is a little stronger, I will try to find some lectures for us to go to together - I often go to the Royal Institution for science lectures and Waif fancies the Royal Geographical Society for geography talks.  We went there not long ago for a talk on prime numbers by Marcus du Sautoy and it was great.

Meanwhile we have been going backwards on some fronts - Waif was back in our bed on Sunday night although okay again last night.  She has also taken to following me around the house - she likes to be in the same room as me at all times which is terribly sweet, and I love it, but it's possibly not normal for a 13 year old.

I just finished reading a book called "Skippy Dies" by Paul Murray which is set in a boys' boarding school in Ireland.  |There is a girls' convent school next door.  In a minor sub plot, one of the girls gets lured into a sexual encounter with a boy (planned, aided and abetted by a different girl) and is so traumatised by it that she stops eating and ends up being hospitalised for anorexia.  Her parents cannot understand her behaviour and attribute it (wrongly..ish) to the death of her friend Skippy.  It makes me wonder if anything traumatic has happened to Waif that she has not shared.  I do hope not.  I do hope she could tell me anything but every parent hopes that and it's rarely the case.  Perversely, perhaps it is even more difficult to talk to a parent who believes you to be wonderful as you might worry that you could burst their bubble.  Actually, nothing Waif could ever tell me would make me love her the tiniest iota less.