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.