It has come crashing home to me that I live in a largely invisible, misunderstood and patronised world. Having refed my own daughter, helped out for a couple of years on the Around the Dinner Table forum, being an active member of the FEAST UK taskforce, working with Professor Treasure and her team of expert carers, making films about eating disorders, debating with some of the finest patients and parents and interacting via emails and forums with some of the top professionals in the world as well as helping 3 families, from pre-diagnosis to recovery, I am now faced with the obdurate ignorance of my own family.
My mother has anemia. It comes and goes and the latest bout has resulted in a serious weight loss, lack of cognitive function, inability to eat enough, distress when faced with food, inability to understand how seriously ill she is, hands and feet white due to lack of circulation, sadness, extreme fatigue, difficulty sleeping, chronic abdominal pain on eating.
Now this is a situation that I have come across before and the symptoms are not entirely unfamiliar. This may or may not be an eating disorder. What it IS is malnutrition and associated symptoms (see Minnesota Stavation Experiment).
So everything I have learnt over the past three years leads me to believe that she needs to reverse the symptoms of malnutrition - that would involve not just eating enough, but eating a bit more - as she does not have dementia or cancer (she has had more cameras looking at her insides than I have children!). She does have a very small ulcer, which might be contributing but the more common contributing conditions have been ruled out as a "cause" of her anemia.
So the big question, people. Should I take any notice of a family member who thinks that this is a choice and she should be allowed to choose not to eat? Should I put down the fact that she is not eating enough to the fact that she is bored of cooking for herself? And the concern that has arisen from her deteriorating physical and mental health? Should that be put down to "small town drama"?
Or should I listen to my children, my husband, my brother in law, the lady in the fruit shop, the man who delivers the newspapers, her friends who see her every day and do something?
(Note: she is taking iron supplements before someone points that one out...)