About “A Difficult Daughter”
Imagine being told as a child struggling with a crippling eating disorder that you are “naughty” and “disobedient” because you refuse to eat. Being told that “you cannot be trusted, that you are manipulative, that you are selfish, that you are vain and that you are a burden on your family and the healthcare system”.
This quote is drawn from a guest post by Kristen on https://www.thediaryhealer.com/category/blog/. Kristen’s story, and that of her family, is one of the 10 stories shared in the book, My Kid is Back – Empowering Parents to Beat Anorexia Nervosa, by Daniel Le Grange and June Alexander.”
Today, in twenty nineteen, a woman said to me, referring to a friend’s teenage daughter: “she was so skinny, people accused her of being anorexic. I call that nonsense, because I saw with my own eyes that she ate more than anyone!” Because the teenager is thin, people loosely use the word ‘anorexic’. They say “Shame on you” or “How can you do this to yourself, you selfish girl?’ ” This is typical of comments from educated, intelligent people, who view the disease as a choice by the sufferer, not as we now know, a genetic disorder and a serious illness, beyond the sufferer’s control.
It’s been suggested that anorexia nervosa is an “addiction”, no different to that experienced by an alcoholic, a gambler, a smoker, or a hard drug addict. This implies that the sufferer can be cured by a course of withdrawal, or behaviour management, where they accept moral responsibility for their condition and take action to remove the addiction. Nothing could be further from the truth in the case of an anorectic who has no or little control against the genetically determined illess in which food intake is drastically reduced, sometines to the point of death.
The word ‘anorexic’ is still largely an insult, an indictment, or a joke. Women describing themselves when young are sometimes heard to say: thu “I was’so thin, I was positively anorexic”. This is to imply pride in her youthful sylph-like figure. To a recovering anorectic, this can be highly offensive. Again, it implies that the refusal of food is a choice, rather than an illness against which the victim has no control.
In Australia in the early fifties, the illness didn’t have a name. Nevertheless shaming and blaming was constantly directed towards sufferers of what came to be known as ‘anorexia nervosa’. Only then, when the disease had a respectable medical title, did glimmerings of understanding slowly break through. The public was told this was no ‘slimmer’s disease’ but a serious mental and physical illness,which was often fatal.
‘A Difficult Daughter’ is the story of one sufferer of classic anorexia nervosa in the fifties, who was maligned, punished, and eventually exiled from her family at the age of fourteen. It is loosely based on my own experience. However the characters, events and locations are fiction, and not intended to represented real people, whether living or dead.