OCD, Ethics, and the Ultimate Paralysis of Fear
This day I’d like to share with you a little something different. It’s not entirely uplifting but maybe, just maybe there’s a little bit of hope at the end for all of us. You may have noticed my brief hiatus from posting on this blog. It was a natural pause for me because it occurred after our family trip to San Francisco until now. I always find it difficult to get back into the swing of cooking and blogging after eating out and being served for so long and it’s normal for me to end up with a little bit of depression. This depression is somewhat paralyzing and regularly affects me after holidays but this time there was a bit more to it.
At the same time that we (hubby, kid number 1, and I) came back from San Francisco, kid number two returned from her school trip to Europe. She spoke animatedly about everything she saw, did, and felt. When she finally went to bed I had a moment to reflect on her. My daughter, the once healthy, brilliant, artistic teenage girl, had lost yet another ten pounds to her already slim 95 lbs. There was no escaping it anymore, no way to turn away and definitely no more taking chances on her promises of eating more.Let me tell you a bit about my girl:
- She’s brilliant. A full International Baccalaureate student with a 95% average. She loves theoretical physics and learning about the world around her.
- She’s artistic. As a young artist using different mediums she’s always been talented but now she excels. She has recently taken part in her first art showing, sold her first 3 pieces, and has been invited to take part in Market Collective here in Calgary as a ‘youth artist’.
- She’s loving. This year for my 40th birthday she was able to track down (and make) the Chocolate Carrot Cake recipe that I’ve been trying to get for years. She’s taken over making Mother’s Day reservations from her dad (thank goodness!) and already has one made for Mother’s Day 2015.
- She’s kind. She regularly volunteers her time at various events within Calgary and at her school to help those less fortunate.
- She’s athletic. Yes, it’s true she would laugh at this statement but she is athletic by sheer determination, not talent. She has a brown belt in Karate and is a regular runner.
But I’m worried. Her perfectionist and obsessive personality are taking over all of the things that I love about her. What started out as ‘eating healthier’ and becoming fit in order to try out for a rugby team has taken over her life. Her restrictive eating is so severe that every meal has become a fight. I can’t help but think back to the days of when she was a toddler. She was never easy to feed, but at least if I waited long enough she would be hungry enough to try what was set out in front of her. Then came the time when she was within the ‘age of reason’. Our rule was always: try a bite, then another. In this way we eventually enjoyed normality at the dinner table…until last summer.
It began as a restriction of all refined carbohydrates and sugar. There was no reason to panic, everyone could use less carbs and sugars in their lives, including our family. I can’t imagine it was easy for her to begin this restriction as she was quite the baker, often baking cookies and not sharing them…
Then there was dairy. It became a fight to get her to drink even one glass of milk a day and even more difficult to have cheese on pizza, casseroles, or pasta (and by this time I am talking whole wheat pasta).
Then there was meat. I have often made meatless meals a weekly event and she has been quite appreciative but now any meal with meat in it becomes devastating. I believe that her use of media; the daily visitation of vegetarian and vegan food blogs, and propaganda filled anti-meat videos has paired with her obsessive disorder has taken over her sense of preservation. Her desire to obey her brain has overcome the desire to feed her body.
She insists her restrictive eating obsessions and her views on vegan-ism are two separate things. How can I even possibly begin to believe this is true? While it’s no secret that wholesale animal farming can often go hand in hand with inhumane slaughter, I know, as a farmer’s daughter, that the horrors shown on many agenda driven propaganda videos aren’t always the case. Humans evolved partly because they were smart enough to hunt and eat meat along with gathered seeds, roots, and tubers. Historically our varied diet gave us an advantage and once farming evolved we were able to evolve on a much larger scale. Organized societies, religion, discoveries in science, and art are all around today because farming enabled humans. As our populations grew farming became more intense, eventually leading to unethical practices such as caging, stunning, feedlots, and methods that increase production but cause animals to suffer in their short time on this earth.
Becoming vegan seems to be an ethical choice for many (including my daughter) but meat and animal products will always be served at my table. Animals specifically raised for the food industry would never have existed if it wasn’t for farming practices and they would never survive if suddenly every farmer was to turn them loose. I do believe that we, as consumers, have the responsibility to choose ethically raised proteins. We have the purchasing power to let meat conglomerates know that we won’t stand for inhumane practices. I guess you could say in a way that my daughter, through her illness, has made me aware of these matters.
If my daughter was well and in complete control of her compulsions, I would support her efforts towards a vegan lifestyle. It wouldn’t be easy but with proper menu planning she could get the necessary nutrients, proteins, and carbohydrates needed to live. Right now, we’ve arrived at a stalemate. Fish and shellfish are okay. Chicken is tough, beef is a no-go. I haven’t even tried pork yet. The stress of planning out meals to avoid tears has left me hating something I have once loved so much. Worrying about the damage her current diet and restrictions are doing to her body, her mental state (OCD and anguish over my insistence that she continue eating animals), and that age old question of ‘What to make for dinner’ (where the pressure is now multiplied by a thousand) has left me paralyzed. I am in a constant state of fear that I may lose my daughter and that my obsession with food, as a food blogger, is to blame.
I’m no longer standing by and allowing my daughter to restrict herself to death. Though I know there is a long and difficult path ahead for both of us, my love for her won’t allow me to stand by any longer. Last Friday was a tough, exhausting day of appointments and harsh realities. I do expect things to get worse before they can get better because the sad reality is that help for this sort of condition only arrives when there is a full on five alarm emergency. Waiting lists and red tape often hinder therapy but my daughter is worth it. And so much more.