So we went back to the drawing board, parents pushing, me pushing back and a well-intentioned therapist saying all the right things at exactly the wrong time. I wasn’t ready to give up.
My sister Jennifer remembers the tension in our home. “As things got worse I had a lot of feelings. I was upset that I always had to corral Kelsey and Rachelle and keep them from bothering Mom because she was often in multi-hour conversations with you. I was upset because Mom and Dad started getting more and more stressed out. I was annoyed that you were doing all this and at the same time, Mom and Dad were encouraging you to gain weight by bribing you with a German Shepherd.”
Daddy and I came to lots of temporary truces. “If you gain 8 pounds in the next month, you can have the Honda when you turn 16,” he bargained once.
“What if I can’t make it? The dietician suggested 10 pounds in two months. Can we do that?”
“OK. Ten pounds in 2 months. But Abby, I’m serious. We’re looking into other inpatient treatment options. If you don’t meet this goal, we are going to take drastic measures.”
I felt trapped. To be true to my personal agenda of uncommon resolve and self-discipline, I had to perform certain long workouts and eat a certain number of calories and tally only a certain number of fat grams. But, my parents were offering me a different challenge. To please them, I had to perform as well, simply doing the opposite all my anorexic tendencies.
Either way, I was a failure. If I relinquished control of my strict diet and exercise regimen, I would fail as an anorexic, a new title I found strangely compelling, a definition all my own. If I failed to gain the agreed upon pounds, I would fail to meet my parents’ expectations.
To this point, the first 15 years of my life, I believed I had fallen short of my parents’ mark. That battle might have been lost, but I hadn’t yet played all my cards in the effort to beat my own nebulous goals. I chose to play another hand.