Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Story on Boundaries and the Subconscious Mind

My daughter, Lindsay, had brain cancer years ago. During the course of her treatment she was placed on tube feedings. They actually did surgery and installed a "button" in her abdomen through which she was feed. The reason for this was her radiation and chemotherapy made food taste so horrible she just could not even put it in her mouth, let alone swallow it.

Two years after Lindsay's treatment was over she still was not eating. It had taken some time for the built up chemicals in her system to work their way out so her taste buds were no longer affected but we were past the place where that should have been a problem. She still would not eat.

Lindsay was diagnosed with "artificial anorexia." Her brain no longer told her that she needed to eat. Just like all kids she had a streak of not wanting to be told what to do which added to the problem. Reminding her to eat felt like being pushed around to Lindsay.

At the same time, Lindsay hated having to be hooked up to a machine to be fed. She couldn't go to sleepovers at her friends because parents were intimidated (and rightly so) by her needs. Lindsay wasn't happy with the consequence of not eating but she wouldn't ever try. The whole thing just didn't make sense.

I suspected that Lindsay had subconscious messages making her decisions for her. Despite monthly visits by a nutritionist including length discussions on the subject, we were gaining no ground. I think the nutritionist was about ready to pull her own hair out because she could not get through to Lindsay at all.

Each and every day it was a struggle. Trying to get Lindsay to eat something, anything was an insurmountable task. She was convinced she didn't like about every kind of food known to man and she refused to even taste anything. The frustration felt by all of us was building exponentially.

Me, I was thinking it was time to push Lindsay's buttons. While normally, I believe in letting my children make their own mistakes so they can learn from them, it was clear to me that was going to be helping Lindsay at all. If anything it was enabling this who situation. An enabler, I am not!

I thought about it long and hard and finally came up with a plan. If I could get Lindsay mad enough to spout off at me, I suspected we'd get to the bottom of the issue. As much as she didn't want to eat, she really didn't want to be pushed to eat. She really wanted to be left ot her own devices in this matter. So I decided to take off the gloves and start fighting this battle by actively pushing Lindsay to eat.

I remember really applying pressure when the nutritionist was in our home. Given the opportunity, I'd push any way I could. Even with this new plan, we were three years into this. I had made little headway.

Each time I thought that Lindsay was going to tell me what was going on inside her head, she'd catch herself and run away. I really felt like a bully but I kept on applying the pressure. Pushing her to eat not just at mealtime but snack times, bed times, food commercials on tv. If the topic of food came up any time anyplace, I was on it sometimes not letting up for several days.

Finally, Lindsay had had enough of my pushing. I'd followed her into her room after yet another retreat. She'd slammed the door in my face and began screaming at me that she did not need to eat.

I remember pushing through the door desperate to get through to her. I screamed back egging her on, hoping she would finally spill it. "Come on, Lindsay, tell me why not! Why don't you need to eat?"

Her immediate snarled response was, "Because I'm hooked up to that machine!"

I remember the wave of relief that washed over me. Finally the secret was out in the open. The illogical thoughts that had kept my daughter trapped spilled out into the light.

That was it for Lindsay. She got very quiet and a wave of understanding crossed her face. Just hearing those awful words out of her mouth and it was over.

Lindsay knew how much she hated that machine. She didn't want to spend her whole life tethered to it each night for twelve long hours. (Lindsay's stomach would not tolerate a faster flow rate.) She went straight into the kitchen and fixed herself a sandwich. She has been eating every since.

For three long years the only thing that kept my daughter from starving to death was that darn machine. The only reason she wasn't eating was because an irrational subconscious message told her she didn't have to try anything that didn't sound good because of that machine. She didn't have to take a risk and attempt to eat foods that had tasted bad during her chemotherapy because that machine saved her from those bad tastes. If this story doesn't show the power of our subconscious mind over our lives, nothing will.


keepers said...

Dear Risingrainbow

that had to be a very difficult time for you and her. dealing with an anorexic/bulimic daughter we understand the feelings. that was very brave to push that hard to elicit a response from her. we are glad the desired result came from it. Best wishes to your daughter and you


Angel said...

I love your blog, and thank you for sharing this story:)


Lynn said...

Wow. That is rather amazing, RR, and I'm glad you shared it. I'm so glad your daughter eventually started to eat. It does make sense that she would not feel the need to eat under that circumstance. It's funny how sometimes we don't understand things until we blurt out something like that.

Kahless said...

I believe in the power of the subconscious mind. As as Lynn said,

It's funny how sometimes we don't understand things until we blurt out something like that.

Fallen Angels said...

I have had to make my blog friends only..I would like to invite you, but need an email addy to do so. I will put up a "contact me" email at my other blog for a short time. Would you email me through that so I can send you an invitation?

Austin said...

This is an incredible, incredible entry. I've gotta link to this on my page called My Time To Heal. It should be up later today.

katy said...

gosh this is truly amazing, so glad you carried on pushing her, it couldn't have been easy for either of you.

Lily Strange said...

Sometimes it IS helpful to push a person's buttons in certain situations. As long as we don't make a habit of it, getting angry can in fact inspire a person to action. Which is why I always say that anger is better than depression because anger is a motivator. Rage, on the other hand, is like a nuclear bomb. It may temporarily solve a problem but the result is usually needless devastation.
I'm glad Lindsay came through the chemo and radiation. That can be a lot more devastating on both body and psyche than most people realize.

Frazzled Farm Wife said...

Wow, what a story! You are one amazing person. It's a good thing you are one strong willed person, it had to have been very tough for you to push her. I bet she is very grateful for you.

MultiMe said...

Yep, I've found that getting emotions heated up is sometimes the only way to get things to happen.

In our family we've called it 'laugh therapy'. My daughter hates to be laughed at, it makes her angry. Angry enough to step out of her comfort zone with an 'I'll show you' attitude.

For example, she had training wheels on her bike months after she was ready to take them off. She could ride fine, they never even touched the ground. But if we removed them, she simply wouldn't even try. Finally we forced her to try, and she pouted and whimpered and whined. And her faces were very funny - and I laughed at her. That made her mad, so I laughed more. She got so mad, she got on the bike and took off, just to show me.