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.