Packing For Treatment
Updated: Feb 29
(by Siobhan Twomey)
That Friday night
had to be the worst.
Blue plastic handle
of the basket
dug into my crook.
The weight of size six leggings
tops and tees.
Three hundred euro
on clothes I am already burning
ceremoniously, at the end
This poem was sparked by despair, four years ago, the night before my daughter Molly went into treatment for orthorexia, an eating disorder in which the person has an excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food.
When Molly was in her fifth year of school, she had a friend who was dieting and restricting to the point of fainting regularly. Her friend seemed to stabilize, but Molly took up the reins. When it came to her final year and her debutante's ball approached, all the girls were all trying to be as slim as possible. We have a very close relationship, but Molly refused to have me near the dressing room as she tried on dresses.
She went to college in Galway, a three-hour drive from home, and became more entrenched in "healthy" eating and restricting, lifting weights at a gym in the mornings before classes. We weren't quite aware of how far she had gone with this behavior, hoping it was a "phase." But we must have had some awareness about the depth of trouble because my husband and I took turns at weekends driving to visit and support her in whatever way we could.
She was living in France as an au pair when one morning I saw six missed calls from France on my phone and realized the situation was serious. I collected her in Carcassonne, and we sought help when we returned. Luckily she got a placement in a private treatment center. None of her clothes fit because so desperately thin, and we got new ones that I hated buying. The following day we drove to Dublin with duvets under her bottom as the car seat was too hard for her bones.
Molly is doing so well now—we even trained as yoga teachers together, as another avenue of healing—but food is still a difficult terrain to manage. When she was younger, we loved to bake together—her specialty was chocolate biscuit cake. And we had a Sunday morning ritual of pancakes. Her cousins would come after Mass, and we would all share a breakfast of lemon and sugar pancakes (a recipe I learned from my Granny, with whom I lived as a child) or Molly’s favorite Nutella. But since Molly’s recovery, I have found it hard to bake, especially pancakes.
Sunday Morning Pancakes
4 oz. plain flour
sprinkle of salt
1/2 pt. whole milk
butter for cooking
caster sugar or superfine sugar
Sift the flour into a bowl, and add salt.
In a separate container, beat milk and egg together.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, making sure to bring in the sides of the bowl. The batter is better if left to stand for a half an hour or overnight.
Warm a frying pan, and melt a knob of butter.
Add a ladle of batter, and let the pancake cook.
When bubbles form, flip to the other side.
When both sides are nicely browned, remove from pan, sprinkle with sugar, and squeeze lemon on top.
Serve on a warm plate.