In Search of Better Stories

Are We Finally Getting Some Wins Against This Monster?

     Our ears are plastered to the bathroom door.

“She’s singing, definitely singing!”

     We high-five each other and enjoy the pop tunes being belted out from the shower. 

     Later that night, with a mischievous grin and a twinkle in her eye, she pulls on Darve’s hair and cracks jokes. The next day, she gets into a wrestling match with Dad, and laughter fills the house!

     It’s been 16 months of war against an evil beast that possesses its victim and then drives them to an early grave by filling their head with lies about food, fat, and body image. When the eating disorder is in complete control, there is no singing, no joking, no twinkle in the eye and no laughter. So what’s happening? Is the terrorist that has held our beloved daughter, hostage all these months finally relinquishing its hold on her?

     She hasn’t skipped a meal in months; “flat refusals” seem to be a thing of the past. She’s stopped taking the liquid meal replacement drinks instead of actual food. Her anorexic behaviour at meal times has been reduced by about 80%. But best of all, most of the eating disorder drama has stopped. Tikki no longer throws herself on the floor, slams doors, begs to be dead, bodychecks dad, smears food all over the place, cranks out 2000 jumping jacks when we aren’t looking, spits out food, or screams bloody murder at the top of her lungs. The escalated behaviours in the Wilkinson house for all of us have dropped dramatically. Hallelujah! Our home is almost peaceful again.

     Of course, there is still an interminably long way to go. The fundamental switch in Tikki’s brain has not yet flipped. Food remains the great enemy. Tikki is unable to self-feed, so six times per day, Mom and Dad have to monitor the feeding, even at school, and she never ceases to bargain for less food, even though we are unyielding. Tikki’s diet continues to be very restricted. There is still only a handful of things she will eat. Our determined daughter constantly strategizes for more exercise and will never sit down during the day unless forced. Do you know anyone who plays the piano standing up? I do. She gets up too early and fights to stay up too late. Sleeping is laziness, you see, which will lead to weight gain. Tikki remains decidedly unhappy with her body image. She sees a hippopotamus every time she looks in the mirror. Sadly, we haven’t been able to get Tikki to the healthy weight threshold required to restart her monthly cycle. Without those hormones being released into her body at this critical stage in her development, the doctors tell us that she runs the risk of severe physical complications as she ages.

     But who can deny that we’ve made significant progress? As recent as four months ago, we were utterly defeated. In this heavy-weight bout against ED, we were down for the count and not getting back up again, but our fortunes turned. We were accepted into a 12-week intensive day treatment program at the Children’s Hospital. A platoon of doctors, psychologists, social workers, therapists, dieticians, counsellors, educators and nurses wrapped themselves around Tikki for 40 hours per week. The game plan was to have very caring, lovely, skilled people teach Tikki Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) so that she could develop the skills necessary to have a life worth living. Additionally, once per week, the parents would join the program for a couple of hours and receive an information dump so that we could learn the same skills as our daughter and practice them together at home.

     We thought the program had been a failure. For ten weeks, Tikki had hoodwinked this team of professionals into thinking she was completing meals. She wasn’t. Instead, she would eat some of the food and then pack the rest in her mouth like a chipmunk, spitting it out when they weren’t looking. It’s no wonder she didn’t gain weight while in the program. Why didn’t they catch this? Aren’t they pros at ferreting out anorexic behaviour? We were not impressed. And while she was busy tricking them, yet acting so nice and sweet in the program, winning all their hearts, she continued to be a little stinker at home! And DBT? I struggled to like it. It’s such a soft approach. There is no right or wrong with DBT. All conversations are valid; everything is a “both-and” scenario. I don’t want to play nice with the thing that is killing my daughter; I want to kick it in the ass, and DBT made me feel like I had to play paddy-cake with ED. I was asking tough questions of the DBT specialists, and I’m afraid I wasn’t the most popular parent in our Thursday class.

     After we concluded the program, I braced myself for what I thought would be another downward spiral. But to my shock and surprise, that didn’t happen. Goal setting is a massive component of DBT, and Tikki’s primary goal is to get her hockey career back on track. So, we moved her to a school with Ice hockey built into the curriculum. We gave her a taste of what her hockey life could be like by allowing her to play in September, even though she has not yet achieved the healthy weight threshold. She has until October 1st to get there if she wants to continue to play the sport she loves. So far, this motivation is working. Tikki is defying the demon voices in her head and buckling down to eat. She faces the greatest fear of her young life six times daily and overcomes the terror. All the strategies of DBT and FBT are fully deployed at the Wilkinson house: mechanical eating, distraction (Thank God for Netflix, Prime, and Disney Plus), wise mind versus emotional mind, breathing exercises, expectation checksheets, meditation, identifying and discarding cognitive distortions, consequences for unacceptable behaviour and much more.

     There is a long way to go; the internal motivation to eat has not returned. Tikki still denies basic human instincts like hunger pangs. However, the coping strategies learned in the 12-week program are working. Tikki is moving in the right direction, and for that, we are incredibly grateful. Thanks to all of you for so many prayers and positive thoughts; please continue to hold up my sweet daughter. Pray her, wish her, and will her into the healthy hockey weight that she must achieve by October 1st.

     One of Tikki’s greatest strengths is her iron will. No one is more determined than Tikki. If she sets out to achieve a goal, it will happen. ED hijacked this glorious attribute and mercilessly used it to try to kill my daughter. He almost succeeded. But now Tikki is slowly but surely taking that determination back for herself. She, despite the sheer terror of this monster screaming in her ear, is finding her iron will again. If she recovers it fully, the monster has no chance.

Tikki scoring a beauty, shortly before the monster came, gut-punched her and robbed her of so many wonderful things life has to offer.

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27 Responses

  1. Yes Bro, we will pray more than ever during the last leg of this excruciating race. “You fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds you so much dread are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head…. His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.” Love you all!

  2. Dear Dennis and Mistin,

    Thanks for the update. Progress is good. We shall keep praying

    Love, Ted and Diane Fritz

  3. Hi Dennis and Mistin,

    Thank you for the update! Ted and I have been praying for Tiki and your family.

  4. We love you guys! Thanks for sharing and being so transparent. Having a nearly 10 year old daughter it is helpful to hear about this struggle, your experiences and now your progress and victories. Much Love!

  5. This is music to my ears. I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I am to hear all this good news. I will continue to send rainbows to your whole family dear sweet Dennis. Thank you for sharing this heartbreaking but finally better story about dear Tikki. Well done. Junie

  6. Dennis, I’m just sitting here at my desk at work dripping tears of gratitude all over my keyboard. Someone once told me that as a parent, you are only as happy as your saddest child. I’ve found that to be pretty accurate. It’s so wonderful to hear the words of hope in your post. We’ll keep praying. – Amy Moberg

  7. Dennis, I’m just sitting here at my desk at work dripping tears of gratitude all over my keyboard. Someone once told me that as a parent, you are only as happy as your saddest child. I’ve found that to be pretty accurate. It’s so wonderful to hear the words of hope in your post. We’ll keep praying. – Amy Moberg

  8. Morsels of good news can go a long way towards our personal nourishment as well. So glad to read of these victories. As I have been, I will continue to pray faithfully for your entire family as you do battle!

  9. I keep all of you in my prayers and have hope for Tkki’s future. Three loved ones suffered through ED and have triumphed and were able to have families. I pray for me same for Tikki!

  10. Thanks for the update. She has been on my mind and in my heart since the first post. Live and prayers daily for your whole family. With God’s nothing is impossible. Darryl and Christine Carlson.

  11. Thanks for the update Dennis, it’s been gratifying to see the progress and we grieve with the setbacks. It was truly wonderful to see the Wilkies at church camp again. When God’s with us who can be against us?

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