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After a very bad senior year in high school, Lisa got well enough to go to college in the fall of 2003. There she soon relapsed, but came out of it and had three pretty good years before crashing in an even worse way, just shy of graduation. As we write this book, Lisa is twenty-four, coming back to life, and again we all have hope.

But the past seven years brought police cars and emergency rooms into our life, and phrases like "seventy-two-hour hold" and "danger to yourself or others" into our everyday conversation.

As a newspaper writer and editor, I used to love irony. It made for the best stories, especially when they involved an apple falling far from the tree, or at least a little oddly. For example, "Liberal, Matriarchal Family Spawns Pro-Life Leader" and "Anti-Gay Vice President's Lesbian Daughter Says . . ." What fun when it's someone else! How to explain the intergenerational drama? Too often, the shortcut answer was to blame the mother. "She's so controlling." "She's too lax." "She's distant." "She works too much." "She's always home, interfering in everyone's life." When we need someone to pin to the wall, Domineering Mom is so convenient. I have to admit I did it, too, although I was just as quick to blame the Distant Dad in those deliciously ironic situations. As in "Publishing Heiress Patty Hearst Robs Bank." Extrapolating, I wasn't the only one picturing a love-deprived child of privilege, rattling around the mansion, hungry for the family feeling she was to find, briefly, as a soldier in the Symbionese Liberation Army.

I didn't love irony when it happened to me: Food writer, in the public eye, has an anorexic daughter. Our life was like a movie in which the audience understands what's going on but the main characters are clueless. And I certainly didn't appreciate the armchair psychologists, real and imagined, pointing the finger at me as the cause of my daughter's ED (the catchall term for eating disorders). Our family went into triage mode, trying to help Lisa.

The upside of irony, when it happens to you, is that you have to learn something. Perhaps there's a loosening of attitude. I'm doing a lot less tut-tutting these days, and more tapping into a well of compassion, even for myself and my missteps in our family drama.

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