Thursday, 19 January 2017

Calling all Scottish parents and carers - don't miss the SEDIG carers' conference in March!

It's the annual SEDIG (SCOTTISH EATING DISORDERS INTEREST GROUP) carers' conference on Saturday 4th March 2017 in Edinburgh. Keynote speaker is Gill Todd talking about Motivational Interviewing and doing a workshop. Find out more and book a place here.

I did a talk at last year's conference and it's well worth coming along - and it's not too costly either. Gill Todd is amazing - I've met her on a couple of occasions. Such a nice person, and excellent at what she does.

If you're not recovered within a set time then - ping! - out you go!

I had the mothers (plural) of all nightmares (plural) last night. The theme was generally along the lines of being left in the lurch at the 11th hour without warning. Hmn, I wonder where that came from...

After the Christmas PTSD difficulties, I told my therapist how worried I was that I'd be discharged before I fully recovered; I was aware that NHS mental health treatment isn't infinite. She reassured me. She also reassured me that the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy would fix the PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and that I would recover.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Classic flight or fight - which did I do?

Today my PTSD therapist greeted me with "I'm afraid we've only got 3 sessions left; we've had 17 and it's been limited to 20 in total. Actually, they're just about to cut it to 16 sessions max, NHS funding cuts and all that, so you've been lucky!" So, I replied, that means that in a couple of weeks I'm going to be thrown out to fend for myself? "Well, there are other options..." You mean going private, I said, I can't afford it; I'm not able to work at the moment because of the PTSD...

Friday, 13 January 2017

Remembering wonderful Charlotte Bevan...

This month marks the 3rd anniversary of the death in 2014 of one of the most loving, caring, energetic and strong women in the world of eating disorder support - Charlotte Bevan, the mother of a teen eating disorder survivor. The best way I can describe Charlotte is to re-post my blog from the 13th January 2014, so here it is: Boadicea in her chariot, guns a-blazing in the fight against eating disorders and poor treatment...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Why weight restoration in eating disorder treatment must come first - and why I agree with Dr Julie O'Toole on the fact

In her last blog post for 2016, Dr Julie O'Toole of the Oregon-based Kartini Clinic reminds us 'Why Weight Restoration in Eating Disorder Treatment Must Come First' and why this fact isn't exactly rocket science - yet many people continue to overlook it. As she says: So why the heck do people seem so impervious to the message that without weight restoration you get nothing? And I do mean nothing: no physical recovery AND no psychological recovery. Remember: psychological recovery is about the brain. The brain is an organ of the body; like all other organs it needs fuel to replace broken or used-up cells, and for functioning cells to communicate with each other. Starvation is as bad for children and for any other living thing. This takes no great leap of intellect: you can’t become psychologically normal in a state of malnutrition. You don’t (or shouldn't) need access to all “latest science” to know this. What happens when you starve any other mammal? Think about it. Why the resistance to this simple message?

Looking back, what do I wish I'd done differently?

Oh gosh, that's a massive question... I know what I wish our GPs and CAMHS had done differently when assessing and treating my teenage son for anorexia - but me?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I wish I'd been more forceful - both in my interactions with the medical profession and with my son.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A short sabbatical to 'self soothe' and get myself on the road to recovery from PTSD

Well, 2017 was supposed to herald my return to work (self-employed) but I took one look at my computer keyboard and went into a panic (damn that PTSD). Nevertheless I made the decision to plough on with that huge and immensely helpful book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world's foremost experts on trauma / Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (This link summarises the book well.) Dr vdK also talks about yoga as an evidence-proven method of helping PTSD sufferers to recover. So I'm planning to do some yoga very soon. Next week, with any luck.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

More on the importance of finding a safe place, whether real or imagined

Throughout the months and years when I was battling with my son's anorexia and the accompanying mood volatility and violence, I found myself naturally seeking a Safe Place: somewhere I could escape in order to briefly to calm down, catch my breath and gather my thoughts - or to help me get to sleep at night. Sometimes these places were real, other times they were imagined. But they did  help when things became intolerable and overwhelming.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Want to discover why trauma affects us in the way it does and how to get through it?

I am still reading the substantial but incredibly informative and helpful book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk who is one of the world's foremost authorities on trauma and recovery. Really and truly if you want a proper understanding of the effects that trauma has on the mind and body, and techniques and treatments that may help you to recover from traumatic memories, I'd say this is the #1 'bible' on the subject.

When your home stops being a safe place to be

When my son was plummeting into anorexia during the autumn and winter of 2009 and spring and summer of 2010, I reached my lowest point as a mother. Up to 2009, our home had been a safe haven from the world 'out there' - stuff like work, crime, bad news, even rude people in the supermarket and all those other things that irritate you in life. 'Shutting up shop' for Christmas on the 23rd December, my husband's and son's birthdays, was like shutting out the outside world and sinking into a warm scented bath tub of safety and security.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A tricky few days thanks to my C-PTSD...

I can only say that the C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Disorder) came on with a vengeance from sometime on the evening of the 23rd until early evening on Christmas Day itself. It was quite frightening as I have never felt like that before: raging PTSD symptoms on full pelt - the works. And I had no control over it. Well, that's not strictly true. I had a choice: either to hide under the duvet for 48 hours or emerge and 'do business as usual'. I chose the latter as I didn't want to spoil everyone else's Christmas and we were entertaining the family at our house.

Friday, 23 December 2016

A not so 'silent night' (or day). Woohoo, it's Ben's birthday!

It's Ben's 23rd birthday today. Before he developed anorexia back in 2009 this day was usually loud and noisy with the sound of umpteen boys laughing, yelling and generally messing around up in Ben's attic room. You see, Ben's birthday parties were legendary. Indeed so many friends were invited that his parties had to be held in two shifts - countless friends one day followed by countless other friends the next with a sleepover inbetween. Then, during the years of the eating disorder, the house fell silent - apart from the final birthday sleepover when his anorexia had begun to rage and we had Ben hurtling downstairs in the middle of the night screaming and weeping because something had upset him. The following day was subdued as the boys' parents collected them from our house. The contrast between emaciated eating disordered Ben and his normal friends was heart-breaking. His friends stopped coming to our house after that and Ben's birthdays were solitary affairs with just the family. I remember his 18th birthday being especially poignant as he told us how down and depressed he felt - to be 18 and have no friends to celebrate with...

Boys get eating disorders too, you know!!

Someone please hand me a megaphone because I want to yell out loud that MEN AND BOYS GET EATING DISORDERS AS WELL AS GIRLS AND WOMEN!!!!! Because, in this study that was pointed out to me this morning, it's all about women and eating disorders. Again. No mention that men and boys struggle with anorexia, bulimia, etc, too.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Surviving Christmas / The Holidays when your son or daughter has an eating disorder

Needless to say, the combination of Christmas / The Holidays / Hanukkah or whatever your festive celebration and an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia can be a nightmare. No, not 'can be'; it IS a nightmare. I know. I've been there, done it. I've watched my son starve himself in the run up to "all that food" and then meticulously check how much he ate on Christmas Day, counting calories to ensure he didn't 'overdo it'. I've watched him eat a little too much and then punish himself afterwards for being "greedy" and "binging". I've been on Serious Red Alert in the knowledge that the slightest thing could result in banging, crashing, yelling, moaning and slamming his head against the wall.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Dr Julie O'Toole, I want to shake your hand about the misuse of BMIs for diagnosing eating disorders

I am LOVING Dr Julie O'Toole's blog and, in this recent blog post, she echoes what I have said about BMIs being used as an indicator of the seriousness of an eating disorder both at diagnosis stage and throughout treatment. She gives a terrific example of how reliance on BMI charts could prove potentially dangerous when assessing certain adolescents, especially those whose pre-morbid BMIs were above the so-called 'norm' yet who ate healthily (i.e. they didn't overeat). The same could apply to young people who carry a lot of muscle e.g. many males. Say the individual then goes onto lose a substantial amount of weight very quickly (for whatever reason), begins to get hooked on the idea of continuing to lose weight and gets taken to see the GP or pediatrician. The GP calculates the patient's BMI and the only alarm bells that are ringing is that this patient's BMI is too high and they might need to lose weight. See why this could be dangerous? Especially if the patient is presenting with typical eating disorder symptoms?

Excellent advice on how to weigh an eating disordered child

Every week directly before our hourly CAMHS session Ben was weighed in an ante room. He was told his weight. It might have gone up slightly - or down. If it had gone up, even by a tiny amount, the entire CAMHS session would be hi-jacked by panic and anxiety that his weight was ballooning out of control and that we were "making him fat". Worse, that his weight would continue going up and up without ever stopping and he might explode, Mr Creosote style. As a result he would spend the following week making adjustments to ensure that the needle was pointing in the 'right' direction at the next scales session.

Does anyone out there still believe that parents cause eating disorders?

If so, I would like to direct them to this superb article by Julie O'Toole, MD - Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Kartini Clinic for Children and Families, which sets out the rock-solid scientific evidence for eating disorders being brain disorders and that "parents are part of the therapeutic solution, not the source of the problem". For Dr O'Toole, the "take-home message that biology sends us is that not only do parents not cause eating disorders, schizophrenia, autism, and other brain disorders, they couldn’t cause them if they wanted to".

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Remembering my dear friend Sue - the little woman with the MASSIVE heart

Sue (left) and me (right),
Christmas Day 2011
A week today it will be Christmas Day. On  Christmas Day 2011 I invited my dear friend Sue and her husband round for Christmas lunch. Sue's secondary breast cancer had got worse. It had spread all over her body and she was worried that she simply wouldn't have the energy to 'do' Christmas that year. So I invited her round to ours for lunch and for as long as she felt able to last through the afternoon. Five years on I am remembering Sue, that little woman with the massive heart who took me under her wing in 2010 when my son's eating disorder was making it really difficult for me to cope with life. In order that newer followers of my blog can learn what a fantastic, awesome and totally unique woman my friend Sue was, here is a blog post I wrote in May 2012, five months after this Christmas Day:

Let's try FBT first - it's a no-brainer!

As I say in my last blog post: I am not saying that FBT (Family Based Treatment) is a 'magic bullet', nor that it suits everyone. But there appears to be more evidence for FBT than AFT (Adolescent-Focused Individual therapy). And, when faced with an illness that could kill your child, I'd bet my back teeth that any parent would want to try the treatment method for anorexia with the most evidence of success? It's a no-brainer, really. Like, why in a million years would you choose to initially go for a treatment model that didn't have as much evidence to support it? Especially when, with an illness as deadly as anorexia, your child's life could be at stake?

Why FBT is being adopted in some NHS authorities as first line treatment for young people with anorexia

A couple of years ago when I went to Glasgow to hear James Lock (of Standford University) speak about the evidence for FBT (Family Based Treatment) as an effective treatment model for adolescent eating disorders, I found myself wanting to jump up and down with agreement. But at the same time I also felt immense sadness and fury at the fact that back in the day we, along with numerous other adolescents and their families, were not offered FBT. Back then many UK treatment teams were still adopting the more traditional Adolescent-Focused Individual therapy (AFT) for adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Thankfully times are slowly changing and these days more and more local health authorities are rolling out FBT as first line treatment for young people with anorexia - our home city included. Indeed the evidence for FBT goes back to 2010 (and even further; Maudsley family therapy was initially devised at the Maudsley Hospital in London two decades ago) when, according to Prof Lock, "[researchers found that] family therapy for anorexia more effective than individual therapy".