Wednesday 12 January 2011

Anorexia brings in reinforcements

The analogy that anorexia is like a battle is a pretty obvious one to make. But as an enemy, anorexia is extremely cunning. It's as if the anorexia realises that it is losing on the main fronts so it brings in reinforcements - a new anorexia battalion that we didn't know existed. You can almost see the anorexia jumping up and down with devilish glee...

In our case the anorexia reinforcements arrived with a vengeance when Ben started back at school in September of last year (2010) after having been away from school since March (except for GCSE exams which the school allowed him to sit in private).

I was naturally worried about how the anorexia would affect the return to school. How would the socialising go? Would the school phobia still be present? Would the distressing "I can't go on..." anorexia fueled texts start again? How would the anorexia affect school dinners?

But what I hadn't planned for was the insomnia.

At the heart of Ben's anorexia lies extreme anxiety. And within a couple of days of starting back at school (a 'two fingers up at the anorexia' victory) - pow! - the anorexia brought in reinforcements in the form of insomnia.

Strangely, ever since then, it's really only the lack of sleep and the school dinners issue that have affected school. After an initial rocky start on the social front, the other issues have been mainly resolved.

Thanks to the anorexia 'reinforcements', Ben finds it impossible to sleep. Occasionally he will sleep for 5 hours, but it's very rare, and never more than that. Usually, the 'anorexia demon' wakes him up at 1 or 2am and keeps him awake. Often the 'anorexia demon' sends his thoughts racing, worrying about what he's going to eat for breakfast and throughout the day - and host of other things.

Because of this, Ben is off school far more often than he should be at this stage in the anorexia recovery. Thankfully, the school is sympathetic and emails work home, and gets other pupils to pass on notes from missed lessons.

But today Ben is sitting two AS level exams and this morning, thanks to the 'anorexia demon' keeping him awake all night, he was like the walking dead.

No doubt the 'anorexia demon' is thrilled at this victory, jeopardising his chances in the exams when he would otherwise have done very well. And the exam boards just don't understand - they really don't make allowances these days, and like many people they simply don't understand anorexia and other eating disorders.

I think with the GCSEs a few percentage extra could be awarded as a special case, thanks to a letter from our psychiatrist, but that was all. Thankfully back in June when Ben sat the GCSEs he was sleeping. Now, the anorexia could seriously undermine his chances of getting AS and A level qualifications.

But, as I always tell him, exams can be re-sat.

It's just so frustrating that, just when you seem to be making headway, the anorexia brings in a brand new battalion that's been hiding round the corner, taking you completely by surprise.

And, so far, no-one seems to be able to do anything about the insomnia. Not the GP, CAMHS, or anyone.

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