Tuesday 15 February 2011

What if anorexia hadn't stolen 20 months from his life...?

I went through a lengthy phase last year where I could scarcely bear to look at other teenagers, especially those that looked ultra fit, happy and healthy. The stark contrast between them and my son was strongest when he used to slouch across the school car park at the end of the day looking emaciated, gaunt, tired and miserable, with dark rings round his eyes and his clothes hanging off him. Suddenly it seemed as if everyone else was leaping and bounding across the car park, blossoming with health and full of the joys of spring. And I'd think back to the days when I would almost weep with pride at my handsome, muscular, healthy-looking son and the way girls would blush when they looked at him.

Ben still is incredibly good looking. But he's also incredibly thin. Thankfully the dark rings have gone from around the eyes as his nutrition has improved over the past months and he doesn't look as gaunt. But these days I find it simply isn't helpful  to compare him with his peers. Nor is it helpful to wonder what might have happened in Ben's life if he hadn't been enslaved by the anorexia for the last 20 months or so.

It's similar to anyone who has a child with an illness. As time goes by you simply have to accept that, for a time, they won't be like everyone else and there's no point wishing they were. But some good things have come out of this... The way Ben and I are closer than we ever might have been if the anorexia hadn't arrived on the scene. He's also much more sensitive to other people's feelings and gets on brilliantly with the girls because girls can talk deeply in a way that many teenage boys can't, and Ben likes doing that.

He is recovering and he will come out of this. One day he will get his weight back and look like the big strapping lad he should be. But while we're still on the road to that destination, it's pointless comparing him with other teenagers who have more muscle and flesh than him.

At least, these days, when he walks across the school car park he's usually waving goodbye enthusiastically to someone in the sixth form common room, smile on his face...

Most times, anyway...

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