Horrible though it was to recall, it's amazing how far we've come since that summer holiday in France. For example that hellish tension - I remember being on Red Alert virtually ALL the time in those days, primed for whatever Ed the Anorexia Demon would throw at me next. Anorexia behaviour is often referred to as "unpredictable behaviour", but it's actually highly predictable in that you can PREDICT it will happen one way or the other, sometimes several times a day. My nerves were red raw and I'd wake up every morning dreading what that day would bring and long for Ben's Dad to come home at weekends to take the strain off me a bit (in those days he worked away during the week, so I had to deal with everything alone).
In those days, we didn't really see eye to eye with the treatment team and I was stunned that they allowed the vacation to be an opportunity for Ben to "take a holiday from the eating plan". The thinking was that it would enable us all to relax and we'd have a lovely happy family holiday, just like we used to - because that's what Ben (and all of us) so dearly wanted us to have.
In practice, of course, it meant that Ben cut down on his food quite drastically. I'd been made to promise everyone that I wouldn't make comments or "nag" if I noticed anything like this, the thinking being that Ben could relax if I kept quiet. But it wrenched my heart to see Ben instantly going for all the "diet options" in the supermarket after we'd worked so hard to steer him away from them. And breakfast immediately transformed from a hefty two-course affair into a quick couple of slices of toast.
He'd have the minimum for lunch, too, and at teatime I had to be characteristically careful with what I cooked (we were in self-catering which, in a way, was tonnes better than a hotel). In those days meal times were particularly tense as you never knew how Ben would react to a meal. Sometimes he'd violently "down tools", walk out, cry out like an animal in pain and bang his fists and head against the wall. At least he never got to the stage where he threw furniture around like some anorexia sufferers do, but he be did break or damage quite a few things, thankfully nothing in the holiday villa...
Of course Ben didn't eat between meals in France or have any ice creams and so on. So I didn't either. I couldn't sit there enjoying an ice cream knowing that the anorexia wasn't permitting him to do likewise.
I guess that being on Red Alert didn't make things easy for anyone, least of all Ben. But, if you're in this situation now, you'll know exactly what I mean. In an ideal world, you'll be Janet Treasure's "dolphin" (relaxed, calm and encouraging) but in practice it's more like an explosive volcano about to erupt.
Naturally we avoided all restaurants, except when we couldn't help it, like when we were staying in a hotel on the way back home. In a pub near Southampton we deliberately chose to sit upstairs in an empty room to avoid spoiling the evening for other diners should Ed the Anorexia Demon kick off. And Ben took almost an hour to decide what to eat, also debating what he could ask to be removed from the dish. Usually it was asking for something without cheese, without a sauce or whatever.
But, hang on a mo... this post is supposed to be looking at how far we've come since then...
Rewind to a couple of weeks ago to when we were sitting in a country pub with Ben merrily tucking into a large plate of battered fish, chips and mushy peas. Or my birthday when Ben and I went to Pizza Express and he had a normal pizza (not the low calories "Legera" option!), a glass of wine and a dessert! And this, after having a slap up lunch care of Marks & Spencer food department.
In the back of my mind there is still a slight bit of tension when eating out. Will something happen and we'll have a repeat of that other time in the same pub when he asked for a stir-fry and when he got it, refused to eat it, ending up in noisy tears with half the pub staring at us no doubt wondering why a 16 year old boy was behaving like the "terrible two's" and the waitress coming over, time and time again, to ask what was wrong...
Back then I'd say I was on 100% Red Alert virtually all the time. These days, it's about 2% and really it just translates itself as me being quietly vigilant to make sure things are moving along smoothly.
Yesterday Ben had cheesy nachos for lunch. Imagine that back in the "bad old days" of last summer!