Friday, 17 June 2011

Like last summer, something had to give before my brain imploded...

I have no idea how I managed to carry on 'business as usual' with my freelance copywriting during Ben's rapid descent into anorexia, but I did... in a way... until something just had to give, and it did... and I think it has again...

First, let me just say that I am in total, absolute and complete awe of any parent of a child with an eating disorder who manages to carry on working for someone else, outside the home. I simply couldn't have done it, not with having to be on 'constant red alert' for emergency phone calls from school: from Ben, from the medical centre and from staff. Every day it felt as if I was having to 'down tools' at a moment's notice and rush into school to face some kind of disaster, followed by a terrible afternoon and evening back here when I brought Ben home - not to mention the sleepless nights, etc etc etc... you know where I'm coming from...

I was incredibly lucky in that I worked for myself, from home. So, to to a certain extent, I could 'work around' the problems. It meant having to drastically reduce my hours because I had to allow so much 'buffer time' for any longer, more distressing issues. But somehow I still managed and I have no idea how.

I'm not saying this to boast or sound like 'super woman'. I'm saying it to show that (a) I was lucky having this flexibility so my clients never knew anything was going on (so I didn't lose clients and I continued to earn money), and (b) that even this wasn't sustainable and something had to give.

As well as juggling the Ben issues, I was constantly moving projects around in my diary, saying no to new clients or anything too mentally demanding, canceling stuff, making excuses, constantly pretending to be 'rushing out to urgent meetings' and so on. Boy, my clients must have thought I was busy and incredibly successful, lol...!!

I managed it better after we'd made the decision to remove Ben from school. Also, because he was revising for his GCSEs at the time, I worked while he did. Then we'd both take a break and spend some time together, walking, shopping or whatever. When he did his exams, I worked on my laptop in the school car park. So, thankfully, I was able to pay my share of the household bills.

However when the summer holidays came, things changed drastically in every way.

Not only did Ben's mood and weight deteriorate rapidly but he embarked on a suicidal phase which was a total nightmare for everyone. I tried to push ahead with my work, already cutting it down to the absolute essential stuff - loyal and long-standing clients who I simply didn't want to lose and who I love working with.

Then during the summer I got to a stage where I realised something had to give before my brain imploded. I was an emotional and nervous wreck.

It was as if something 'pinged' in my brain and shut off. I just stopped. I knew I had to take a break from work and had no choice. So much so that I had to explain the situation to most of my clients and pass work onto another copywriter.

Apart from the odd 5-minute job, I stopped work altogether to concentrate on Ben and on me. I wasn't going to be in the slightest bit useful to Ben as a carer if I was a total and utter emotional wreck!

My GP put me on a low dose of Prozac which calmed me down once it started to work and enabled me to be a better mum to Ben. The psychiatrist put Ben on the same stuff, which helped him, too.

By being frugal we pretty much lived on my H's income until he lost his job earlier this year when I had no choice but to crank it all up again and start earning some money!

Thankfully this coincided with Ben's improvement, so it couldn't have been a better time, really, and I was able to do it. And I ENJOYED doing it. I managed to work around Ben's schooling; the days of being on constant 'red alert' for phone calls and texts had well and truly gone! Also, despite a couple of casualties who obviously went elsewhere, I managed to keep my regular clients. Many never knew what had been going on!

But lately I've been aware of things building up again. Yes, H has started a new job thankfully and, yes, Ben has improved, but we've had all those problems /stressers with CAMHS which has meant having to sort out the damage caused by Ben believing he was Weight Restored when he most definitely was not.

It's had a marked and very negative impact on how he's responded to my encouragement and the Recovery Contract, on his morale in general - and it's as if Ed has gleefully leaped in and taken the advantage. I feel that so much of the good, positive stuff we have achieved over the spring was destroyed and I'm having to re-build from the ashes.

Oh and my Dad is still in hospital and I've been visiting him every day as well as looking after my elderly mum who is on her own.

I think it was a mixture of lack of sleep, anxiety, juggling too many balls at once, anger at the damage caused by the CAMHS / Weight Restored incident, other issues with Ben, dashing around here there and everywhere, not eating properly, not to mention all the cooking and food shopping / planning you have to do with and anorexic teenager in the house... that drove me to make a silly mistake yesterday when I pulled out of my road into another car. My first accident in 20 years of driving!! And the most stupid, elementary mistake in the universe. A learner driver wouldn't have done that. It wasn't even busy traffic; it was lunchtime!

By the end of the day (having continued to juggle balls, report the accident and all the other stuff that goes with it) I felt as if my brain and being were about to implode.

So that's where I am at the moment. Probably not a bad idea to visit my GP again, and also take a break from work for a while...

Just like I did back in late August of last year, I need to work out what I can drop from my life; what's not important and can be put onto a back burner.

So it's time for a bit of a 'life laundry', I think...


  1. Thank you for so honestly sharing the realities of parenting a child with an eating disorder. A. You are getting it off your chest and opening up to receiving support. B. You are helping others understand the realities of this unbelievable endeavor and reducing stigma. C. You are helping all of us parents who have lived or are living this nightmare to not feel so alone.

    Be gentle and kind with yourself. You have a lot on your mind and it is easy to have accidents. I wish you peace and serenity and please do keep reaching out to the rest of us moms in the world who hold you in our hearts.
    Becky Henry

  2. Ack :( I wish things were easier for you and your family. I do hope your GP can help, and that you feel better after taking some time out. Thinking of you x