Sunday 14 August 2011

My comments on the previous entry's comments...

Thanks for your comments on my last entry, Katie, you always explain things so well. Your experience is one of the reasons why I know it is essential to keep going until Ben is fully weight restored and never to settle for partial recovery as a second-best.

It is so sad that Anon (who commented twice) feels so locked into her / his eating disorder. Far from being 'in control' of your life and destiny, having an eating disorder is, in my opinion, a case of being totally 'out of control' as the ED takes the controls and drives everything into a rapid downhill spiral.

All too frequently I've heard anguished parents saying: "During that period she thought she was in control, but then she got to the stage where she just couldn't help it as the ED dragged her downwards". It's a bit like swimming in the sea, then you go out too deep and the current drags you out to sea whether you like it or not.

The Good News is that also, frequently, I've heard so many relieved parents saying: "These days she says that during that period, deep down, the 'real XXX' was so relieved we were refusing to give up, even though on the surface she appeared to be fighting against us."

At one point somewhere along the line Ben said NO to permitting the ED to control his life - and, thankfully, he said this before things got too dangerous. He took his life back; he put himself back in control and threw the ED out of the driving seat.

So did Katie.

This takes tremendous strength, determination and self-will - to say 'Yes' to a life free of the shackles of the controlling eating disorder; to regain true control over your life and destiny.

But I also know that there is a lengthy period where there is little the sufferer can do as the ED behaviours, destructive thoughts and rituals have them locked in. This is when I (and others) believe they need a third party working strongly on their behalf guiding them, like Janet Treasure's dolphin analogy, towards a point of safety from where they can start to recover. (Usually their parents in Family Based Therapy which is the modern, evidence-based way to treat EDs.)

Or, which must happen for some people [adults?] without the benefit of this constant third party support, something that 'clicks' in them and turns the tide. Maybe it's sudden; maybe it's gradual; maybe you can't pinpoint it at all, but everyone around you is aware of a gradual change in attitude, behaviour and mood. What's your opinion Katie? I can only say what I've seen in Ben's life and the lives of my friends' and contacts' children.

I know that an eating disorder is a terribly complex condition and that everyone is different. But, having said this, I am always amazed at the massive amount of common ground I discover with other parents of teenagers and young people with eating disorders. The point is, that - even thought it is so incredibly complex - there are so many elements that are exactly the same for so many people, at every stage.

I do hope Anon gets the opportunity to experience 'true control' of his / her life by slowly releasing the iron grip that ED has over him / her.


  1. Difficult question. For me recovery was a bit like getting ill - it happened gradually, and then all at once. I started contemplating the idea of attempting recovery when my life was really pretty much not worth living anymore, but I carried on restricting and losing weight. Then there was one particular night in March 2009 when I had a fight with my mum - not a rare occurrence, so no idea why this was different. I was sitting on the sofa afterwards staring at my laptop and feeling like crap, and then suddenly started asking myself where all this would end. I didn't want to end up in hospital again and I decided that if I started trying to recover by myself I would feel like I had a lot more control over the process.

    I had no idea what I was doing so I started reading everything I could about recovery, concentrating on the practical advice - I'd done therapy by the bucketload before and it hadn't made much of an impact. I refed myself, set my own target weight, created my own meal plan, monitored my own weight gain and so on, all based on good research and scientific information about eating disorders. One of my turning points was discovering that malnutrition causes so many of the ED symptoms (this was what made me aim for full weight restoration rather than insisting on staying at the lowest acceptably healthy weight), and learning about the genetic components to EDs made me realise that it really was an illness, not just a coping mechanism gone wrong.

    There were so many points at which it all could have gone wrong, but I worked hard on my motivation for change and I constantly reminded myself of all the reading I'd done. I didn't want to end up as a chronic anorexic - I'd already been labelled as one and I knew what life would be like if I never shook the illness off. Osteoporosis is extremely painful and disabling and I had osteopenia already, my digestive problems were getting worse, my liver always started packing up whenever I got to low weights, my heart was getting weaker, my immune system wasn't working properly and I had infection after infection, I had no emotions left other than anxiety and my cognitive function was so bad I wouldn't even read. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life that way, and I knew that if I didn't recover fully I would always end up back there again, and again and again and again. I was quite aware that recovery might not bring me happiness and health, but also aware that anorexia would only bring me more sickness and disability and misery.

    It's only now I'm in full remission that I can appreciate what a lucky escape I had. Hopefully one day Ben will see this too :)

  2. Brilliantly put, Katie. It is so helpful to see things from a recovered person's perspective. xx