Saturday, 24 September 2011

School is still proving difficult and the insomnia is back...

The insomnia is back. The anxiety-fueled sleeplessness that wouldn't go away last year and which started the moment Ben returned to school last September. So far, this term, things hadn't been too bad on that front. But now the insomnia is back and, just like last time, it's all because of school. Also, in the place of last year's and the previous year's regular texts, I'm getting emails from Ben as he sits at a school computer filling in his time during free periods, breaktime and lunch.

Sure, they're by no means as distressing as the old texts used to be. But they speak volumes about how lonely he is feeling at school. How he is finding it really hard to integrate with his friends and other peers, so much so that he often gives up and heads for the computer room or somewhere in the school grounds or wherever.

On the odd day he isn't too bad, but most of the time his mood is pretty low. Day after day after day after day. And, unlike everyone else, he doesn't seem to be bothered about planning for university entrance next year, or even all the studying he needs to do for his AS Level resits and current A Levels. He doesn't seem to have a focus or know what he wants to do with his life.

He prefers to write or paint his models. Yes, he's even started taking them into school to distract him from everything and give him something to do. Both solitary activities.

It's incredibly heart breaking to watch all this going on. Part of me is tempted to remove him from school altogether. But the other part says that would be running away and wouldn't achieve anything. At this stage Ben needs to face his fears. Our psychiatrist calls it Exposure Therapy and she is all for him carrying on, no matter what. I tend to agree, regardless of how hard this is for us all.

He still only does a few full days, mainly because 2 out of 5 days have free afternoons. But yesterday was the first day he asked me to pick him up early when he DID have lessons in the afternoon. I felt as if we were running away.

At times like this you can't help but look into the future and wonder what it will hold.

Will he come out of this, ease back into the social network, resume friendships with old friends and make new ones? Will he, like most teenagers his age, have a jam-packed calendar of parties, discos, meals, cinema trips, hanging around or whatever? Will he get a girlfriend and settle into a happy, normal relationship? Will he get his A Levels, go to University and remember it as one of the best periods of his life?

Or will he drop out of school and / or Uni? Or never even go to Uni? Will he become even more solitary and lonely, his mood and depression deepening every day? Will his ED kick back in with a vengeance as it lies to him about being a 'safe haven' in which to take shelter from the world? Will he get a job, hold down a job? Will he marry and have kids? Or will he become a recluse, still at home with us by the time he is 40 or 50, looking back at a life which ED guaranteed would be the Promised Land, but which turned out to be a bare, featureless wasteland?

I know that this kind of gloomy thinking goes on in the heads of parents of teenagers with eating disorders. Harriet Brown talks about it in her excellent book "Brave Girl Eating". But she also talks about her utter refusal to let that happen to her child.

The trouble is, as far as school and social integration go, I feel helpless. I want to shake Ben's friends violently and tell them how much he needs them, not just to be there for him and include him, but to talk to him, REALLY talk to him, and listen to him, and for God's sake NOT to treat him as if he's different, or sick, or someone they feel sorry for because I know Ben HATES that.

But mothers can't talk to their (almost) 18 year old child's peers, that would be too weird. And anyway he wouldn't want me to.

Nor does he want CAMHS to go in and talk to his peers, like they did last November - a move which proved very successful for a few months...

Maybe I'll have a word with my friend S, the school nurse and see what she thinks. It would be nice to talk to her anyway about how things are going.

So, as we enter our THIRD year of problems with school, I wonder when it will end. Or if Ben's final year at school will simply be something he struggles through and forces himself to do, whilst being ignored by his friends and sitting alone sending emails to me.


  1. Oh dear, poor Ben. It could just be the stress of going back to school - people with eating disorders rarely cope well with change in routines. I get very anxious and stop sleeping properly whenever my life goes through an upheaval, regardless of whether it's a good change or a traumatic event. I know you won't, but don't give up! Even if Ben's last year at school is stressful, that doesn't mean he will be ill throughout his whole life. I had an eating disorder for thirteen years and I'm functioning well now - physically healthy, at college, working part time and with lots of friends. As long as a person is still breathing the situation is never hopeless :)

  2. Thanks, Katie. And I especially love your final point :)