Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Why didn't I take action sooner, you may ask...

That's what some people may be asking if they've read the post below. How come (a) I didn't drag Ben to the GP sooner, when his unusual behaviour and weight loss started to manifest itself and (b) I didn't fight tooth and nail to get him referred right away to CAMHS? How come if an eating disorder is so serious and potentially deadly didn't I do either of these? This is why...

Why didn't I drag Ben to the GP sooner than September 2009? After all he began to behave strangely as early as July? The fact is that, as the parent of a boy, the idea that my son might be developing anorexia nervosa never entered my head. It was way, way, way off my radar; about as far as you can get.

I had no idea what was wrong with him. But whatever it was, I truly believed it was something that could be fixed fairly easily and quickly with a bit of no-nonsense straight talking. A bit like teenage 'angst' gone too far. Imagine dragging your adolescent son to the GP to complain about teenage 'angst'? Nah.

Also, when you're with someone all day, every day, as I was during the school summer holidays of 2009, you don't notice the drop in weight so acutely. After all, we rarely if ever weighed Ben. Why should we? And here in the UK it isn't something that's routinely done at school or at the GP's unless your child is sick. It took a visit from my in-laws in early September before Ben's shocking weight loss was hammered home. His Grandma saw a dramatic difference from the last time she'd seen him. She was worried. Then I got worried. But we had no 'before' weight to compare him with apart from a general idea that he weighed around 10 stones.

Why didn't I push for an immediate referral to the CAMHS treatment team? Well, for a start I didn't even know CAMHS existed. And at this stage I still had no idea that Ben was developing anorexia. Anorexia was something that happened to girls. I'd never heard of it happening to boys before. And our GP certainly didn't give any indication that Ben might be anorexic. Instead Ben was given a 'pep talk', warned about the dangers of under eating, told to eat more and come back in a fortnight.

It was only when I started to do some frantic research on the Internet that Ben's symptoms seemed to match those of an eating disorder. The thought that Ben could have anorexia knocked me for six.

And then I got sick.

Throughout the whole of October and some of November I was struck down with an evil ear virus which meant I was virtually horizontal for the duration. I couldn't drive, I couldn't supermarket shop, I couldn't cook, I couldn't even stand up for long periods without almost keeling over in nauseating waves of vertigo.

So it was Ben that took over some of the cooking. And as a result we ate his newly concocted 'healthy meals'. Also, I wasn't able to pay as much attention to Ben as I would have liked to. It was almost comical, the way that one day it'd be me taking Ben to see our GP, then the next it would be me seeing the same GP about myself. I think we seriously confused him!

But of course it wasn't comical at all.

Thankfully by mid November the virus had gone and I was able to resume my life as normal.

Except I wasn't, because Ben's eating disorder was now going full pelt.

But thankfully by then I'd insisted the GP refer Ben to CAMHS.

So that's why everything happened in the time frame it did.

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