... "The Nightmare on Christmas Fair Eve".
Between 2005 and 2010 I was in charge of organising the school PTA Christmas Craft Fair - a massive event with over 33 stalls, a cafe, music, games, tombolas, raffles and goodness only knows what else, taking place in two halls and a large foyer.
On the day before it was a case of 'all systems go' as I helped to transform the various rooms into a Christmas wonderland and ensure everything was ready for a crack of dawn start the next day.
The organising itself began in September. It was a huge undertaking made a zillion times worse by the fact that Ben was hurtling into anorexia nervosa. While trying to juggle my freelancing business, the Christmas Fair plus an inner ear virus that put me horizontal for much of October, I was faced with the treble whammy of Ben's rapid and dramatic weight loss, nightmarish mood swings & ED rages plus regular emergency phone calls from school asking me to come and pick up the pieces of whatever chaos the ED had driven Ben to that day.
Oh and back then, of course, we were STILL on the waiting list for treatment, so we could only watch helplessly as Ben plummeted down the helterskelter towards who knows where.
By then the ED outbursts had become more and more frequent and we were desperate. Two to four times a day we'd have violent destructive outbursts with loud screaming and tearful hysterics. To me it looked as if he was having a complete mental breakdown. He'd throw food around, become violent and crash his head against the wall. He was virtually unable to go to school and had cut himself off from his friends completely.
Of course the ED saved the worst for the busiest and most stressful day of my Christmas calendar: the day before the school Christmas Fair, exactly two years ago today.
Things went pear-shaped from the start. We had the usual nightmare of getting Ben ready for school. By then, every single morning was a battle. Not 'your usual' teenage battle, but something altogether worse and far darker.
On this particular day, a screaming and crashing ED rage erupted before we'd even left the house followed by hysterical verbal abuse all the way to the bus stop. As I dropped him off he slammed the car door violently, still screaming, and fled off down the road towards the bus stop. As usual, I drove back home in floods of tears feeling helpless, terrified and alone.
40 minutes later I got a phone call from the school nurse (who was keeping a close eye on Ben). Ben hadn't arrived at school and none of the students on his bus remembered seeing him that morning. Staff had checked the boys' toilets (a usual bolt hole for Ben) and the school grounds. Also, he wasn't answering his mobile phone. No-one knew where Ben was.
Ice cold panic. Yes, you really do go ice cold with fear.
Ben could be anywhere and I had no idea what to do.
Anyway to cut a long story short, the nurse phoned again to say he'd turned up, but he was in a hell of a black mood. Could I come into school and get him?
So there I was, cramming all the Christmas Fair paraphernalia into the car and phoning around trying to get someone else from the Parents Association to take over the setting up of the Fair. No-one was available; they were all at work. I would have to go ahead and do it, ED or no ED.
30 minutes later I was in the school medical centre helping staff to pacify Ben who seemed to have gone completely insane.
An hour or so later I was in the local supermarket car park bawling my eyes out into a bag of choc-chip cookies, taking phone calls from worried PTA members as I started to delegate all the following day's Christmas Fair tasks. I said I'd come down with a nasty virus. No-one knew what the real reason was.
Meanwhile Ben was still at school. He'd been pacified and was relatively OK. For now.
And, also meanwhile, I was acutely aware that my team of parent, staff and student helpers would be turning up shortly expecting me to direct the setting up of the Fair.
So there I was, at 2pm, knuckling down to transform the school into a happy, jolly, festive winter wonderland while I looked and felt like death.
When concerned people commented, I simply said I wasn't feeling well.
By the evening I was exhausted and, of course, the ED 'demon' had returned with a vengeance as ED rages hijacked the entire evening.
But by now I was on autopilot, knowing I'd got a crack of dawn start the next day, ED rage or no ED rage...
So that was the first day of the ED Christmas.