... "Four months 'til treatment" ...
It wasn't until October 2009, two months on from when the eating disorder first started to visibly manifest itself, that our GP finally and reluctantly agreed to refer Ben for treatment. You see, Ben was skinny, yes. But, to a GP that had never seen him as a muscly, athletic Prop Forward in the school rugby team, a skinny teenage boy wasn't that unusual. Nor was a teenager who appeared to have gone off the rails mentally. After all, 'teenage angst' was common. I got the feeling he felt I was an unnecessarily over-protective mother.
Naively I thought we'd get treatment right away. Everything in my being was crying out that our case was urgent. Ben was physically disappearing before my eyes and had changed from the happy social boy he used to be into a mental wreck who often seemed to have gone insane.
It was a shock to find out that we might have to wait until EASTER before our first appointment.
What the heck were we supposed to do between now and then? How much further would Ben hurtle down the rabbit hole? How much longer would it take to pick up the pieces and re-mould Ben once we finally did see a specialist team?
In the lead up to Christmas 2009 I knew I couldn't just sit there and watch Ben deteriorate; I had to do something. Luckily we had a little bit of private medical insurance we could draw on. Just £500 was available for mental health issues, but it was better than nothing.
So the search was on to find private treatment to fill the gap between now and our first NHS appointment with the CAMHS team.
Not only did virtually no-one in the local private sector have any experience of eating disorders, but - being Christmas - they were all booked up until after the New Year.
Initially we managed to get an appointment with a rather strict and stern 'old school' psychiatrist. I knew it was a mistake from the moment we walked into the room and he formally indicated that we should be seated opposite his large desk. I felt as if we were revealing our innermost secrets, feelings and fears to a CEO of a multinational corporation, not a compassionate doctor. That single hour session cost me half of our £500 medical cover.
The slightly Good News was that this guy did point us towards a therapist who worked out of the local private health centre - the kind of place you go for physio, hypnotherapy and so on.
It was deep in snow when we first went to see J. I immediately took a liking to her, and I think Ben did too. I knew we could get on with this woman. The only problem was... and it was a HUGE problem... it quickly became clear that the eating disorder was even bigger than I'd thought it was in that NO WAY could one person 'cure' it with a handful of weekly therapy sessions. J made this very clear to us and I really appreciated her honesty.
Between then and Christmas we trudged through the snow to meet J weekly until we ran out of money and she ran out of availability because of the holidays followed by a career change. In between sessions she'd email and phone me to talk things over. Although I knew she could do no more than attempt to plug the hole in the sinking Titanic with a band aid, she did her level best and I really appreciated that.
She also said she'd see if she could pull a few strings with CAMHS. She used to work with CAMHS and felt they'd take her seriously when she insisted Ben needed urgent treatment.
I don't know whether or not she was successful because, later in the New Year, something was to happen which did bring our CAMHS treatment forward when Ben was rushed into hospital with a pulse rate of 29.