... "The three of us... our strong family unit"...
The other month I uncovered a letter which I wrote to Ben back in the run up to Christmas 2009. By then we were walking on eggshells, terrified of saying anything that might upset the eating disorder and set off an ED rage. The rational side of Ben's thinking had gone completely AWOL and he'd argue that white was black until he was blue in the face. We couldn't talk to him. He wouldn't listen. He couldn't listen.
I was so desperate that I decided the only way I could communicate with him was to write him a letter.
Back then I still thought that, somehow, we could 'snap' him out of the eating disorder; that he would suddenly see sense and stop destroying himself then and there. I really thought it could be done. The problem was, I had no idea how. Maybe a letter would work. Maybe when he heard how terrified and upset we were, and how dangerous anorexia was, he'd come to his senses and stop.
Maybe... Just maybe...
So one day while waiting in the car for the school bus I put pen to paper. I wrote that "hopefully I can get it all across better without me or you getting upset" and that the anorexia was "dangerous and must be stopped immediately" and the three of us (Dad, Ben and me) would make a decision that "this is going NO FURTHER and will stop" and "we will sort out the issues that have caused it. We will sort out the self-confidence and self-esteem issues via a counselor who is very experienced in this kind of thing, even if we have to pay".
I went on to say how "your happiness and HEALTH are our No1 priority. I want you to know that we will always be there for you, no matter how sad you feel – and we will get the very best and nicest help for you".
I wrote: "We love you too much to watch this happen which is why, as your loving parents, we need to step in and say 'STOP! Enough is enough!'"
I still find re-reading the next bit particularly difficult, the bit where I say:
"We will make serious promises to you, as our dearest son, if you make serious promises to us – and keep them.
"You are more important to us than you could possibly ever imagine or even know and we want to stop this nasty thing NOW and help work on the root cause.
"Please don’t think there is no solution because THERE IS. Very much so – and in a few months you will be so glad we all made this decision.
"But meanwhile, ANY time you feel sad or you feel it’s too hard, PLEASE talk to us – about ANYTHING. Do not bottle it up – and let us all start thinking positively now, even if it may at first, and even second, seem hard.
It’s not just you doing this alone – it’s all three of us… our strong family unit."
Later on I add: "Will you let us 'muscle in' and start the ball rolling towards your wonderful future now?" followed by "Again, I can’t emphasise how much we love you and will be with you over this".
Finally I sign it off: "Big hugs x 10 million and even more, Mum xxxxxxxxxxxxxx"
I could never, ever have known that it would be almost a year before something happened that DID make Ben turn around and say 'yes' to recovery.
I could never, ever have known that between writing this letter and then that I would almost lose Ben, not once, but at least three times.
I'm so glad I couldn't see into the future.
Unless, of course, that future was right now - with us three emerging into the beautiful ED-free sunlight, getting ready for a truly festive Christmas 2011.