Two years ago when he was spiraling into the eating disorder at a rate of knots, Ben was obsessed with comparing himself with another boy at school. So much so that Ben used to get incredibly upset and distressed about how this boy was stealing the limelight whereas Ben was disappearing into the background. If it wasn't so obviously distressing for Ben, his descriptions of this boy's apparent behaviour would have been funny...
Friday, 30 September 2011
Thursday, 29 September 2011
"Look at my hands!" said Ben in the car as we were waiting for the school bus this morning. "Look how great they look!" He spread his fingers out to show me. Smooth, healthy, blemish-free hands "except where I nicked myself with my model knife", he added. I'll tell you why this brought tears to my eyes...
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Yesterday was another difficult day with Ben sending emails at breaktime and lunchtime. In the end he asked me to pick him up, so I did, but I insisted it had a 'caveat' and that would be to spend the afternoon having a brain storming session about what to do next...
Monday, 26 September 2011
... and I'm astonished at how identical our experiences are. Virtually every thought that goes through Harriet's head has gone through mine in the last 26+ months. Virtually every ED behaviour exhibited by her daughter, Kitty, was carbon-copied in Ben.
Saturday, 24 September 2011
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.
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
And, yes, we are still doing it. And, yes, it is still doing what it's supposed to do. And yes I am quite a few quid poorer as I've 'traded in' all those yummy scrummy points for cash!
As a freelance advertising copywriter working for countless organisations in very different market places, cramming up on information is second nature. Often I have to get to grips with a client's entire business pretty much instantly in order to write a meaningful website or whatever. Everything from scientific instruments to complicated software platforms... I've crammed up on them all. Likewise it was second nature to cram up on baby and toddler care during Ben's first few years of life. But eating disorders proved to be altogether different...
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
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...
In the world of spiraling rapidly downhill with anorexia, 22 weeks is a heck of a long time. A heck of a lot can happen and the chasm can be a heck of a lot deeper than it was several months before. So, in theory, there's a heck of a lot further to climb back than if the issue had been addressed urgently when we first took Ben to the GP in September 2009. And meanwhile we, who were completely ignorant about anything to do with eating disorders, hadn't a clue what to do or even if we could do anything to prevent our son jet-propelling himself into a physical and emotional hell.
Monday, 19 September 2011
Thanks to Ed-Bites for providing a link to this insightful article which talks about the role parents play in helping their child recover from an eating disorder plus the guilt that many parents feel.
This is what Ben's dad said over and over again - and still does on 'bad' days. It's also what I used to say sometimes. "Did I overfeed him as a baby or as a child? Was it my fault he developed an insatiable appetite and got a little bit plump towards the end of his primary school years?" The general consensus of expert opinion is that parents DO NOT 'cause' their child's eating disorder; an eating disorder is far too complex to have such a 'straightforward' single cause. (See what the experts say on this video.)
Sunday, 18 September 2011
Ben was a 'screaming baby'. If he didn't have a bottle in his mouth he would scream blue murder. With a bottle in his mouth he was as happy as larry, and he'd take at least 60 minutes to finish each bottle. This meant I had a breather of an hour or so before the incessant screaming would get me down so much I'd shove another bottle in his mouth...
Friday, 16 September 2011
One of the first things I did as Ben plummeted downhill into anorexia was to look for support: practical support, emotional support, spiritual support, any support! And, like some people, I was drawn to seeking it in the church despite the fact I hadn't been to church for 25 years or so... But it didn't turn out quite as I expected and one year ago I stopped going. Tonight, however, I've accepted an invitation to be at the launch of community event the church has been working on for some time - and I feel a bit strange about going back...
Thursday, 15 September 2011
For the first half year or so of living with the anorexia, I lived a double life. Here at home and with the few people 'in the know' I was living a nightmarish life as the mum of a teenage boy rapidly descending into anorexia and all the frightening behaviours and medical problems that come with it.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
If I was to choose one memory of where I had no idea that Ben was displaying typical signs of someone already hooked by an eating disorder, it would be this one (click here) - from another blog I wrote in the summer of 2009 and reproduced in a post on this blog in May.
As I thought, it's school that's the problem. And, also as I thought, it's the social side of things that's causing the most angst. The main problem is that Ben feels he's being ignored and sidelined. Or if people DO talk to him, then it's only because they "feel sorry" for him. One thing that really got him down the other day was everyone whispering about a party at someone's house this weekend. When Ben asked about it the reply came back "Oh it's way too complicated to explain..." And let's face it, no-one wants to be in a situation where you have to ASK to be invited...
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
One week into the academic year and, to be honest, things seem identical to a year ago when everything went pear-shaped on the return to school. Yesterday he was as gloomy as hell; today his mood has reached rock bottom and he won't talk about it. Already he's making excuses to get out of all the activities he planned to get involved in this term. And, predictably, he is isolating himself...
Back in February 2010 we had our first treatment appointment with CAMHS. We were presented with a 'typical eating plan' comprising 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. We were also presented with suggestions of typical foods and quantities. Over the next few weeks I made a note of exactly what Ben ate. I also made notes of his moods / food behaviour which read like this:
Monday, 12 September 2011
It's funny how the human memory manages to 'forget' or at least 'blur' many of life's traumatic experiences. It sounds strange but, for some reason, I find it really hard to recall how I really felt - day in, day out - during the Bad Old Eating Disorder Days.
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Yesterday I had a chat with Ben about how this first week at school has been. I also weighed him because, if you remember, I agreed that - for the first 3 days back at school - Ben could reduce his calories by 100 a day. Why did I agree to something that may appear as 'colluding' with the eating disorder?
Saturday, 10 September 2011
Well everything went much as described. I got my flowers, the New Parents chatted away, the Headmaster gave his usual speech (7th time I've heard it now...) and a lot of free wine was consumed by those that weren't driving. And I wore my 'normal parent' hat all evening. Except when talking to those few people 'in the know', out of hearing of anyone else...
Friday, 9 September 2011
Tonight I will act normal. As I help out at the school PTA's Welcome Evening for new parents not one of those parents will have any inkling of what I and my son have been through over the past 26 months. I will chat happily with parents, answering questions like "What year is your son in? Has he enjoyed his 7 years at the school?" just like a normal person. To them, I will just be a normal parent, a normal member of the school PTA, no different from anyone else.
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Remember how it was on your child's first day at 'big school'? A small child in an over-large, brand new school uniform. New shoes shiny and unscuffed. Sports bag with crisp folded sports kit, sports shoes without a micro-gram of mud. En route to a kind of Utopia High School where everyone is friendly and bright, excelling at sport and great at music. And in this Utopian setting your child would thrive on every level. It may only be Day One but in your imagination he's already Head Boy - a handsome, strapping 18 year old admired and respected by staff and pupils alike, a star of the rugby team and an ace at cricket. He'll emerge with a string of A star qualifications, be snapped up by the best universities and come out with a brilliant degree before embarking on a fabulous career and family life...
Monday, 5 September 2011
This morning I drove my sister to a physio appointment at the local health club / gym where I used to be a member in my past life as a 'normal' person. Sitting in the Starbucks coffee shop in the foyer I watched people go by, gym bags in hand. Some were new faces, others I recognised by sight. It was a strangely unsettling reminder of my past life 'before all this stuff kicked off'...
Thanks to F.E.A.S.T. for this video interview with leading eating disorder experts from across the world. F.E.A.S.T.'s international conference in November 2011 is calling for "an end to the era of shame and blame: parents do not cause eating disorders and patients do not choose to be ill. Evidence-based treatment and family involvement save lives".
Sunday, 4 September 2011
Saturday, 3 September 2011
The week got progressively worse as Ben's mood deteriorated. It was a combination of school lurking on the horizon and resisting the need to exercise compulsively. Some days were OK, but ED was still there - like on Thursday at Chatsworth House cafe where he suggested 'sharing' our lunch and 'donated' some of his '"full fat" cheese to me.