Monday 2 January 2012

So what role has Ben's dad played in all this?

I am aware that I don't often mention my husband and his role in managing Ben's recovery from anorexia. That's mainly because, for the first year or so, he was working away from home. Poor bloke - all he ever got was grief over the telephone as we lurched from one crisis to another. "I'll phone Dad" was a threat I'd use when Ben's behaviour got completely out of control. Not that it did any good and it only upset his dad who, no doubt, felt pretty helpless on the other side of the country.

At first I felt as if Ben's dad was blaming me for the eating disorder. He still believes that Ben has my dad's OCD-style 'gene' which, for some reason, I tend to take personally although that is ridiculous.

On bad days I'd respond with "What about YOUR dad's alcoholism? And your sister's? Not to mention your brother's bi-polar problems..."

Of course none of this was helpful to anyone.

When Ben's dad was at home it was fantastic to have support in the house. Managing ED as (what was in effect) a single parent most of the time was a tremendous strain. Mind you, when he returned we'd often end up having a massive row between us all - ED induced, of course... But at least with Ben's dad around I was able to take time out now and again. This almost always took the form of me fleeing from the house because I couldn't bear the ED atmosphere any longer, box of tissues in hand, sometimes some cookies or chocolates for company, and I'd drive out to no place in particular knowing that, at some point, I'd have to return home to the ED...

Or I'd retreat to my bed in tears and stay there, like some kind of protective fox hole, while Ben's dad dealt with the latest ED rage or whatever it was.

From a learning curve perspective, Ben's dad read one book on eating disorders. But after that it was down to me to pass on my learning curve. At one point we were getting mixed messages - our treatment team were saying one thing and all the other ED connected people I knew plus ED experts were saying something else. Ben's dad lurched from believing one school of thought was right to believing the other.

Then he'd accuse me of spending too much time with my "cronies" on the ATDT forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders), despite it proving a lifeline for me. "What do they know?" he'd ask. But then he met up with some of them and changed his opinion. So some times we were 'singing from the same hymn sheet' and at other times we were at cross purposes.

Despite me telling him over and over again that we, as parents, are not to blame for Ben's illness, he'd often wail "Is it something we've done? Is it something I've done? Maybe I should have spent more time with him and it would never have happened."

Or he'd accuse me of being "too soft" with Ben and "mollycoddling him", resulting in the eating disorder. Sometimes he felt Ben's school was to blame and we should have sent him to the rough local comprehensive which "would have knocked some sense into him". As I learned more about eating disorders I'd do my best to explain that none of these things 'caused' the eating disorder. It would probably have happened however Ben was brought up, whether or not his dad had to work away from home and whatever school he had been to.

Ben's dad did find it harder to manage the ED when I wasn't there for instance the couple of occasions he took Ben to see his parents down south. And both of us went through periods when we felt we simply couldn't cope or go on. Thankfully these periods didn't coincide so we were able to support each other to a certain extent.

On one occasion Ben's dad felt so stressed by an early morning ED rage that he was involved in a near fatal road accident. So on the whole I have tried to keep the worst of the ED from him. After all, he's been the primary breadwinner during this horrible journey and needed to be able to keep a relatively ED-free head at work. I whittled my own self employed business down to just a few hours a week months ago so, for me, ED management became my full time job.

But strangely this has meant that sometimes he feels 'left out'. Ben and I have formed such a strong team during the past few months as we've forced the ED out of his life that it's brought us tremendously close. Ben's dad has missed out on this and he feels a bit alienated.

Despite trying to keep him up to speed with progress, Ben's dad still interprets certain behaviours and comments as ED-fuelled when they are not, so I have to put him right.

But all in all we've managed to get through this together and emerge as a reasonably strong unit of three: Ben, his Dad and me.

Thank God.


  1. Thank God indeed :) it's wonderful that you have emerged as a strong family unit, that amount of stress can do horrible things to relationships! You are all awesome :)

  2. Congratulations for getting through this in one piece! I really admire the work you have done with your son, Batty... xxx