Friday 27 April 2012

3rd day of missed school and A Levels less than a month away...

I know Ben managed to study almost exclusively at home for his GCSEs AND get really good results, but the school says it's very different for A Levels, especially with Ben having to resit some of last year's AS Level exams at the same time. Exams are less than a month away and he's only been in school for a total of 8 hours this week...

I can almost hear ED 'the anorexia demon' chortling away with glee. "Ha ha," it taunts, "CAMHS discharged him, assuming that everything was now OK and most of the big issues were sorted, insomnia included - but I've left my trump card to 3 weeks before the all-important A Levels: the insomnia is back!!!! Ye har!!!"

The moment Ben started his Lower Sixth Form year the September before last, the insomnia arrived - and it stayed with him all through the school year, right through his June exams. Often he struggled into school to sit these exams having had little more than an hour's broken sleep. Although he miraculously managed to get a Grade A in one of the exams, the rest came back with Ds, Es and even an Unclassified. This, from a 'straight A' student...

Up until the Sixth Form, Ben had slept reasonably well - proved by his excellent GCSE results. But insomnia and all the low moods, isolation, anxiety, etc that it brought with it became the #1 Problem throughout the whole of the Lower Sixth Form. CAMHS tried various medications and nothing worked. Because he was under 18, they would only prescribe children's medications which were next to useless.

Then it miraculously faded away over the school summer holidays and I thought it had gone for good.

But now the insomnia is back, Big Style, and it's why Ben is still in bed when he should be waiting at the bus stop for the school bus. And Friday is the only day he manages to stay in school all day. (Usually.)

No, with my Plans A, B and C in place, this doesn't matter academically. Especially as I've also discovered Ben could take an Open University History module in a gap year which would count towards his eventual degree and which might stimulate him more than an A level at this stage.

Make no mistake, I am not 'pushing' Ben academically; he himself needs this stimulation. He thrives on it and it takes his mind off the 'anorexia voice' (which is still there to a certain extent). I also know that he is pushing himself to do well so he gets into uni in September. He sees uni as the 'magic bullet' that will solve his isolation problems and allow him to start afresh. So if he fails to get in, he will beat himself up about it and feel like a failure.

The main niggle I have is that I feel he still needs some kind of professional support now that he's been discharged from CAMHS. Although I am massively able to cope at this late stage in the anorexia, there is a bit of me that feels 'at sea' without CAMHS, despite our (often profound) differences over the two years he was with them.

And I can't get a GP's appointment until a week today to talk about Ben's medication and the insomnia, and to see if there is any support available.

Or maybe we don't need support.

I don't know. I just know I feel this undercurrent of anxiety and worry which, despite our differences, I could talk out with our psychiatrist who was really great at that kind of thing.

Bl**dy anorexia.


  1. I'm really sorry to hear this, Batty :(

    The fact that Ben is still underweight is complicating all of this and I am wondering if it would be helpful for him to talk with an adult psychiatrist/therapist (now that he is 18?). It does sound to me that Ben would benefit with some help in moving on with his life.

    I know that for me, talking therapy relating to 'moving on' was very helpful. The problem when stuck in anorexic thinking is that one cannot see a future that easily. It all feels to be too complicated and too stressful. I know that everyone with AN is different, but a bit of 'life coaching' may help Ben to see a more positive future, which may, in turn, motivate him to gain the extra weight?

    1. Excellent idea... If I could get him to agree to it. He is sooo stubborn and thinks he knows best...

  2. Batty, I know this is a really tough situation to deal with and must be both frustrating and worrying for you. I definitely agree with extralongtail in that some professional help or just some support outside of the family could be really useful at the moment. Speaking as someone who had to leave school in February of my A-level year due to anorexia and work at home on my own for my A-levels can probably relate somewhat to your son. If it's any reassurance, even severely underweight at around BMI 14 and emotionally a real mess I managed to get the 3 As I needed then took a year off to try and get sorted before uni. I think I managed to keep university in sight (and as a result, exams) as something I needed to guarantee me a future and which without I really wouldn't have anything, to propel me forwards. If you or he wants to email at all I'd be very willing to speak :)

  3. so difficult Batty - years on from our original discharge from the ED team (rather than CAMHS as that is the way it works round here) I STILL don't know whether we need to go back to them, or reach out and find something else, or plod on alone because what they have to offer isn't right for us anyway. I do hope that Ben can get through his A Levels anyway. Is the examinations board aware of his problems with sleep. Please get the GP to write a letter if not (sorry, he or she may charge for it as it's not part of core NHS work)

  4. Thanks, everyone, for your advice - really, really useful and helpful!!

  5. Batty - I am sending my heartfelt concern for you and your dear S.
    I agree with the others - that the focus needs to be on getting your S fully recovered rather than fitting him into a timeline of Uni and tests. I am speaking from experience with my D who was at a low end of normal weight for years but later we found out that she needed to be another 20 pounds in order to recover.

    She took all her tests, aced them, and kept progressing in college and preparing for graduate school before we were able to get her the right help. We refed my D and helped her get those extra 20 pounds - and the mantra was

    YOUR RECOVERY COMES FIRST - before any arbitrary deadlines.
    I hope that you will be able to get your S some help in moving him forward in his recovery.

    And not worry about these tests
    My D as a young adult was so thankful that we stopped everything and battled ED for her until she could do take ED on herself.
    She deferred her graduate schooling for 3 years so she would be her strongest and not fear relapse.

    I hope that you will be able to get your S more help now to get him fully WR.

  6. Have you considered the Haldon Service in Exeter? They run a DBT programme which has proved to be effective with people with AN.

    You can find them through the Devon Paetnership NHS Trust website if you're interested. They run residential and non-residential programmes and I think they could really help.