Thursday 17 May 2012

Walking and talking with Ben in the countryside

Along with the anorexia recovery contract, walking and talking is one of the most important things Ben and I have done over the past couple of years. Back in the days of 'high anorexia' we'd do umpteen walks in the local countryside and parks, especially when he was off school semi-permanently. We'd walk and talk once, twice or three times a week, through spring, summer, autumn and winter. Initially, and for a heck of a long time... almost a year... I might as well have been talking in Chinese...

The thing about anorexia is that all logic and rational thinking fly out of the window. You can argue that black is black and white is white until you're blue in the face, but to the anorexia sufferer they are in no doubt whatsoever that black is white. You just can't get through to them.

That's what's so crazy about this horrible illness. People with anorexia tend to be highly intelligent and academic. I mean, Ben knows his facts about history, geography, politics, philosophy and all his other favourite subjects inside out, upside down. If you told him something that was ridiculously untrue... like, I don't know... like the Romans actually came from Romania, not Rome at all, they'd never been within a million miles of Rome, ever... he'd think you were barking mad and he'd say "Don't be so ?@*!!?? ridiculous!"

Yet tell him that it's OK to eat cheese, oils or ice cream... and that he needs fats to support his internal organs, let alone the rest of his body, and you have all the proof that this is the case from the world's leading dietitians and consultants or whatever... and he'd also look at you as if you were barking mad.

There is something uniquely peculiar about anorexia that blocks out all the truth about food, nutrition and how NOT to kill yourself through disordered eating, yet which lets all the other 'obvious' truths of life through as normal.

Like some weird kind of sieve or sunscreen lotion.

So, during those walks through spring, summer, autumn and winter, nothing got through to Ben. I felt as if I was bashing my head against a brick wall. Even if I DID manage to get him to promise to do something, the promise would be completely forgotten a few hours later and we'd be back to square one.

I really thought that I'd never, ever get through to him and he would destroy himself. Or, rather, the lying, cheating, truth-distorting anorexia would destroy him.

But after we turned a corner in October 2010, I began to see a chink of light.

Maybe all this chipping away at solid stone in the dark had in fact created a tunnel that had gradually extended through the granite mountain and was finally reaching the other side.

So we continued to walk and talk. And the more we walked and talked, the more these occasions were used to massive and positive effect.

The great thing about walking and talking - like the walk we did yesterday above the River Wharfe in Yorkshire - is that you can be distracted by the beautiful things around you so it's not like a confrontational 'lecture'. It's just the occasional exploration of where he is in his anorexia journey and how I might be able to help. No nagging, no lecturing and being able to gauge when 'enough is enough' and to change the subject to the gorgeous sunset or whatever.

Like yesterday when we talked about ways to lessen Ben's anxiety in the lead up to A levels which start next week. More about that in the next blog post...

Yesterday was a Good Day. In the morning I had a catch-up with the absolutely brilliant school nurse who has followed Ben's eating disorder closely since the very start. Then in the afternoon Ben and I walked and talked successfully.

We also talked about my friend S who died on Monday, because S had been very good to Ben over the years. But I'm not sure what's going on in his head about that - and that's yet another blog post... so watch this space...


  1. I'm so pleased you both had a good day. Yes anorexia makes you invincible, or so I thought!! Have you read the starvation study they did on men.? May be worth showing it o Ben. Really helped me to understand hat was happening and why I thought in certain ways. Think it was the Denmark study. Xx

  2. Wrong part of the world!! Oops :)