"I think Ben's going to bottle out of J's party," hubby P said to me on Saturday. "I can tell, he's getting all nervous and agitated." "I don't think so at all," I said. "He seems absolutely fine. I am convinced he will go." And I really did feel that he was fine. I wasn't getting any of the Old Anorexia vibes which precede bottling out of social events. Ben seemed to be raring to go.
And he did go. And the party was a stonking success, albeit aided by some cider, wine and so on, but not in excessive quantities. "I learned my lesson last time," Ben laughed, remembering his hideous hangover after L's party, the last party he went to.
"The best bit was the psychedelic chill session where I sat in this room with my old friends, talking about deep stuff," he said mysteriously. His friends told him how glad they were to see him, and - fuelled with a bit of 'Dutch courage' - Ben explained what had been going on, and why he'd been keeping his distance for so long. Or at least I think that's what was said.
Ben also ate, just like any other normal party-goer. Also, during the chill session he decided to make toast and marmalade, so he did. He also made an inroad into J's crumpets at some unearthly hour of the morning, and had breakfast, then came back to a day of normal eating, without any problems at all. ("Even though by the end of the day on Sunday I wasn't really hungry I still made myself have all my calories," he said when we did our (less regular than usual these days) contract points session on Monday.)
And, most importantly, the post party period was free from any guilt or stress. So often in the past (although social occasions couldn't really be described as 'often' thanks to the anorexia's self-imposed isolation) what appeared to be a good time would be ruined when Ben returned home. The guilt would come in saves. And before long he would be beside himself with guilt at how much he'd eaten and drunk, convinced he'd been bingeing on food when he'd simply been eating like a normal guy. The guilt and regret would far outshadow any enjoyment. It was a terrible shame.
But this time there wasn't any of that.
"Oh and by the way, L, Z and K are going to Sheffield Uni, too," he said, delighted, "In the same halls of residence as me."
"Brilliant," I said, mainly 'brilliant' because this was evidence of a normal conversation with people rather than hovering on the outside, keeping silent. "It's always useful to have familiar faces around when you're settling in somewhere new, if only so you know there's somewhere you can drop in for a coffee. And you never know, they might have gorgeous flatmates!"
Social events feature heavily on Ben's calendar this week. First there's the school Politics trip to London mid-week, followed by W's birthday (watching football in the city centre!), then there's the rehearsal for Saturday's school Prize Day. Ben's won a couple of prizes, if you remember, and they're all having a rehearsal in the marquee which has been erected inside the school gym.
Saturday morning is Prize Day itself, the final Prize Day of Ben's school career, followed by the Leavers' Ball, for upper sixth form leavers like Ben and their parents - a black tie affair with sit-down meal and wine. This year Ben won't be participating in Sports Day which takes place in the afternoon. The last time he did was in 2009 when he won the 1500 meters race, just as his eating disorder was beginning to take root and his exercise levels were about to go off the scale.
Then there's the Leavers' Service in the school chapel on Sunday morning - not the best of timings, considering we won't have got back from the Ball until the early hours...! This is followed by a special buffet for students and parents. And a few days later it's the three day History Department trip to Auschwitz.
I really, really hope that it's a success and that the remnants of ED don't sneak in to spoil things. Please, please, please let Ben's schooldays end on a high and let him rejoin his social group, not as an outsider, but as Ben used to be before the eating disorder: one of the most popular and liked boys in his peer group