This morning Ben and I had a long, very fruitful and positive chat about this and that. "The thing is," as I said to him, "As you can imagine over this weekend, as a parent my mind was on a roller coaster. It was so easy to get bogged down in all the 'What could have beens', instead of focusing on all the positive things that have come out of this experience and as a direct result of it."
Ben's mind had been doing similar things, too. "I know for a fact that if the anorexia hadn't struck three years ago, I WOULD have continued to go from strength to strength. I WOULD have continued to be at the hub of my social group and been the life and soul of the party. Heck, I'd probably have been made Head Boy!"
He wasn't saying this to boast, but to show what had been going through his mind as he, more than any of us, was aware of what the anorexia had stolen from him.
"But you wouldn't have had the insightfulness and empathy with others that have come as a result of the anorexia," I pointed out. "And I do believe that when you go back in future years to school reunions, and staff see the transformation which has come as a result of you working hard to ensure that the ED doesn't steal any more of your life. When staff see what you, personally, through your own endeavours have achieved as an individual, I expect they'll be just as proud of you, if not prouder, of any former pupil that went on to become famous, worthy or whatever. You've had to fight to overcome something far more difficult than any of them will hopefully ever have to do. And, as you always say, it wasn't 'us' that did it for you; you did much of it for yourself. Come here for a hug, I'm so proud of you!"
I also explained to him that I often look back to the little girl who, on her very first day at school, aged four and a half, had the confidence and self-esteem to contradict her new teacher when that teacher pronounced her name incorrectly. That little girl was sent to stand in the corner all through her very first playtime break. But she never regretted having the confidence to stand up for herself. I talked about how this was the 'raw' me, if you like, the 'real' me, before the world knocked all the self-confidence and self-esteem out of me - which, future teachers, did very successfully as I grew into a teenager.
"Look back on the 'raw' you, the 'real' you, the 'you' that you were in those three years before the anorexia struck when you were going from strength to strength on every front: socially, spiritually, confidence, self-esteem, academically and so on. Then blend this with the good that has come out of this hellish experience: the insightfulness, the empathy with others, etc and, as you say, the forty year old brain inside an eighteen year old's head! Blend the two together, the two parts of the 'real' Ben, and the result will be awesome! And it's not as if you'd be faking it, these ARE the real Ben!"
And as I hugged him on the sofa, just after breakfast, I felt as if I was hugging an extremely strong young man.