Tuesday 28 August 2012

Batty is on a guilt trip...

I know that parents don't "cause" their child's eating disorder and we shouldn't feel guilty about it. But, as I am discovering at the moment as I write up those early stages when I was trekking with Ben to see our GP, I can't help but feel guilty.

No, I know I'm not responsible for the fact that either me or my husband - or both, which is probably likely in our case - may have passed on a genetic disposition for anorexia to our son. So I don't feel guilty about that. Or at least I shouldn't feel guilty about that...

But what I do feel guilty about is that I should have picked up on Ben's emerging anorexia sooner.

However, because of my complete ignorance of the illness and the warning signs - plus the fact that it never entered my head that boys can get anorexia - it took months before the penny dropped that something was seriously wrong.

First there were the "hidden months", when the illness was already germinating inside his head. With a teenager it's so easy to mistake this for the usual teen problems. We certainly did.

And, as Ben always says, it's not as if he sat down one day and decided to get an eating disorder. He had no idea what was happening either. The descent into what turned out to be anorexia was pretty scary for him, too.

Then - in our case some 6 months later - there are the months when the eating disorder begins to show above the surface, but you're not sure what it is. You're concerned, you know something isn't right and the warning bells are kind of going off. But then something will happen that makes you doubt your concerns. Like a few "normal" days or whatever. Or still the impression that this is just "teenage angst".

This is why it took me so long to take him to the GP - early October, when the germination began at Christmas.

And even then I didn't push for referral. This is why I feel guilty.

Firstly, I fell sick with an inner ear virus which put me virtually horizontal for a month. My brain was like mush and I couldn't think (or walk!) straight.

So I was seeing the GP along with Ben - both of us with illnesses without any obvious physical symptoms. I began to doubt my own judgement. Did I have that M√ľnchhausen thing where you're compelled to fabricate illnesses to gain attention? A crazy and irrational worry, I know, but it was there at the back of my head - and in my GP's eyes. (But that might just be me being paranoid.)

Then you have a patient who refuses to believe they are ill and who insists to the GP that it's just his mum being paranoid... visit after visit...

And - importantly - although I knew it was something to do with under eating and over exercise, I still didn't know what I was dealing with, even though it gradually became clear.

So I feel guilty that I didn't push for urgent, early treatment. Oh, sorry I forgot... I didn't even know what treatment was available until the school nurse told me. So how could I push for it?

And even when I did find out about treatment, no-one told me there would be a 18-22 week wait.

Yet I feel this guilt.

Irrational guilt, I know. But guilt, nonetheless. How could I, as a good parent, have acted so slowly? Not until Ben ended up wired to machines on the cardio ward at the end of January 2010 with a pulse rate of 29 did he eventually get fast-tracked into treatment.

One of the main reasons why I am writing this book is to alert concerned parents of boys earlier and help them to trust their gut instincts - and then push for treatment. Even if they have to chain themselves to the surgery railings.

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