Literally! I've been picking Ben's brains to discover what was going on in his head when he had anorexia. Here is Part One of the result (based on the notes I made while he was talking and which will eventually be used for parts of my book)...
Me: Back in autumn 2009 when we were on the waiting list for CAMHS treatment for your anorexia and decided to get private 'stop gap' treatment, how did you feel about it?
Ben: I realised there was a problem. I knew I needed treatment but didn't like to admit I needed it.
Me: How did you feel about me constantly pushing for anorexia treatment?
Ben: To be honest I didn't think it was that urgent. I knew I wasn't feeling good mentally, but as far as my body was concerned, I was happy where I was. I didn't think it would or could get any worse. At this BMI I didn't need to worry about my weight any longer... about whether I'd get fat... so there was much less pressure. I felt unwell, but I just thought it was 'one of those things' i.e. pretty normal. But I admit I was worried about all the fuss I was creating.
Me: What about when you cut out fat from your diet?
Ben: I wanted to eat fats - for example I really wanted to eat chocolate, so I made sure everything else I ate was zero or minimal fat just in case I wanted to treat myself to some chocolate. But I never did treat myself... I never felt able to... yet I still felt compelled to allow for it 'just in case'.
Me: And the ED rages? For example when you got violent against me e.g. if I came into your room following an outburst?
Ben: I didn't want to talk. I needed time on my own to think. When you saw me looking like a zombie, staring blankly into space with no emotion, it was me trying to think, trying to come up with solutions and calm down. It was hard to calm down with you buzzing about getting distressed. I just wanted to be left on my own. On the other hand, sometimes my thoughts would get really bad - deep bad thoughts - and it probably wasn't such a bad thing that you were there.
Me: Deep bad thoughts?
Ben: Like the time I nearly climbed onto the roof. Suicidal thoughts, I mean...
Me: Did you ever really plan to kill yourself? Either on purpose - or by accident, by doing something dangerous, like when you nearly climbed onto the roof?
Ben: I did think of it and I did want to do it, but I have a fear of pain. If you hadn't pulled me in from the window, I would probably have pulled myself in - I was too scared of pain. This is why I never cut myself like some anorexia sufferers do. During the summer of 2010 I was mega depressed. I didn't know what to do. I was aware that I was causing so much pain and trouble. By the time I joined the 6th form in September I'd calmed down a bit - or, rather, I'd deflected the depression by working like a Trojan academically, trying to take my mind off it so I didn't go insane, but instead I burned myself out by October.
Me: You were at your lowest weight at that point - lower than when we first took you to the GP and lower than when you first saw CAMHS. How did you feel about your body?
Ben: I knew I'd lost a lot of weight but I felt fine. It was just the stress of trying to keep it like that. If I accidentally lost more weight, then I'd feel OK at that weight because - basically - I did feel OK. Kind of. So I thought 'Well I'll stay here, then'. But it was difficult to maintain and I was constantly thinking about how to maintain it. Yet as I lost more weight, that stressed me out too. By the summer of 2010, although I was seriously depressed and losing weight gradually, I was - in fact - eating a far more balanced diet. The psych had explained to me all about the biological reasons why I needed to eat, and needed to eat certain stuff. By this stage it went in. A few months before it wouldn't have gone in, but it did then. So I felt that, although I was losing weight, I was actually making progress on the challenge foods. This is one of the reasons why the holiday we had in France that summer went so pear-shaped...
More to come...