Back in September 2009 it was my Mother-in-law who suggested I take Ben to see our GP. She lives abroad and doesn't see us that often, so when she saw Ben following the summer of Drastic Weight Loss in 2009 she immediately noticed the difference. We, on the other hand, had been with him every day. As a result the dramatic weight loss wasn't as evident.
She's been with us for the past few days and today she and I had a chat. We don't always see eye to eye, but I guess that's not unusual with Mother-in-laws and Daughter-in-laws. But what we do have in common is that we've both had to deal with sons with mental illnesses. Hers (my H's brother) was diagnosed as Bi-Polar and her family went through a terrible time a few years ago.
Back then, long before the eating disorder arrived in our family, I didn't "get" what was going on. I wasn't sympathetic, especially when she'd drive up to see us for a few days only to rant and rave about the latest chaos caused by her son who was quite ill at the time.
I just wished she'd shut up and stop going on about it. And, like many outsiders to the world of mental illness, I felt she must be to blame.
I feel bad about that now. Today is the first time we've really talked about it as I don't see her very much. But we have a heck of a lot of common ground. The difference with her, however, is that her adult son refused to let her be involved in his treatment. Like the eating disorder, he was often irrational, happily arguing that black was white. She went through a horrendous time. I am so fortunate that, so far, Ben is happy for me to be involved in his recovery.
We talked about how it's ridiculous that, legally, parents can't be involved if their 18-plus offspring don't want them to be.
She says that she often felt she was to blame for the illness. However I assured her that, knowing what I know now about mental illness, it is probably a genetic thing. These are biological illnesses and something to do with the brain being "wired up" differently. We parents are not to blame.
As I said, we don't often get the chance to talk with each other. She lives abroad most of the year and in London occasionally, with her daughter. We live in the North of England.
Also, we don't always see eye to eye. But sometimes we do and we get on okay. Like today.
But I still feel bad about the insensitive way I used to handle things when she was going through such a terrible time with her son.