My dear friend M posted this link on Facebook to Carrie Arnold's very excellent list on the FEAST website: Ten Things I Want Sufferers to Know About Anorexia. I was going to write about just one point that hit a nerve with me when I thought, heck, why not do what I did the other Christmas (with the 12 Days of ED Christmas) and write a post a day based on it. So here goes... #1...
1. It's an illness, not a choice. You don't have anorexia because you're a vain control freak on a mega-diet--anorexia is a biologically based mental illness.
The word I'm picking out for today's sermon is "choice". Why? Because, during the two years my son was undergoing treatment for his anorexia, this word was said at virtually every single session. Or, rather, it was used in the plural: "choices".
"Ben needs to learn to make the right choices," they said as Ben continued to lose weight, week after week, during the first summer of treatment after he ditched the re-feeding plan and was given back control of his food intake and preparation. "Doing it this way helps him learn how to make the right choices and see where he’s going wrong."
"But what if he never learns to make the right choices? What if he just can’t?" I remember replying on one occasion.
But they were insistent that - week after week of discovering that his "choices" weren't always the "right ones" (i.e. he wasn't eating enough to maintain weight let alone increase it) - would teach him which choices were right and which were wrong.
Did it teach him?
Not in my honest opinion.
After Ben ditched the eating plan in the late spring of 2010, his weight gradually headed south. By the new year of 2011 he was at his lowest weight. There followed a plateau when he was getting hellishly frustrated because he felt as if he was in Limbo. Thankfully, thanks to the ATDT forum, in spring 2011 I came across a thread about Recovery Contracts. It was our Recovery Contract, both Ben and I believe, that helped him "learn to make the right choices".
Except that, no, I believe that's incorrect.
I wouldn't phrase it like that.
It was more a case of empowering him to challenge himself - to eat fear foods, go into school, socialise, eat at unusual times and in unfamiliar places and so on. This is what the Contract did.
It wasn't about "learning to make the right choices". It was about getting stuck in and facing his fears head-on, encouraged by our Contract rewards scheme and our daily chat on "neutral territory".
To me, that's a totally different kettle of fish.