One of the many, many things I've learned in my three-and-a-half year battle to get my son recovered from anorexia is that patience is most definitely a virtue. I am usually impulsive. I react, guns blazing, and think afterwards. Over the years it's got me into one or two scrapes and I know that, as far as eating disorders are concerned, and especially approaching your child about something that's worrying you about eating disorder behaviours or compulsions, needs to be approached with patience, diplomacy and caution - to get them on your side, avoid yelling at each other and getting nowhere.
As a result I am breathing deeply and donning my "patience hat" until we do our "points" (Recovery Contract) after lunch to find out what was going on at 5am this morning.
H heard some noises upstairs - enough to wake him up and he's a deep sleeper. He crept upstairs, opened the door to Ben's room to find him doing his "exercises" i.e. press-ups, crunches, sit-ups, etc.
Now, ever since we knocked the compulsive exercising issue on the head by incorporating it into our Recovery Contract, we have been aware that Ben does exercise. But only within certain allowed parameters (which do include press-ups, crunches and sit-ups). And I trust him to have kept to these over the past 18 months or so.
"I'll give him the benefit of the doubt," I said to H when he told me. "It could be that Ben couldn't sleep so he just decided to do whatever exercise he'd planned for the day there and then." But don't worry, I added, I'll be probing carefully when we do our "points" at lunch.
Having lived in the world of eating disorders for three-and-a-half years I know that exercising compulsively during the night is something that happens frequently. And, if you think about it, exercising at 5am is most definitely NOT normal. Okay you see some crazy people running the streets in the early hours, but - in my mind - that is not normal. Not unless they work odd shifts and 5am is the equivalent of 5pm for us nine-to-fivers.
And especially if you hate exercise like Ben does.
So, you might ask, why does Ben still exercise?
Because, as it does for so many people, it creates endorphins that make him feel happier.
He also likes to keep his body toned, but - he has insisted for the past 18 months or so - in a normal, healthy way.
Yet, when I recently redrafted our Recovery Contract for 2013, I asked him if exercise still needed to feature on our Contract. Was it still an issue? Or had it morphed into normal, ordinary life?
He was adamant that he still wanted it in the Recovery Contract "because it helps me keep the exercise under control".
So this lunchtime I will be diplomatically exploring the question of whether or not his exercise is "under control" if he's doing press-ups and sit-ups at 5am...