Saturday 2 February 2013

Sermon #5: Not a 24-hour emergency service

Carrie Arnold's 5th point on her excellent and informative list is: 5. Anorexia is deadly serious. Eating disorders have the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness. The "best" anorexic is the dead one. Not a nice topic to write about, but here goes...

Suicide threats were a regular feature of our family life during the late spring and summer of 2010. Much of the time I was in the house alone with Ben (and the "anorexia demon"); my husband was working away.

Here's what I've written in my new book about one of these occasions - an occasion when I was desperate:

Another afternoon I get a phone call from the mother of one of Ben’s friends. “I hope you don’t mind me calling,” she says quickly, “But Tom’s just had an email from Ben saying, ‘Give me one good reason why I should carry on living’. I felt I should let you know in case… well…” Her words trail off. She doesn’t know what to say.

I don’t know what to say either. “I’m so sorry Tom had to receive something like this. Ben’s been ill. He’s not himself. I am so sorry…”

Ben is stony faced when I tell him, not dissimilar to the way he was after the roof incident. Then, without warning, the demon kicks off at its most magnificent. Ben goes crazy, bashing around the house like a maniac. He seems to have gone completely insane. I call Sue but get her answering machine. My sister is out, too. So I call CAMHS for help. Sarah is on leave, so I speak to the duty psychiatrist. She says there’s nothing CAMHS can do “unless he actually inflicts harm on himself or others”. She’s very apologetic but her hands are tied.

“Can’t I just bring him in so someone can calm him down?” I plead, explaining that I’m in the house alone with him, my husband is working away and I’m terrified. But she abruptly informs me that “CAMHS isn’t a 24-hour emergency service”.

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