Saturday 30 March 2013

"I can tell what Ben needs to look like by looking at you"

... said CAMHS early on in the treatment as I immediately insisted Ben needed to get back to where he was before he lost one quarter of his bodyweight: a big, burly rugby-player. A "forward" in the team. What they were looking at was "manufactured" me - quite short, slim and toned. I looked like the kind of woman that "took care of herself". But this slim, trim figure was entirely due to carefully watching what I ate together with hours in the gym.

But - from what I was gathering - CAMHS felt that, because Ben obviously took after me in looks, then his target weight and appearance should be similarly slim. Never forget that, at this time, Ben was ranting on about the way he'd always been "fat"... or even "obese"... before the eating disorder and it was because "mum used to feed me so much food". As for what his dad looked like? "My dad's fat," said Ben. "He eats all the time and drinks beer."

Before Ben became sick, keeping a trim figure was important to me. As you will be aware if you've read through my blog, I used to have issues with eating and a fear of getting "fat". I was on constant diets and every few years I'd have 18 months or so in the gym before getting bored and giving up. I'd already given up the gym membership (as a result of a neck injury) when Ben began to develop his eating disorder.

But, as Ben became ill, I began to eat stuff that I used to save for "special occasions" like biscuits, cakes and chocolate to "prove" to Ben that I, with my slim petite build, could eat all this stuff without getting stressed out. At the start of his anorexia, I thought that if he saw me popping all this food into my mouth then he would think it was okay to do likewise, and his eating disorder would go.

But of course it didn't.

What did happen, though, was that - as I began to re-feed Ben - I found myself having to have huge meals, too, as we sat around the dinner table together. Ben went through a phase where he even insisted on weighing our portions to ensure I didn't have one nanogram less than him.

And I'd be expected to clear my plate.

Or else.

I got fed up with complaining that "I'm middle aged, I'm only 5ft 3 and female - I can't eat as much as a growing man!"

Later, as his mind began to clear, he found it difficult to cope if I asked for smaller portions or left anything on my plate. So I'd cram the food into my poor old stomach and go through Rennies like there was no tomorrow.

And I put on weight.

Especially as I was also popping comfort food to help me deal with all the emotional stress. Some of my old "binge habits" returned when I'd hoover up a load of cupcakes or whatever from the supermarket and sit in the car, miserably stuffing them into my mouth, one after the other, in a bid to cheer myself up.

These days we still eat huge meals. Or, rather, Ben and his dad do and I have a smaller portion. Not because of any "disordered eating" issues, but just because I just couldn't physically cope with huge meals! Or I leave some of my dinner and heat it up the next day for lunch. And Ben is relaxed and happy for me to do this

I'm back at the gym. These days, however, the focus is relaxation rather than running on the treadmill. It's some nice time out for me to just be myself, play some relaxing music on my MP3, or sit in the sauna, jacuzzi or swimming pool.

But, going back to what I said at the start, it seems absurd that CAHMS were judging what Ben's final appearance should look like based on my appearance at the time. They also said that, because I'm short and my parents aren't particularly tall, then they didn't expect Ben to grow in height.

"CAMHS said I'm not going to get any taller," Ben said, aged 16.

How on earth could they predict that?

Especially with an auntie who is quite tall, actually. And who, I actually think, Ben takes after more than he takes after me!

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