Saturday 7 September 2013

Dear Media, What you don't realise is this...

Dear TV, Radio, Magazines, Press, etc... What you don't realise when you cancel a planned news item about boys with eating disorders - or even when you don't cancel - is this...

Every time someone like me, or my son Ben, agrees to participate in a news item, be it TV, radio, press, etc, is that we have to re-visit parts of our lives that, to be honest, we'd rather not.

Why is it difficult for us?

Because, by re-visiting the years when my son was being strangled by the most deadly of all mental illnesses - the lethal anorexia nervosa - it causes trauma.

A heck of a lot of trauma of the nastiest variety.

On the surface this trauma results in us feeling pretty cr*p following an interview. Kind of low and depressed, that sort of thing. And, often, towards the end of a lengthy interview - for instance the interview for BBC's Inside Out the other week - we can begin to flag. (If they screen the bit where Ben and I walk through our local park, apparently chatting happily to each other, what we are actually saying is: "Just a few more minutes more... Just hold onto the thought that if we help just one family by doing this, then it has to be worth it."

Several times over.

Deeper down, for me at least, it can result in lurchingly unpleasant flash-backs and nightmares - a bit like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact it probably is a form of PTSD.

However, if we know that what we're doing has the potential to help other families, then we both feel that it's worth it.

It's when we spend hours being interviewed and / or filmed for articles or bulletins that get cancelled or never take place that it really cuts us to the core. We've just spent the past X hours re-living a nightmare and re-opening old wounds - and for what?


But it's not just about being interviewed. Planning interviews can also dig up demons that have been surpressed.

So when an interview is suddenly cancelled at the 11th hour for whatever reason - like next week's interview with BBC's Woman's Hour - it's not simply a case of: "Oh never mind, at least I don't have to cancel that dental appointment or bother about getting into the Leeds studio on Wednesday morning" - it's a case of digging up demons again.

Also, even though Ben wasn't being involved in this interview, it makes me feel all protective towards him and so very aware of how brave he is at insisting that - together - we raise awareness of the problem of eating disorders in teenage boys by sharing our own traumatic story. And, like any parent, I hate my courageous, compassionate and wonderful son being messed around by taking part in interviews that are never used.

The Woman's Hour cancellation was particularly hard for me, personally, because all the emailing to and fro was carried out during our late summer holiday, time spent with Ben, far from the 'madding crowd', before he attempts university again in a couple of weeks.

I wouldn't normally have replied to emails whilst on holiday, but I did on this occasion because I felt so strongly about another chance to raise awareness of the issue of males with eating disorders.

These are some of the reasons why the Woman's Hour cancellation affected me and made me angry and tearful, even though it's usual for the media to mess people around like this.

Unacceptable, but usual.

And, in the case of Woman's Hour, it appears to be because the campaign blogs they are featuring on Wednesday's programme make better news than mine. "So, sorry, but we no longer require you," kind of brush-off.

But it wasn't as if Woman's Hour said "we might possibly need you"; it was a definite.

This is what makes me mad.

So, dear Media, if you are going to do this kind of 11th hour cancellation because you've come across something far more newsworthy than boys suffering from deadly illnesses, then please don't lead families down the garden path.

It hurts and it's traumatic. And the only, only, only, only reason we allow ourselves to have old wounds re-opened and go through this kind of experience is to help others like us.

Not to be messed around by the media.


  1. Oh Bev, I really feel for you and Ben. The media clearly have no idea about how traumatic eating disorders are, but really need to learn! EVERYONE needs to understand how devastating and possibly fatal Anorexia Nervosa is for both men and women. I feel Woman's Hour should offer you the opportunity to have a whole segment devoted entirely to eating disorders and your experience, not just a bit within campaign blogs in general... Let's hope someone from the BBC sees this. (((hugs)))

    1. Thanks, Jen. And I am well aware that both you and I come from an industry which, like the press, is notorious for its lack of soul and 11th hour cancellations. But the media need to realise that they can't treat us parents as if we were a commercial business, a politician or whatever. We have been living with an illness that could kill our children. This is very, very different from the hard-nosed, cold, callous business world.

    2. Exactly Bev! As you way, we understand how these people work from our own work experiences, BUT... This is such a sensitive subject, and the media need to realise that.