Firstly, this week seems to have gone better than expected for Ben at university. He's been socialising and he's been working hard at re-gaining those few lost kilos. His team even won the uni Christmas Quiz at the student union on Thursday night. The week ended with Ben inviting me to take him out for lunch at Nando's where he ate a large plate of chicken salad with pitta bread and olives on the side, followed by two large helpings of chocolate frozen yoghurt, followed by snacking on a large tub of popcorn all the way home. Ben's mood was up and his Monday session with a new counsellor (to work on depression / social anxiety) seemed to go well. The only downside is that his weight has only gone up very slightly. So this week, he is intent on eating even more in a bid to get up to the weight he needs to be at 20-years old. His birthday is a week tomorrow.
For me, it's been a curious week which, when I look back, has been both liberating and enlightening. As you know, I was well aware that all was not well inside my head and that, following some research into the symptoms, it was probably some kind of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder type thing, kicking in some time after Ben had climbed out of the 'rabbit hole' and things were moving along much more smoothly.
This can be the nature of PTSD. It can kick in weeks, months or even years after the major trauma.
I decided the trigger probably was Ben going away to university in September and the various teething troubles he's experienced which have led to me having to resurrect some of my old Ben-management skills and a fair bit of anxiety, while doing my best to 'detach with love' from Ben and encourage him to be independent and responsible for his own actions.
Earlier this week, as you will know, I felt particularly 'strange', especially when dining out with my mum and sister on Tuesday night. The PTSD-like symptoms were positively screaming inside me, yet outside I was kind of numb and frozen to the spot.
On Thursday I spent one-and-a-half hours being assessed over the telephone by a member of the local primary mental health team. The diagnosis, she believes, is PTSD and it needs treatment, so I've been put on a waiting list.
Meanwhile, I've been reading a lot about PTSD and it's been kind of liberating.
Just like an eating disorder, it is thought to be biologically-based. Prolonged exposure to trauma / stress is believed to 're-programme' the brain so it gets stuck in alarm-mode. Rather than explain it here, this excellent article explains the way the brain gets 'stuck'. And to unstick it, the brain needs some outside help i.e. therapy. But simply recognising it as a biological thing - in other words it is 'not my fault', is not something to feel ashamed of or think of as a weakness, and not something I can just 'snap out of' or do relaxation exercises to overcome - is the first step in helping the brain get back to 'normal' mode.
So all of this has been really positive and I feel a lot better because of it. Of course my brain is still stuck on 'red alert', but at least I know that steps are being taken to reverse this - on an external help basis (therapy), and through self-help.