Wednesday 18 December 2013

To all those of you who are finding this Christmas difficult...

Christmas 2009 was a nightmare for our family. I spent Christmas Eve in floods of tears, listening to Carols from Kings on the radio, something I used to do on Christmas Eve with great joy. Christmas 2010 was a nightmare, too. I remember cooking Christmas dinner in tears - the result of a screaming match between Ben, his dad and me over some food issue. Christmas 2011 was better. It was also my friend Sue's last Christmas and, unable to raise the energy to cook a meal for herself, she spent the day with us. Thankfully last Christmas, at my sister's house, Ben tucked into a big Christmas dinner. The cat came along, too, for the day and we had a fantastic time. As for this Christmas?

The Bad News is that I am completely emotionally numb, probably as a result of this PTSD-type thing that's going on. It's a real shame, because I just feel as if I'm observing from afar, like a Martian might observe curious earth activities. I go through the motions, but there is no emotion.

I am well aware that this Christmas will be tricky for a lot of people - outside the world of eating disorders as well as inside it.

I know of families that will be visiting their children in hospital on Christmas Day. The eating disorder has made their children so sick that they simply can't be discharged back home. Not even on this, that most special of days.

And if they were discharged for the day, any of us who has lived with an eating disorder at Christmas will know that it's a tremendously stressful and distressing time.

It is the one day in the year when the Western World goes mad, as far as over-indulging in food is concerned. We eat until we can eat no more. And then we complain about indigestion, force some more food and drink down ourselves, pass wind, and fall asleep in front of Dr Who.

Another slice of chocolate log, anyone?

There are so many ways that this heightens the contrast between everyone else and the individual suffering from an eating disorder. Here they are surrounded by all the food they could eat... the food that could make them well... even save their life. Yet this illness forces them to starve themselves. Sometimes to death.

Perhaps they are also surrounded by relatives that simply don't, can't or won't understand. People of the "Just tell her / him to eat for God's sake!" mindset.

Uncle Fred slaps her / him on the back exclaiming: "You look like you could do with a square meal inside you! Tuck in!"

Meanwhile cousins Thingy and Whatshisname descend on the festive fare like vultures, demolishing everything in sight while she / he picks at a satsuma.

Ah, teenage boys must have hollow legs... I don't know where they put it all!

And then there is the stress. The constant pressure of being on Red Alert in the knowledge that your child could flip at any moment. And it's virtually impossible to feast and celebrate when your child is sitting at the dinner table staring at an untouched plate, tears streaming down their face. Or causing a scene.

Meanwhile, the other guests may attempt to pretend it's not happening.

Oh, and you, as a parent, have flashbacks to the days when your child was little - the excitement of Santa having visited, the thrill of chocolates and snacks. Preceded by school nativity plays or carol concerts. And as they get older, Christmas parties. Or, in our case, Ben's birthday party. Ben's birthday is two days before Christmas.

Which makes it even worse when the eating disorder is around...

But, you know, I'm finding this post really difficult to write. Not because it brings back painful memories, but because I currently feel nothing at all.

Except empathy for other families entrenched in this devastating illness this festive holiday season.

May your next Christmas be exponentially better.

My thoughts are with you.

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