Friday 6 June 2014

Should I move on and leave the world of eating disorders?

Thank you to Magenta Eel for her comment on yesterday's post about burnout and whether I should leave the world of eating disorders behind. i.e. Do I really want to return to the world of eating disorders? Would I risk allowing it to possibly define me as a person in my future? Wouldn't it be better to just move on? I totally agree that, yes, it would, in a way - a way that feels natural and comfortable for me. And here's why...

Over the last 6 months I've undergone a lot of therapy, soul-searching and self-awareness. The (my) conclusion, at this present moment in time, is that, no, I no longer want to re-visit all the eating disorder stuff that went on over the last 5 years. The purpose of this blog, and my books, was and is to show families that are facing this terrible illness that other families have been there too - and survived. Right from the start of my son's eating disorder, I knew I wanted to eventually help other families to overcome many of the obstacles and ignorance (ours, as well as other people's), so they could focus on the things that matter most i.e. getting their child well again, without all the hefty learning curve and other stuff that we had to go through.

I have exorcised that desire, so to speak, through everything I have written in this blog and in my books, and there is no reason to repeat any of it. It goes into as much depth as is possible, I believe. It is a job done. At the time it helped me to attempt to make some kind of sense of what had gone on and was still going on, kind of cathartic, but now that's been done. Completed.

At this moment in time, it's not helpful for me to spend ages clicking through forums like the ATDT forum, seeing if I can help another family. Or all the eating disorder related Facebook pages. Or even my own Facebook page - the Bev Mattocks one, the one I use for all things eating disordered. I just can't do it. It's like a mental block. Like mental buffers that won't let me go any further.

So, for the time being, all of this is 'on hold'. Possibly permanently. I can't say. I had a long discussion with my therapist about this and we decided that it's a bit like the way a therapist needs to distance themselves emotionally from their clients otherwise they'd go crazy. You need to know when to switch off, when to say no.

Having said that... I do feel a need, following this successful therapy, to perhaps report on what I've discovered about myself - about the way my body and mind has been dealing with the aftermath of the eating disorder. I have learned a lot. The therapy appears to be working. And I believe that other parents facing similar post-trauma symptoms following their child's eating disorder, might find it helpful to see how I've been attempting to 'get my life back'.

Just like anything, it may not work for them, but it may point them towards escaping from this thing that's been dominating their lives for so long, so they can begin to get their old selves back.

So, for the time being when I blog, it's NOT going to be about Ben's fight with anorexia, it's going to be about my fight to get my life back and to convince the inner recesses of my brain that 'the tiger' is not crouching behind my garden shed ready to pounce at any moment.

The tiger left our lives months ago.


  1. Bev, I think you have made a very wise decision. I, too, often feel I need to back off from the world of ED's, but because my daughter is still in the throes I just can't. But also, as you did, I want to help others! And I'd really love to do far, far more than I do, including lobbying with Beat and others to get the UK Government to change its mental health laws, particularly over the age of the sufferer and parents' rights. I will do that when finances and time allows. And then, when my daughter is finally recovered (because I remain positive and hopeful most of the time), I may have to stop for fear of burn out.

    Strangely, just last night my partner and I had this discussion, about my wanting - needing! - to help in the ED world. But he would prefer it if I backed off. He says he sees me wilt and sadden every time I read another story of desperation, every time I offer help and support. He said I need to either back off or not get emotionally involved, and I know he's right! I can't seem to help feeling the fear, anxiety and desperation though. I wish I didn't. So when you said:

    "I had a long discussion with my therapist about this and we decided that it's a bit like the way a therapist needs to distance themselves emotionally from their clients otherwise they'd go crazy. You need to know when to switch off, when to say no."

    I knew your were right! That really resounded with me. Enjoy your freedom, Bev. You fought the war and seem to have won. You deserve your happiness, all of your family do, Ben especially!

  2. Hi Bev, just wanted to say that, it's really inspiring reading about peoples experiences with anorexia in the family and the impact it's had in their lives and I think that definitely applies to your blog!

    I completely agree with what you said about having your blogs being about you for a while, focusing on yourself can actually be quite therapeutic because your reflecting on you as a person, hope it goes well for you and your family :) xx

  3. Sorry for the late reply but I was really happy for you when I saw this post. I'm sure all you ever wanted when your son was sick was a day when he was well and you could go back to your regular life. And yet it's harder to move on than you think. Maybe it would be good to think about the reasons you had some trouble stepping back from that ED world. Familiarity? The support you had online? You've simply forgotten who you were prior to this?
    You've been through a dreadful time but the true tragedy would be if it tainted the rest of your life and you never escaped.

    I think part of trauma/major life events is learning to put them in the past. They will never leave. You can revisit them to draw on strength, to cheer yourself up at how far things have come, to feel proud to have gotten through them but it is a sad thing to keep ties to your past that only serve to prolong the pain.

    When I first saw that you were struggling with PTSD I wondered if writing the book had triggered a lot of things and that blogs had fed into your fears.

    I had a long and terrible struggle with an eating disorder and I am sick to death of talking about them. It's like my brain has exhausted every single thought on the matter and is ready for something new and interesting.

    You have documented your son's recovery but perhaps it is now time to document YOUR recovery?

    I remember doing a class in hospital about leisure skills. I had thought it was stupid.. Until I realised I did nothing whatsoever that was just for fun and not a distraction (internet, tuning out to tv etc) rediscovering your sense of fun can be a marvellous thing. It doesn't have to be all about the struggle anymore. You're allowed to do things that are purely for pleasure and even selfish. You've given years of your life to caring for Ben, it's not going to easy to rediscover what you wanted from life before. However, I have certainty that you can go onwards and upwards to make much more of your life than this sadness.
    Hang in there.
    Can't wait to hear about your new plans and your recovery xx

    1. Thank you for your lovely and inspiring response, Magenta. I totally 'get' what you say and agree with you. Very helpful and useful reply, thanks!! Bev x

  4. I'm late here too, but wanted to thank you for your work and for your thoughtful description of setting it aside. I have known so many passionate parents like yourself in my years of doing this who have at some point come to the same moment. I have, myself, put down the banner. I think it is a healthy part of the process, myself. There is a time for activism and a time for setting it aside and letting others take it on. Congratulations to you, and thank you for describing it so well.