Thursday 31 December 2015

I am so strong I feel like Charles Atlas!

Just before Christmas I picked up a copy of "Depressive illness, the curse of the strong" by Dr Tim Cantopher – and I think that this book has done me more good than anything else.

I'm speaking at a carers' conference in Edinburgh at the end of February

SEDIG is Scotland's charity for "supporting, connecting and informing anyone who is affected by eating disorders" and they've invited me to talk about my son Ben's recovery from anorexia at their annual carers' conference in Edinburgh on the 27th February. So I've been putting together a script over Christmas, updating the script from the talk I gave in London a couple of years ago. Things have changed since then; Ben has come on enormously, so I've cut down the "before" story with the emphasis much more heavily on Ben's recovery.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

A very Merry Christmas, belated!

I think we had one of the best Christmases we've had since before my son fell sick with anorexia. We just relaxed as a family, in front of the fire and the television. On Christmas Eve Ben put together a fantastic spread of tapas and are Christmas Day he cooked the Christmas dinner and made the most delicious sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and ice cream that you've ever tasted. He also made a Christmas Arctic roll, with home-made toffee ice cream surrounded by home-made chocolate Swiss roll. Then on the 23rd, on his birthday, we all went to a local pub that specialises in serving stews and casseroles. It was the kind of Christmas I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined when my son was sick with anorexia.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Wow, wow, and wow again!

A therapist friend of mine, who is part of the eating disorders network of people I've met over the past few years and who can always be depended on to provide great insights into things, suggested I take a look at this book: Depressive illness, the curse of the strong.

So I downloaded a sample on my Kindle and very quickly realised I had to purchase this book, so I did. And I'm sitting here exclaiming: "Wow, wow,wow and wow again!" as it describes my personality to a tee.

I feel freeeeeeeeee!

Here's a post I put on my Facebook page today, following yesterday's 'confession': It's amazing how liberated I feel now I understand it. One of the good things to come out of my son's eating disorder (and my battle to help him overcome it) is that it helped me understand mental health problems, raise awareness of them and recognise that stuff I'd battled with on a personal level for decades and felt 'weak' about and 'to blame' wasn't my fault, just as it's not my fault that my eyes are blue. The sense of liberation, the more I accept all of this, is truly incredible. I have also been very fortunate to have excellent support from NHS mental health services over the past 18 months, on and off.

Monday 21 December 2015

Why my own depression went undiagnosed for decades

One afternoon in 1989 - on one of the frequent days I took sick from work - I lay on the bed with the large coffee jar beside me. Its potentially lethal contents, carefully amassed for this purpose over the past weeks during visits to different pharmacies and supermarkets, were just feet away from my mouth. A glass of water sat on the bedside cabinet.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Pizza Express, not distress

Ben's massive addition to my weekly supermarket shop reminded me of the other week when Paul and I drove down to Sheffield to celebrate my birthday with Ben. We went to Pizza Express, a restaurant where, back in the 'bad old days' when Ben's anorexia was raging, we had some particularly distressing episodes.

But there was Ben, this time round, ordering the larger size pizza with a sizeable list of extra toppings. When it was served, he pointed to his mountainous pizza and said "Does THIS make you realise that I am perfectly OK and that you have NOTHING to worry about, mum?" Because, yes, you've guessed it, I constantly worry, like we parents do and will probably always do...

Supermarket shocking!

Ben is back from university on Friday for 'reading week', so I asked him to send me his shopping list so I could add it to our delivery from Tesco's. Result? DOUBLE the supermarket spend compared to when it's just Paul and me. And Paul and I seem to eat pretty well! It's things like this that make me realise just how far Ben has come since those dark days when supermarket shopping was a complete nightmare.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

It's team work: none of us must feel guilt

I spent yesterday afternoon worrying. Worrying that people who had suffered from an eating disorder might read my blog and feel guilty for 'putting their parents through this'. So I immediately put a post on my Facebook page that says: What I DON'T want to do, ever, is incite feelings of guilt in the eating disorder sufferers themselves (whether recovered or in recovery). They must NEVER, EVER feel guilt at 'putting their parents through all of this'. NEVER, EVER. We, as parents, simply responded with love, exactly as we would have to any life-threatening illness. NEVER feel bad about it. EVER.

Monday 2 November 2015

The 'guilt' feeling isn't what you might think it is

Part of the vicious circle I described in my last post is 'guilt'. But not the kind of 'guilt' you might expect. I don't feel guilt at 'causing' the eating disorder because, as modern evidence is proving, mothers don't 'cause' their child's eating disorder - eating disorders are thought to be a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers (in my son's case it was trying to get a fantastic six-pack physique without doing as much sport, while eating less). No, the feeling of guilt that is very much part of the vicious circle of emotions I'm feeling at the moment is very different.

Depression is a lonely place to be until...

As anyone who has visited my recent post on the Around The Dinner Table Forum may know, I've been having a spot of bother over the last two years. The trouble is, my son is pretty much recovered from his eating disorder. But as he continued to move in the right direction and establish a new life for himself, it became clear that I was suffering from the aftermath of everything we had been through during the traumatic years during which I'd battled to help him recover from anorexia.

Monday 12 October 2015

A really, really powerful post by a US mother and MD

A friend share this link on Facebook last night. I read it and - wow! - its sheer force hit me like an avalanche. I'm still thinking about it today. What this amazing written-straight-from-the-heart article does is to get across exactly how an eating disorder brings havoc and destruction to a family. Everyone in the family - from the sufferer to the parents. And if anyone wants to know what it's really, really like to have an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia in the family, simply read this article. It gets it across perfectly.

Thursday 1 October 2015

From my other blog: The saddest cycle ride I ever did

Recently I've started another blog about my biking and hiking activities. But today's post kind of overlaps between this blog and that.

So here is a link to it:

Oh, and by the way, Ben is back from university this weekend full of tales to tell. Good ones, I hasten to add.

He's getting on fine with his housemates and various activities, despite the fact that some of his housemates keep going onto him about the fact he eats 3 square meals a day including 2 breakfasts, which they think is strange...

So all is good on the university front!

Friday 18 September 2015

I realise I sound a bit negative as regards going to university

Please, please don't think that I'm saying that your son or daughter might not settle into university life. Hopefully they will have a fantastic time and continue to be free of their eating disorder.

My last two blog posts are simply aimed at those families that might have issues to show that, if it doesn't work out at university this year, then it's not such a Big Deal when you look at the bigger picture.

When university didn't work out, the first time round

When things didn't work out for Ben at university in September 2012, we were all devastated. All three of us - his dad Paul, me and Ben - were so looking forward to him finally getting this chance to rebuild his life after three years of battling with anorexia.

Shortly before his 26-month eating disorders treatment with CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) ended in the March, the CAMHS nurse had said that she "couldn't see any reason on this earth why Ben wouldn't be ready for university in September". To be honest, I wasn't convinced. But, anyhow, we went ahead.

Thrilled to see these young people heading for university!

I'm sooooooo thrilled to see some of the teenagers whose stories featured in my book When anorexia came to visit: Families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives are off to university this month!

It really is a delight to know that they've pulled through this horrible illness and are able to get on with their lives.

Going away to university is such a big step for anyone to take let alone young people who have battled with anorexia and other eating disorders. I know because of the problems my son, Ben, had with going to university, starting in 2012, with a 'false start'.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

This development could be AMAZING!

Having kept a discreet distance from the mainstream world of eating disorders during my PTSD treatment, I was thrilled to get an email from author and fellow mum-of-a-recovered-eating-disorder-sufferer, Eva Musby (whose story features in my book When Anorexia Came To Visit) directing me to her latest blog post about some seriously excellent changes planned for adolescent eating disorders treatment in England.

Thursday 9 April 2015

Painting over past memories and nightmares

"You know those test paint patches on the horrible yellow wall?" I said to the decorator yesterday as he began work on our hallway, stairs and landing. "We did those six years ago!" I explained that the reason we'd finally got around to completing the job (see pic on left for completed job) was because, shortly after we experimented with different paint colours, my son had fallen sick. It's only now, six years on, that we've begun to pick up where we left off. "Next is the living room and kitchen, then the back bedroom, the loft, the small bedroom... the whole house needs a fresh coat of paint!"

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Going back to my roots - why I began blogging in Jan 2011

Gosh, it's 52 months since I first began this blog about my experience of helping my teenage son to overcome anorexia! Back then I was a bit anxious about starting a blog so I sent a few blogging samples to various friends in the world of eating disorders like the Fairy Blogmother herself, Laura Collins, the founder of F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders), the oracle of help for parents of young people with eating disorders, and its sister site, the Around The Dinner Table Forum.

Sunday 29 March 2015

A 'new approach' to eating disorder treatment that points the fingers at mothers again... Aaarrgghh!

Gloucester (that is, the Gloucester in the States, not the Gloucester here in the UK), is promoting a 'new approach' to eating disorder treatment in which 'mothers and daughters are educated together about eating disordered behavior, and the family and cultural patterns that contribute to it.' Apparently mothers talk too much about the size of their thighs and such like which triggers their daughters (no mention of sons here) to go on diets and develop eating disorders. Apparently 'learning to think differently about food and one’s body is the pathway to changing destructive eating patterns.'

Thursday 26 March 2015

It's liberating to know it's not me, it's the way the brain works...

"Well, don't," has been one of my husband's favourite responses over the past 16+ months as I've struggled with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. He would ask: "What's wrong?" I'd respond with something like: "Well, you know... I'm just feeling a bit down and that..."

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The easy way to read my blog from 2011, etc

I began this blog in January 2011, almost a year on from when my teenage son began treatment for anorexia. Important and useful archive posts like these can so often be missed on eating disorder blogs (all that clicking to and fro!) which is why I've created a linear PDF of every post from 2011 which you can read by clicking here... Other parents have told me that my earlier posts were a tremendous help for them. One even described them as a 'lifesaver'. This isn't me being big-headed or boastful, it is simply me trying to ensure that any other parent facing this horrible illness has access to as much helpful information as they possibly can - because, as we know only too well in our family, learning about eating disorders and their effective treatment is a MASSIVE LEARNING CURVE that you can ill afford when you are battling to save your son or daughter from descending into the hell of anorexia. So please do check out this PDF and the subsequent years which you can find on this web page.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Example of successful CBT in practice from yesterday

As you know, to help overcome my acute anxiety issues that remain following my therapy for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) (as a result of training my brain to realise that my son has recovered from anorexia and is not still in the throes of it).... I have been using a combination of CBT tools learned through therapy and further CBT tools from the excellent Anxiety & Worry Workbook. Yesterday was a superb example of CBT in practice - and how it can be very successful. It may be of use to anyone else going through episodes like this.

Monday 23 March 2015

How do visitors to the RCGP website access resources for eating disorders?

Well, at the time of writing, the answer is that, if they visit this page on the UK's Royal College of General Practitioners' website, they don't. This page says that it provides links 'to a range of eating disorder resources' and two of the most important links are broken - the links to the MARSIPAN guidelines for adults and adolescents with eating disorders.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Normal service is resumed; I am soooooo much better

As you probably gathered, for the whole of 2014 and a few months either side, I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In total I must have undergone 50-odd (private and NHS) sessions of various types of therapy. Last week saw my final NHS appointment with Zoe, the truly amazing and lovely (primarily) EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapist.

Thursday 19 March 2015

"So can I have a big present, then?"

... asked Ben a moment ago. You see I've been transferring my 2013 blog posts into a PDF (more linear for people to read) and I told him how stark the contrast was between the Ben of 2013 and the Ben of today. "I am so proud of you!" I said. "You've come on leaps and bounds in the past 18 months!"

Wednesday 18 March 2015

I might just write to my MP again, thus...

Dear Fabian Hamilton [MP, Labour, Leeds North East],

On 27th March 2013 - 2 years ago - I met with you in Harehills to talk about eating disorders. As a reminder, this is a copy of the letter I sent to you beforehand:

The General Election is looming. Would my MP's response have been different this year, I wonder?

Like many people, I am cynical when it comes to politicians. And it crossed my mind that had I seen my local (Labour) MP Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) this month as the General Election looms rather than 2 years ago, would he have got back to me? Hmn... I wonder who I will be voting for in the General Election...

It's nearly 2 years since I met with our MP to talk about eating disorders. The result?

On 27 March 2013 I met with my local MP Fabian Hamilton (Labour) to talk about the problems facing 18+ year olds who are still suffering from an eating disorder but, because of their age, are being discharged from CAMHS (the UK-based Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) and either transferred to Adult Services or left to their own devices - because, as a 'legal adult', they are permitted to choose whether or not to continue treatment. So what happened?

Friday 13 March 2015

One of the (many) bits I really like in Jennifer Denise Ouellette's article...

Despite the fact that, very sadly, not every family has access to such a wonderful and clued-up eating disorders treatment programme as that offered by the UCSD Eating Disorders Center, I really do love this article by fellow mum Jennifer Denise Ouellette on how relatives, neighbours, teachers and friends can assist when a family is battling with an eating disorder. I hope the author won't mind me reproducing one of the best bits below. It's relevant to my earlier post about how 'the public at large' may interpret an eating disorder:

Why the secrecy?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, especially after my recent PTSD-imposed 'break' from reading, writing and talking about eating disorders. Today I had a kind of epiphany moment and it was this... I have two Facebook pages: one for everything to do with eating disorders and another for everything else. And never the twain shall meet, kind of thing. But why? Why do I keep so silent about eating disorders on my 'main' Facebook page? I mean really WHY do I ignore eating disorders on that Facebook page?

This kind of experience would have freaked him out in the Bad Old Days...

So, around 2.30pm yesterday, I collected 21-year old student, Ben, from the railway station. He (with his dyed 'blackcurrant', straightened hair, long black leather coat, steam punk waistcoat, drainpipe black trousers, etc) flopped into the passenger seat and began to devour a huge bowl of chicken couscous salad, a packet of crisps and other goodies. "Boy, have I got a story to tell you!" he exclaimed. And, without doubt, this is the kind of experience that would seriously have freaked him out when he was under the influence of the eating disorder. But yesterday he just took it in his stride.

I urge you to think of this family today...

If you believe in the power of prayer, and even if you don't, I would urge anyone that reads this blog today to think about a family whose daughter's life is currently hanging in the balance - another victim of an eating disorder, another example of how this deadly illness does its level best to destroy life. xxxx

Thursday 12 March 2015

Thank you, some great responses on Facebook

I recently came across an old Chinese saying which went along the lines of (and I paraphrase!): Look after Number One before you begin to think about looking after anyone / anything else. Or something like that. So I wrote Look After No1 in my desk diary for this week, just in case I forgot to follow that wise advice. And, from the responses to the link to yesterday's blog on my Facebook page, it seems that everyone is saying the same. I shouldn't feel guilty about saying sorry, no, I can't take this on - and this is why... And that my own recovery comes first. Which is, of course, totally true. Thank you to everyone that came back with wonderful, caring comments. I really do appreciate it.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

I need a break from campaigning, but I've been volunteered onto a 'cause'!

I've got a bit of a dilemma. Before and during my son's eating disorder, I was the kind of person that campaigned for things. During the eating disorder it was, obviously, to raise awareness of eating disorders in boys through this blog, my books, talks and so on. Now, post-eating-disorder, I am completely burned out. The very thought of campaigning for anything sends me scuttling for the security of my bed. It's why I've had to put any eating disorder advocacy 'on hold' for the moment and why I've been somewhat AWOL with this blog and my Facebook page.

For parents, life doesn't just ping back to 'normal'

At the end of this very excellent article about how relatives, neighbours, teachers and friends can assist and support parents as they battle to get their child through an eating disorder, Jennifer Denise Ouellette (a member of the Parent Advisory Committee at the renowned UCSD Eating Disorders Center) says: "...this is not a case of just waiting for everything to return to 'normal.' Our lives will never be the same again and it helps us to embrace that. In the best cases our children will fully recover and we, and our families, will still be fundamentally changed by the terrifying experience of seeing our child slip away and having to pull him/her back to us inch-by-excruciating inch." Too true, but all too often ignored by relatives, neighbours, friends, etc.

Thursday 26 February 2015

No wonder we parents are all so screwed up, post-eating-disorder!

Following some feedback from other parents, it appears that I'm not alone in struggling with post-trauma problems. The Good News is that our sons and daughters have recovered or are almost recovered from their eating disorder / anorexia / bulimia. The Bad News is that once we, as parents, sit back, relax a little and begin to think about moving on with our lives... zap! pow! our own minds begin to scream out "Aaarrrggghhh!" Which, when you think about it, isn't in the least bit surprising.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

I opened my mouth and... nothing came out!

It's over a year since I last agreed to be interviewed about our experience with our teenage son, Ben, as he developed and recovered from anorexia. As it's Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I agreed to be interviewed for our local radio station last night - an 11th hour arrangement which left me zero time to prepare. But it wasn't just that I had no time to prepare; when I opened my mouth to speak to the interviewer... nothing came out!

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Just found the original of 'that' letter from November 2009

Yesterday I had a bit of a clear out and came across a box full of blank notebooks, so I took out one of them to use for notes, only to discover it wasn't completely blank. Inside was the original of the letter which features in Chapter 7 - Consumed - of my book Please eat... A mother’s struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia. I remember it so clearly... Sitting in my car, waiting for Ben to come out of school, frantically writing a letter to him because, by this stage, he wasn't speaking to us. Or at least he wasn't speaking about anything to do with his rapidly developing anorexia. The only way I could get through to him, I felt, was through a letter. I was in despair. So this, in its entirety, is what I wrote (edited considerably for my book)... The love that went into this letter... phew!!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

More about EMDR - in case you, as a parent, need to use it

Today was my third EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) session in an attempt to fix the annoying PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which crept into my head just over a year ago - a delayed reaction to the trauma of getting my teenage son through anorexia. EMDR is supposed to be really effective against PTSD and - on the face of it - it's really weird, but it seems to be working. So what, in my extremely laywoman's terms, is EMDR and how is it supposed to work?

While I'm back here, this is where I'm at right now...

As you will have seen, I've been AWOL from this blog for much of the past year. It's a real pig, but I've been battling with this darn Post Traumatic Stress Disorder thing which began to rear its ugly face just over a year ago. It's really annoying because, like many of these things, you can't just 'snap out of it'. No matter how strong you feel you are, you can't just push it to the back of your mind and get on with things. It's doubly annoying knowing that it's now my turn to admit that, OK, I need help to get my head back together again and, yes, it's not surprising when you think about it that my brain has suffered an adverse reaction to the years of extremes which it encountered as a result of my son's struggle with anorexia.

In memory of Charlotte Bevan who passed away from cancer one year ago today

Here's what I've posted on my Facebook page: Many of you will know that Charlotte Bevan was the best friend and support that anyone could have while battling with a potentially life-threatening crisis in the family. Anorexia Nervosa is still a much misunderstood illness with the highest death rate of any mental illness (Research has found that 1 in 5 sufferers will die prematurely as a result of it).