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.
As parents of a young person battling their way through an eating disorder, we have been faced with horrors and emotional extremes that have driven us to the edge. And we have faced this kind of thing, round the clock, day, after day, for months... years... Not knowing whether or not our child was going to come out of this thing alive or dead.
Unlike most other illnesses, anorexia fights those that try to remove it from a young person's life. So our child appears to be fighting us, the loving parents that want to save their lives and get them well.
On top of this we're often fighting the medical and mental health professionals to get diagnosed, referred and treated with evidence-based therapy and not mumbo-jumbo out-dated stuff. Those in the States and other places without a free National Health Service often have to fight health insurers, too.
We have to put up with the finger being pointed at us as parents for 'causing' the eating disorder and for being 'bad parents' when we want to scream that it's 'the way their brain's wired up' - it's NOT OUR FAULT!!!
We have had to face hundreds of experiences that aren't 'normal', such as a refusal to eat when food is a vital part of life. As parents it is in our nature to nurture our children - and attempting to get our heads around an illness that threatens to starve our children to death in a world where food is abundantly available must send our rational minds over the edge.
We have had to be primed, 24/7, to face emotional, distressing, sudden and often violent outbursts from our children. It's not normal to have to pull our child away from a solid brick wall which they're crashing their skull against or pull them in from a second-floor attic window as they try to climb onto the roof. It is not normal to have stuff thrown at you or to be violently pushed to the ground by your child. Nothing that we have been through is 'normal'.
And, as we all know, the above is just the tip of the iceberg of what we've been through, as families, with this devastating illness.
No wonder our experiences come back to haunt us at a later date. No wonder our brains, which are 'plastic', have been re-moulded in ways we no longer recognise. No wonder we are totally screwed up and need therapy ourselves.
So a huge big warm hug to all those parents out there who are still suffering, long after their child has passed the 'finish line' and come out the other side.
Our reaction to this trauma IS normal.