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?
If this were some other illness or issue that had affected our family, I wouldn't think twice about talking about it. A family death, for instance. Or if my elderly mother got sick. Or if someone developed a potentially fatal illness - like cancer, heart disease or whatever.
But because it's eating disorders I keep silent.
Especially when my other eating-disorder-world friends do not.
Digging deep, the reason has to be that it's a reaction to knowing that, in general, 'the wider public' don't really think about eating disorders. The term 'eating disorder' sounds as harmless as, say, 'nasal disorder' or 'ear disorder'. "Oh that's sad. But worse things happen at sea." Blank, switched-off look.
Then there's the fact that anorexia (in my son's case), like other eating disorders, is a mental illness. And people don't like to admit to mental illnesses, despite the fact that one-in-three of us will suffer from mental health problems at some point in our lives. So if we ourselves don't get sick with some kind of mental health problem, the chances are that someone close to us may.
People also (wrongly, of course) tend to feel shame at having mental health problems - as if they failed in some way as a human being. Or there's something wrong with them that they could fix easily enough, if only they knuckled down and got their act together.
Also, I suspect that many, many people still point the finger at parents of young people who develop eating disorders. "She must be a bad mother. I always thought there was something a bit intense about her. What did she do to cause her son to get sick?"
Then there's the fact that my son has recovered from his anorexia. So I should move on with life. It's history. As a teacher at my son's school said, just before he left in 2012: "It could have been much worse."
But mostly I keep quiet because eating disorders are still very much brushed under the carpet. As if I were speaking up about an embarrassing, secretive illness like an STD.
Why should I keep quiet about an illness that nearly took my son's life? That devastated our family for 5 years and which still leaves its imprint today? An illness that has killed other young people, and threatens to kill yet more? An illness that has such little publicity and public awareness, education and understanding that, if a family suddenly did find themselves a victim, they almost certainly wouldn't know what the heck to do or where to turn.
So why the secrecy, Bev?
Why hide it?
I guess there may be another issue here. The fact that my son is a 'friend' on my other Facebook page and, at the moment, we tend to keep our eating disorder talk to a minimum for the simple reason that it brings back horrendous memories for him.
Also, there's the anonimity aspect. Which is why I have always changed his name on this blog and in my books. (Although this was my choice and not his. He hates the name 'Ben'.)
But, again, why so secretive?