Wednesday 2 March 2016

Part #3 of my talk: "Eating disorders are not just a 'girl thing'"

Throughout October we went to and fro to the GPs only to be told the same old thing: go home, eat more and come back in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile all the warning signs were getting stronger by the day. Mealtimes were becoming difficult; everything had to be perfect, weighed out to the nearest nanogram to make sure he wasn't getting "too much".

Ben began to police my cooking in the kitchen and change recipes, striking through any "offending" recipes with a marker pen, and he would blow a fuse at the slightest thing.

Meanwhile he was exercising like crazy – rugby, cross-country, yoga, situps, press ups and so on. He became obsessed with getting a six pack because he was convinced that his best friend had a six pack and this is why his best friend was more popular than he was.

He took any excuse to exercise. At school he'd asked to be excused from lessons to go to the toilets only to run around the grounds. He'd run from lesson to lesson rather than walk and in situations where he couldn't exercise, he'd just punch the air.

He was getting out of control at school. The slightest thing would set him off. For example if someone brought some cakes into the classroom to celebrate a birthday, he'd suddenly run out of the lesson and hide somewhere. He could often be found hiding in the boys toilets or under the stairs, in tears. And he was spending less and less time in lessons and more in the school medical centre which had become a kind of bolthole where he could run when things got too much.

Ben was continuing to isolate himself. He kept coming home from school saying he felt disconnected with his friends. Getting him into school in the morning became difficult and in the evening he would sit on the sofa and pinch the skin on his stomach claiming that he was fat, and he wasn't just a little bit fat, according to him, he was bordering on the obese. It was as if he'd lost all sense of rational thought; every minute of the day his brain was focused on his body.

Meanwhile I was googling the symptoms and everything was pointing towards an eating disorder. Of course I was devastated. I quickly got to realise that eating disorders can kill; there was lots of scary stuff out there – and yet it was a whole new world to me. There was a heck of a lot for me to learn.

At the end of October the school nurse called me in. She said Ben had been seen pushing himself in the gym on the machines as if he was in a kind of trance. Staff were getting worried at the amount of weight he'd lost and the change in his personality and behaviour. And although the nurse had never seen an eating disorder in a boy, to her the classic signs were there.

She told me all about CAMHS because those were the people that would fix it, who would get Ben well. She told to go home, call the GP and demand an urgent referral, which I did right away.

So we got a referral which was sent off to CAMHS at the end of October.

It took a whole month before the acknowledgement letter came through from CAMHS. I called the number on the letter only to be told that it would be 18 to 22 weeks before Ben could be seen – and that was just for an assessment, not the treatment itself.

Of course I was absolutely devastated and in a complete panic by this time. I told the woman at the end of the phone that this was serious, told her everything that happened, the way he'd deteriorated so quickly and the way he was getting thinner and thinner. But she just said there was nothing she could do, we would just have to wait our turn.


No comments:

Post a Comment