Monday, 7 March 2016

Part #4 of my talk: "Eating disorders are not just a 'girl thing'"

So… Just to summarise so far… My 15-year-old son Ben developed anorexia over the summer of 2009. In  the September I took him to the GP but it was the end of October before a referral was sent off to CAMHS (the UK-based Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). It took a further month before I heard back from CAMHS only to be told that it could be 18 to 22 weeks before he was seen, which would take it up to around Easter time. I was told there was nothing they could do to speed things up and we would just have to wait our turn...

By this point, Ben was heading downhill at a rate of knots – like a nightmarish rollercoaster. We didn't recognise our son any longer; he had completely changed: his looks, his personality and his behaviour. And now we were being told that it could be 4 or 5 months before he'd get treatment.

Already we'd seen how far he could deteriorate in 4 or 5 months and I thought: Good God, by the time Ben is seen by CAMHS, he could be dead!

I kept going into the GPs' surgery and phoning CAMHS to see if anything could be done to speed things up only to be told again that nothing could be done, we would just have to wait our turn. It was as if no one seemed to care.

By the Christmas of 2009 Ben was completely consumed by the eating disorder.

By this time, it was all about input, output, input, output – 24/7 - how much exercise he'd need to do to burn off whatever he'd eaten. There was very little room inside his head for anything else.

He was getting painfully thin. He had dark rings round his eyes and he was oh so pale. He was permanently cold and his hands had gone red and scaly, yet all the doctor did was to prescribe creams for the skin.

Ben was getting violent, especially at mealtimes which were an absolute nightmare. He'd throw food around, he'd "down tools" and rush out into the hallway, charging up and down the stairs, banging his head against the wall and screaming. And he developed this low, slow, monotone of a voice that was totally different from his own voice. We called it "the voice of anorexia". It used to put the fear of God into me and send my blood cold. And every evening, he'd be there, on the sofa, pinching the so-called rolls of fat on his stomach and claiming that he was incredibly fat.

Yet still no one seemed to care.

Then at the end of January I got a phone call, not from CAMHS but from the school nurse who said Ben's heart was doing "funny things" and he needed to be taken into hospital.

He spent the next 24 hours wired up to just about every machine on the planet. His heart was beating dangerously slowly, at 29 bpm.

I remember sitting there, in that hospital, with the very real, ice-cold fear that I could lose my son - that the rapidly developing anorexia could kill  him.


No comments:

Post a Comment