Sunday 30 October 2016

It's difficult to talk about the effect of the eating disorder years on me

I've talked about this on and off for the last couple of years or so - the PTSD-symptoms I've been having following my battle to help my son overcome his eating disorder. For quite a few months everything was relatively OK; I wrote my book, and a second book; I did talks on eating disorders; I appeared in the press, on the radio and TV talking about eating disorders in boys; I attended eating disorder conferences and, of course, I blogged here regularly. Then one day everything changed. I can pinpoint the actual day.

Or, rather, the actual evening.

I was sitting with my mum and sister in an Italian restaurant around Christmastime. Gradually I realised that I wasn't quite 'there'. It was as if I was observing the whole occasion. I found it difficult to speak, and my brain had gone completely numb. I just wanted to get the hell out of there, get home and hide.

The next occasion was when I returned from an eating disorders talk in Edinburgh by the famous James Lock, author of Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder. I felt overwhelmed, I found it difficult to blog and even more difficult to talk about it.

It was like being a rabbit caught in the headlights, unable to move or do anything. Most frustratingly of all, I didn't feel anything. Or at least not positive feelings.

I felt numb and dissociated from things.

Paradoxically at the same time my anxiety levels began to rocket as I continued to be on 'red alert' round the clock.

I also began to have almost nightly nightmares. Not flashbacks to Ben's eating disorder but anxiety-fuelled nightmares of extreme situations where you're being prevented from doing things by a seemingly monumental list of obstacles. And also really horrible nightmares featurining death, evil and so on. The kind that affects your mood for the whole day.

As a result I was waking up in the morning feeling as if my brain had been pulverised overnight.

To cut a long story short, I began to have therapies. After a few months of private therapy I was lucky enough to be accepted by the NHS. Since then I've had a range of different therapies and am currently in Secondary Care receiving a second course of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy from, ironically, the same therapist that Ben saw private back in December 2009 when we were on the list for NHS eating disorder treatment. I have also read a library of self-help books on PTSD, dissociation and depression.

EMDR is evidence-based for successfully treating PTSD, however over the past weeks I've felt worse not better (but my therapist has been absent for a few weeks, so that might be contributing to it).

I am desperate to get rid of this unpleasant and debilitating problem.

It's been really difficult to motivate myself to write this blog again. The reason I decided to go ahead and write is that I can't be alone in feeling this way after all those years of struggling with my child's eating disorder. I know other parents have experienced physical illnesses following the years of battling, perhaps also as a bodily reaction to the stress and other stuff that high anxiety and intense 24/7 fear, etc etc etc puts on the mind and body.

I really would be interested to know if other parents have felt (or feel) as I do - so I don't feel so alone with this and also so, in some way, I can use this blog as mutual help so we can all recover.

I don't have any particular plans for the blog and there is a chance I may find I can't write at all because of the numbing / dissociative / depressive effects of the PTSD (I'd rather call it Complex PTSD, by the way, which is how 'they' are beginning to describe the results of sustained trauma rather than a single one-off trauma).

Another reason I may not write is that there's an intense need to keep all of this secret, to pretend that nothing is wrong to the outside world, to go through the motions of being perfectly fine, which is what I tend to do when I'm out there in the outside world.

For the past couple of weeks, however, I haven't been out there in the outside world. I've kept inside the house, primarily in my office-cum-spare-bedroom, like a sort of hermit.

Which isn't how it used to be and isn't how it should be...

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