Here is a collection of notes I made during the autumn of 2009 - the period when my son's escalating eating disorder was beginning to get more serious. Some of these are what I posted on a forum at the time (not the Around the Dinner Table Forum; I hadn't yet discovered that.) I've pasted it in here as an example of how I thought we could possibly 'fix' the eating disorder early on - and also to show how he was changing. I think this must have been in the November because it talks about a referral being underway.
Basically my son feels the only way he can become popular at school is to get thin - it's the only thing he can control - but he admits it's not working.
My wonderful 15 year old son has gone from being a strapping rugby-playing, healthy eat anything lad to a thin, gaunt boy who's well below the minimum for his build and height. All the signs point towards an eating disorder. If you've had a similar experience I'd appreciate any advice you could give on getting over this. All I want in the whole world is for my wonderful son to be back to who he was again instead of this food-obsessive, compulsive, frantically exercising boy who's a physical shadow of his former self. Underneath it, he's very unhappy and I feel helpless. It's all to do with image and self esteem, of course. Goes back to cutting remarks from girls on him being too fat. He believes that if he loses weight he'll suddenly become popular with the girls and his peers. Of course he won't listen to a thing we say about it...
I feel if we could get to the bottom of the self esteem issue, we'd be half way there, but I feel so very, very helpless.
We've just had yet another row about my meal plans for this week as he refuses to eat anything that has an ounce of fat in it - and spends stacks of time in an almost ritualistic way chopping up fruit into tiny bits to eat.
We can't eat normally any more.
My son and I are very close, and this breaks my heart - and I'm sure he knows it is. I want him to be happy - and healthy.
We had a terrible night last night as everything came to a head. Increasingly, he's 'disappearing' into the crowd and becoming isolated, distancing himself from his (very nice group of) friends. And he is very, very, very distressed. I can't emphasise how distressed he is and it's something I wouldn't wish any parent to have to experience.
At the heart of this lies one boy. This boy is the cleverest boy in the year and now, it seems, the most popular, mainly with the girls. He is also part of my son's circle of close friends. The image I get from what my son says is of this boy surrounded by crowds and crowds of adoring girls and boys. He's being hugged by dozens while sending and receiving texts from others. He revels in this adoration and the boys and girls hang on to his every word. In fact the vision I have is so ridiculous that in other circumstances I'd just laugh!
Meanwhile my son fades into the background. Everyone ignores him, so he says. He doesn't get hugs. He doesn't get texts. And when he talks to this boy, this boy is often too busy sending and receiving texts from his adoring public to bother with my son.
Worse, this boy is muscular, with a '6 pack', according to my son.
Result = my shy, unconfident son feels that the ONLY way he can compete or equal this boy is to exercise and diet himself silly so he 'becomes' that boy, if you like... By doing this he will get similar adoration and 'be loved' (his words) by the girls and others. He says he 'just wants to be loved'. Of course transforming himself into this boy is an impossible task which is why the situation has got so bad.
My son is distraught. I have never seen anyone so distraught and it breaks my heart. I feel totally helpless and don't know what to do. I would do anything to help him - but he needs to learn how to handle this situation which won't change (i.e. the boy will always have his adoring public), and realise he's a person in his own right, and get his own different group of friends.
PS Have had a long chat with my son and worked out a recovery structure with professional help back-up if things don't improve within 2 weeks. We already have a referral underway for NHS help, but it may take 20 weeks (!!!!!!), in which case we'd have to pay for private treatment as a stop-gap until then. Mainly we need to change his mindset towards (a) his body (so stick thin is seen as unattractive rather than attractive) and (b) how he handles peer issues at school and his need to be 'loved' and 'popular'. I hope I managed to drum into him how vital this is and that there is no negotiation with this. I have set 'reward stages' along the way, the top reward being the double bed he wants and other rewards being activities he wants to do - and I've promised I'll do activities outside my normal comfort zone too! (e.g. we'll hold board games evenings, etc - I may even take snowboarding lessons...!)
Although it won't be an overnight 'quick fix', and will probably have serious relapses, we have to move forward now. I explained why, as loving parents, we need to do this. I also outlined the physical damage he could do to his body should things deteriorate - and he, more than many teenagers, is aware of the need for a healthy balanced diet. Also that, by doing what he has been doing, he is actually achieving the REVERSE to what he wants to achieve i.e. be attractive and admired for his physique. The good thing is he was receptive, unlike the other night...
The main issue is changing his mindset so he views a physique like when he came back from the coast2coast cycle ride, for example, as the perfect body he should be aiming at - and not this geeky thinness - in fact we want to change his mindset so he DOES view this kind of body as geeky because I know that geeky is something he wants to avoid like the plague (because he worries his circle of friends are viewed as geeks).
As he constantly compares himself to his friend, who has a normal sporty physique, it's important to change his mindset so he views his C2C-type physique as equal to this if not better. This is our challenge (and where we may need outside assistance...) Any advice on how we could get him to change the way he sees himself in the mirror would be brilliant...