Seven years ago my life began to change in a way I could never in my wildest and most frightening nightmares have imagined. My 15-year old son was hurtling downhill into anorexia nervosa and getting worse by the day... hour... minute. The medical profession wasn't listening to me; after having finally got a referral from our GP for my son to be treated for his eating disorder we were waiting for a reply from CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services). I expected that reply to come by return, but it would be another three weeks or so before we would hear anything. And even then it was only to be told that my son was being put on a waiting list and it could be 18-22 weeks before treatment for his eating disorder began. It was the start of years of battling to get my son well again: battling with the illness and battling with the medical professionals.
But what of the 'me' I'd been before?
I'd been a successful freelance copywriter, running my own business from home. I was also Deputy Chair of the school PTA, actively involved in fund raising and running the PTA website and publicity. I was busy, busy, busy and maybe a little too 'driven', something that comes from the perfectionist traits I had back then.
Of course all of this ground to a halt as my son became consumed by the anorexia. Getting him well was my sole priority from then onwards. My life was put on hold.
Seven years on my family has been through and emerged from hell. My son is now 23, studying for a Masters Degree and juggling his studies with a big social life. He has moved mountains. He is getting on with his own life and I wouldn't have it any other way.
But, having been entrenched in the eating disorder experience for so very many years, I am now struggling with the questions: Who am I now? Where do I go from here? What is my purpose in life?
Initially I was also asking things like: How do I get my old self back? How do I pick up where I left off seven years ago?
Then the other day one of the friends (who rushed in to help when I blogged for the first time for months with a 'cry for help' as I struggled with this PTSD that's been bugging me for a couple of years) came back with this question:
"Do you really want to go back to being the person you used to be?" And she helped me look at the person I have become versus the person I used to be seven years ago.
Suffice to say that my friend helped me realise that, rather than being in a void, not knowing who I am or where I am going, I have already begun to realise who I am and where I am going. Most importantly, who I want to go there with i.e. the circle of friends I want to have around me. Those dear, true, kind and compassionate friends who make me feel cherished and good about myself.
These are friends who I have met over the last seven years as a direct or indirect result of my son's eating disorder. Friends who 'get it', who have suffered with their own post-trauma fallout and who will never judge, only encourage.
The main point I'm trying to make is that seven years is a long time. Even without the eating disorder experience my life would have changed in some way. With the eating disorder experience my life has changed enormously. I have also made friends who I would never have met under different circumstances.
I am not the same person as I used to be. Nor should I want to be. Indeed why on earth would I want to be?
And, contrary to what I might think, I am already in the process of moving on to the next chapter in my life and it has the potential to be better and more fulfillilng than the 'old life' ever used to be.
When I emerge from this confounded PTSD thing.
Hopefully I am already beginning to emerge.