Yesterday at my therapy session we were talking about how, given certain triggers, my mind and body instantly 'ping' back into Red Alert mode - something I was doing on a daily, if not hourly basis when my son's anorexia was at its worst, and also right up through his first year at university - a period that was very tricky and accompanied by several mentions of the 's' word which put the fear of God into me. I told the therapist that reactions like this are very difficult to fix as they are not necessarily in the past. The anger against the GP and other medical professionals from that period in Autumn / Winter 2009 is in the past and therefore more straightforward to process using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) techniques. That's what makes it different.
The reason the Red Alert is in the past, present and future is that I will always have a massive fear that my son will relapse and that his eating disorder will return. It's not an irrational fear; I know of several young people who have relapsed back into their former eating disorder.
I also worry that my son may mention the 's' word again during periods when life gets tricky. Any hint at anything like this automatically pings me back into Red Alert and High Fear. I cannot 'go back there', I told the therapist. Ever. I simply can't.
Next week she wants to work on two of the main triggers that ping me into Red Alert - the kind of Red Alert that affects my entire body and mind. If you have a son or daughter with an eating disorder you will know exactly what I mean!
These triggers are: sudden loud noises - bangs / crashes and my son's primeval scream. No it wasn't a scream, I told her. More like a yell. No not a yell, just an animal sound. Loud, deep, fearful and primeval.
Both of these are triggers that send my blood cold, my heart pounding, my skin perspiring, my chest tightening and my mind zooming to places that are darker than the darkest night.
I also talked about texts and Facebook messages from my son that start with: "Hey" or "How's you?" because they almost always herald some bad news.
I told her about the period in early 2010 when I got umpteen texts from my son at school which resulted in pushing me over the edge. That was the day I smashed the dinner service on the kitchen floor, crouched into the foetal position in a corner of the room and cried until I could cry no more.
I still find it very hard to deal with texts or FB messages that begin in that way.
Take this morning for instance when one came through from Ben.
He's having problems at uni. He's struggling with the MA and uncertain about his future. He feels sapped of confidence.
Uh oh, I thought, and immediately pinged into Red Alert mode despite telling myself that this kind of crisis is a 'normal crisis' that anyone can go through. It is not eating disorder related. Or at least I hope not.
And, at nearly 23, my son needs to find his own way in life and learn how to navigate himself through crises. Although my natural instinct is to rush in and attempt to fix things, I know I wouldn't be doing him any favours in the long term.
But this is an example of why the Red Alert issue isn't a past problem, it also applies to now - and may still apply in the future.
This is because there is ALWAYS the entrenched ice-cold fear that something could take us 'back there' or send my son back into depression resulting in the 's' word again.
That is my biggest fear in life.