One of the most difficult problems to fix with my son's eating disorder was his social life and skills. Right from the start - that summer of 2009 when his emerging eating disorder began to be more evident - he had isolated himself from his friends. The boy who'd been so popular and whose birthday parties had to be held in shifts he had so many friends, became friendless and alone. As his anorexia got worse, he couldn't even bear to be in the same room as his peers. Basically, his eating disorder took over his life; there was no room inside his head for friends.
Ben's social life was very difficult to fix. Although he dipped in and out of school and friends get-togethers in the sixth form, he was never really part of that group ever again.
It wasn't until his second year at university that he really began to re-establish himself as part of a strong social group, both here in his home town and at university.
He's made his new friends through his passion for nerdy stuff like RPG (Role Playing Games) and fantasy tabletop war games such as Warhammer. Being a prominent member of the university RPG society, he got to know a ton of boys who shared the same interests as him. Last year he shared a house with four of these friends; this year he's living with three of them in a typical student terraced house where the living room is wall-to-wall nerdy stuff: board and card games piled high, lists of who's won what blu-tacked to the wall, nerdy posters of fantasy sci-fi things and so on.
It's a weird world, but one that - as a parent - I'd far rather have than a house full of students who go out and party late / get drunk all the time. Ben doesn't drink and all the boys seem to prefer an evening's nerdy talk around a Star Wars board game than sitting in a pub.
Take last Thursday for example. I was in Ben's living room waiting to take him home for the weekend. Meanwhile Ben and his three nerdy housemates 'talked shop' about goblins, dwarfs, space creatures, monsters, beasts and goodness only knows what else. It was a language that I didn't understand. But they all seemed happy enough - and that's what it's all about.
I remember the days when, as Ben battled to get through his eating disorder, he'd worry that he'd never find friends with the same interests and that he'd be solitary forever. But he has found friends. good friends - both here in our home city and away at university.
CLICK HERE to read 'The 12 days of (ED) Christmas' - a series of posts from Christmas 2011 which talk about the nightmare of living with a young person with an eating disorder (PDF)