Friday 29 December 2017

When your concerns that your son or daughter is developing an eating disorder aren't being taken seriously

The thing is, we parents are unique. We know our son or daughter better than anyone else in the universe. We have lived with them since the day they were born, and for the nine months beforehand. We have watched them develop and change at every stage of their young lives. So if things start to go wrong and the alarm bells begin to ring inside our heads, our unique sixth sense picks up on it and we begin to worry.

Thursday 28 December 2017

Shaking hands with his old school teachers / rugby coaches

Last year I didn't do anything on Christmas Eve; I was in the throes of a C-PTSD attack. But this year Ben and I actually made it to the annual carol service which is held in the school chapel every Christmas Eve. We've attended it every year since 2005 (except for last year and one year when it was cancelled due to snow), even through the eating disorder years. This year was the first time, since the terrible Christmas of 2009 (when Ben was roller coasting into anorexia), that I haven't felt triggered in some way.

Tuesday 26 December 2017

"Is today proving that I'm fully recovered from the eating disorder?" said Ben on Christmas Day

"Is today proving that I'm fully recovered from the eating disorder?" said Ben yesterday (Christmas Day) evening. I gave him a massive hug in a response. Really and truly if you had been a fly on the wall yesterday, nothing in Ben's behaviour would have hinted at any history of anorexia. Ben enthusiastically devoured more than one helping of Christmas dinner followed by a couple of helpings of Christmas pudding, white sauce and Christmas ice cream - and continued to snack for the rest of the day.

'Twas the night after Christmas and all through Bev's head, everything was stirring and about to kick off big-style... Delayed PTSD panic attacks after Christmas.

I know from experience that Christmas / the Holidays can be a tricky time for parents of young people with eating disorders and so I very much hope that the eating disorder didn't interfere too much with your festivities. I know how distressing it can be to watch the world going on around you, preparing for Christmas just like any other year, while, inside the house, the eating disorder is running riot. I was "there" at Christmas 2009, 2010, 2011 and, to some extent, 2012.

Following those years I've battled with my own demons at Christmas thanks to C-PTSD (Complex / Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The worst C-PTSD Christmas attack was last year when I couldn't do anything. No cards, no carols, no Christmas Eve carol service and - if I hadn't made myself get out of bed and "just get on with it" - no Christmas Day. The 2016 C-PTSD attack took me by complete surprise and just goes to show how you can't always control what the body / brain needs to do.

Sunday 24 December 2017

What a contrast to the solitary eating disorder years...

Late yesterday evening we finally managed to pin Ben down to give him his birthday presents! Ben was 24 yesterday and had spent the past 24+ hours partying with his friends, both old and new. After dropping off the final friend at their house, he popped into the supermarket and returned with a feast of party food which we ate together in front of the fire and TV after handing Ben his birthday presents.

Friday 22 December 2017

Mourning the "lost years"...

Ben feels a deep, deep sadness at the way the anorexia stole so many years out of his life - and out of our lives, too. There's a real sense of mourning the "lost years": the years from 2009 onwards. He hates the way the eating disorder isolated him from his friends and all the fun things he could have done during those last three years at school. Although he still sees his old school friends on occasions (like tonight, for instance), it's nothing like it used to be, with Ben at the centre of things. He still feels that his friends treat him as "different" and he hates this.

"I should have been able to fix the anorexia" Ben said yesterday

I was just about to cancel Christmas due to the all-pervading sense of gloom in our household when Ben walked into the room and began to talk about what's been bothering him. Yes, he suffers from depression (we already know that and he's on a low dose of anti-depressants) and we also wonder whether he may have PTSD. After all, why wouldn't he suffer from it? He went through the prolonged trauma just like we did. However we've both decided to wait for an official diagnosis and then take it from there. He has agreed to do whatever is required to help him manage it, whether that's medication or therapy - or a combination of the two.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Hopefully things will move in the right direction

Yesterday Ben self-referred himself to our local NHS mental health team - I'd told him that he needs to get properly and accurately diagnosed so that he can seek the right help, whether that's medication or therapy. Although, as I said before, there are still sticking points with Ben's reluctance to give up calorie counting and insistence on going for diet meals on the (rare) occasions we don't cook at home. But I do believe that he isn't going backwards as far as the eating disorder goes. I believe that the other mental health issues (Aspergers? PTSD? Bi-Polar?) are separate problems. Having said that, I am keeping my eye firmly on the ball.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

The questions I don't have the answer to. Do you?

What constitutes full and absolute recovery from an eating disorder? Can anyone ever fully recover from anorexia without the risk of relapse? How many "recovered" individuals still count calories and control their food intake, albeit while eating enough to put on weight and / or maintain? Can anyone ever lose the fear of "getting fat", especially if they continue to put on weight? Can anyone ever be shot of the so-called co-morbid mental health issues like depression, Aspergers, bi-polar and so on? Is there anyone on this planet who is completely symptom-free of any of these things? And, if so, is that what constitutes full recovery from anorexia? Should we never be talking about "recovery" from anorexia, rather "remission"?

A bit of a tricky one, this...

For so very long I claimed that my son was anything ranging from 95% to 99.99% recovered from the eating disorder that emerged in 2009, was treated between 2010 and 2012, and then self-managed from then onwards after discarding various private therapists. Or even that my son was / is "in remission".

Two meltdowns in one day...

Ben was in a heck of a mood all of yesterday - a true 'downer'. The first meltdown was at lunchtime and the second in the evening. I didn't even mention the diet meal from the weekend until part-way through what ended up as a shouting match between him and me. He insisted the diet meal choice wasn't anything to do with any of this. (I'll put that into the 'pending' file inside my head for now as there's only so much I can deal with at once...)

Monday 18 December 2017

Good news / Bad news... why I've got mixed feelings this Monday morning

First the Good News... Before the anorexia hijacked my son's life, Ben was at the centre of a fabulous circle of friends. Ben's birthday is in December and he'd get his friends round for a two-night sleepover with food and a cinema trip squeezed in between. It was a two-night event because Ben had so many friends that we simply couldn't get them all into his room. So half would come on the Friday night and swap with the other half for the Saturday night.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Is this blog actually of any use in the wider scheme of things, I wonder...

Ever get the feeling that you are a tiny drop in a massive ocean? Yesterday, while I was trawling around the internet for the latest news on eating disorders, it suddenly hit me that - year upon year - we read reports about avoidable failures in eating disorder treatment, promised funding that never seems to materialise at grass roots level, failures of governments to take eating disorders seriously, media interest in eating disorders at times like Eating Disorders Awareness Week but at no other time, and - worst of all - deaths that should never have been allowed to happen.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Talking with other parents that 'get it' is so helpful and reassuring, in this case our battles with C-PTSD

Yesterday I met up with a dear friend who I originally 'met' through this blog. Like me, she had a teen with anorexia, and her experience of an eating disorder in the family was very similar to mine. So we hit it off right away when we initially corresponded by email and, later, met up in person.

My son and her daughter are now thankfully in remission from anorexia ('remission' or 'recovery'? I feel like it's tempting fate to say 'recovery'...) - and now our experiences are overlapping again. We are both suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) as the result of those years of battling to get our children through their eating disorder.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

In this day and age there is no reason for any GP NOT to recognise the signs of an eating disorder

From having spoken to other families, it seems that it's a case of 'luck of the draw' as to whether you see a GP that understands eating disorders or a GP that doesn't. This report from the Independent newspaper backs up this assumption.

When I took my son to be diagnosed back in Autumn 2009, the GP didn't recognise the signs of an eating disorder. While putting together my book Anorexia came to visit - Families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives, I did my own research about GPs and eating disorders. Our local GP said she "probably had two lectures" on mental health and eating disorders as a medical student. Another medical student specialising in psychiatry was surprised to learn that males get eating disorders. And a representative from the RCGP told me that: "Currently only around 50-per-cent of doctors-in-training for general practice have an opportunity to undertake specialist-led mental health or in child health training placements".

Monday 11 December 2017

The podcast that every GP needs to listen to. Full. Stop.

Dr Erin Parks of the UC San Diego Eating Disorder Center (recognised as a global centre of excellent in eating disorder treatment and research) has produced a podcast that every GP needs to listen to - or indeed anyone who wants to know the truth about eating disorders, including the estimated percentage of males suffering from eating disorders in the 21st century.

Saturday 9 December 2017

Turning stuff on its head, the "myth of motivation in adolescent eating disorder recovery"

I clicked onto this article today and it made me laugh in a kind of grim ironic sort of way. The author talks about "how I’ve sat with many worried parents, desperate to do what is right for their adolescent child, who say, 'I really want her to get help, but it’s just not the right time. She has to want to get better.'". It goes on to explain why parents need to learn that eating disorders are serious brain illnesses and the reasons why none of us can simply can't wait for them to "want to get better". Indeed why, waiting for them to "want to recover" is a dangerous myth.

Friday 8 December 2017

A catalogue of disgraceful and avoidable failings that led to this tragic outcome

My mum pointed out this newspaper report today about a teen who was "left to starve in her university flat". Yet again we have what appears to be an avoidable death from a deadly illness - anorexia - that seems to have come about through a catalogue of failings by the NHS.

"Life stops until you eat," say the eating disorder experts

It was F.E.A.S.T., I think, that coined the excellent phrase: "Life stops until you eat" - a phrase which I've heard many, many times on the F.E.A.S.T. forum, Around The Dinner Table, when it comes to getting your eating disordered child to eat. On Tuesday, the US-based Kartini Clinic's Dr Julie O'Toole blogged about the same topic. The topic talks about how to continue to get your child to eat and put on weight once they've been discharged from formal treatment for their eating disorder. In a nutshell, whenever they resist, you tell them that "Life stops until you eat". As Dr O'Toole says: "No friends, no going out, no cell phone, no parties, no car, no clothes shopping, no college visits. The first job is to nourish the body and all else comes after that." Indeed the focus of Family Based Therapy (FBT) as an evidenced-based model for the treatment of anorexia in adolescents is, first and foremost, "Life stops until you eat".

Thursday 7 December 2017

Trying to describe why this is Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder, and wondering what can be done about it...

Each of the therapists I had for my (what I assumed was and what was diagnosed as) PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) attempted to get me to believe and accept that my son's eating disorder, and all the horrors that came with it, was in the past. The idea was to 'process' the nightmarish memories so my brain began to accept that it was history and I could start to live a post-eating-disorder life free of nightmares, anxiety, fear, dread and all the other stuff that was causing nasty symptoms and making me feel 'strange' and 'trapped'.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Again, on the topic of PTSD, why PTSD therapy will never work for parents like us

I've been feeling frustrated that, after all the therapy sessions and treatment models I have received over the past few years for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I still feel the way I do. So I began googling and came across something called Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD).

Friday 1 December 2017

Sometimes I can talk or write about eating disorders and sometimes I can't...

It's funny how sometimes I can visit the Around The Dinner Table Forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders) and blog here, and sometimes I just can't. Sometimes I can talk about what we call 'the ED years' (the years my son was suffering from anorexia) and sometimes I just can't. And sometimes I can update my eating disorders website and sometimes I just can't.

Monday 20 November 2017

Just when I thought the PTSD had almost been fixed...

If you've been following this blog you'll know that I've had problems with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which began a few years ago. Last year I had 30+ sessions of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) therapy which helped a lot in that it 'processed' many of the memories of Ben's eating disorder years. That's not to say that I 'forgot' these memories, I could never do that, but what the EMDR did do was to let my brain realise that these events / memories are in the PAST and not in the PRESENT, making them a little less traumatic to deal with.

Sunday 19 November 2017

Two bits of news!

The first bit of news is that my new eating disorders website is up and running. I still need to do a few tweaks and add some more pages, but the 'look and feel' is there now. (I know I updated it a short while ago, but I wasn't happy with it, so I've given it a refresh as well as adding a security certificate for safer browsing.)

The second bit of news is that I've just returned from a weekend in Brighton where I met up with the other new Board members of the national charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too. A month or so ago I was invited to join as a Trustee.

Sunday 5 November 2017

What's making me jump for joy today?

Remember how the eating disorder stole my son's social life as well as so many other things in his life? Remember how, for a very, very long time, he was unable to go to school or meet up with his friends? How, gradually, the boy who'd been so popular became so very isolated and alone, so much so that on his 18th birthday in December 2011, he was virtually in tears because he was celebrating alone with just me and his dad?

Monday 30 October 2017

Why are some eating disorder treatment teams still using outdated treatment models?

I feel a mixture of anger, sadness and fear when, in the modern world, in 2017, I hear about advice that's being given to parents of young people with eating disorders that's so very out of date. Advice like we received eight years ago along the lines of 'Don't keep going on about food, it makes him/her anxious... it's not helpful to him/her'. Worse, for food to be pretty much taken off the agenda except for playing a small 'bit part' role in the background. Or, as we were told just before the Summer of Horror in 2010, to 'take a break from the eating disorder' for the duration of our two-week family vacation. Can you believe that?

Saturday 28 October 2017

It's vital that the parents get support when their child has an eating disorder

The other day I was having a discussion with a friend about how both of us had little or no support during the months and years that our children were suffering from anorexia. It was almost as if, as parents, it was our job to 'just get on with it'.

The fact that, outside the treatment room, we were having to deal with the hellish nightmare of an eating disorder in the family, hour in hour out, day in day out, month in month out, year in year out was pretty much ignored.

Monday 16 October 2017

Saturday night it was about catching trains, last night it was about exams... I still have high-anxiety nightmares

I have to catch a specific train but everything is preventing me from doing so: I'm at the wrong station, I haven't bought my ticket, there's a queue for tickets that's moving at a snail's pace, there's no information on platforms and no platform numbers, I'm waiting for people to catch me up... and so on and so forth... Or, like last night, I'm about to sit the most important exam of my life yet I haven't done any revision. I haven't even been to lessons. I know zero about the subject. There are other variations on the high-anxiety nightmare, but these are the two most common nightmares I've been having for the past eight years or so.

Sunday 15 October 2017

"Will my son always be stuck standing short of the 'finish line'?" I asked myself in September 2015

In September 2015 I was toying with the idea of writing a sequel to my book Please eat... A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia and I wrote this in the Diaro app:

The book will be about me 

Rather than my son. Mainly. How I coped (or didn't) with getting my life back. The blips we had, my worries about his weight and relapse. He is not the person he used to be and it's upsetting. But might he have been this person regardless?

Struggling to cope in a post-eating-disorder life? You are not alone...

Because I know I'm not alone in having struggled with serious trauma symptoms as our family emerged from the anorexia years, I've decided to write the occasional post about what I found myself going through from around 2015 onwards. It will be about the (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms and how I coped (or didn't cope) with them in the hope of helping other parents to identify with similar experiences. It will also be about other stuff that was going around in circles inside my head. Most importantly the aim will be to show you that you are not alone in feeling like this.

Back onto the subject of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder...

One thing my EMDR ( Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) therapist said at the start of treatment was that, as well as throwing up key memories of dealing with my son's often violent eating disorder, EMDR would probably bring old traumas back to mind. He was right - and I know I'm not the only (post-eating-disorder) mum who has experienced this.

It might be a traumatic birth experience (as it was with my son, Ben), the sudden death of a loved one, being in or witnessing a serious car accident or a myriad of other past traumas... whatever is lurking in the dark recesses of the mind, unprocessed, then it could come to light during the EMDR treatment.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Here's what my son, Ben, is saying on World Mental Health Day today

If you've not seen it yet, you live in the UK and you don't think it will trigger you, BBC3's recent drama Overshadowed, A vlogger's life spirals out of control. The reason? Her new “best friend” Anna. You can watch it here on BBC iPlayer.

This is a very real portrayal of what an eating disorder like Anorexia can be really like, written by a former sufferer who plays 'Anna' in the drama (the 'eating disorder voice').

The incident in the friend's bathroom is particularly reminiscent of our own experiences with Anorexia; it reminds me of the time when my son had his friends round for a sleepover on that first Christmas with the eating disorder in 2009. Something set him off and he came screaming downstairs in the middle of the night in a similar state to Imo in Episode 6.

Thursday 14 September 2017

What is FBT (Family Based Treatment) for eating disorders? What is the Maudsley Approach? Here's an excellent guide...

One of my fellow Around The Dinner Table parents has put together this excellent guide which explains what FBT (Family Based Treatment for eating disorders otherwise known as 'the Maudsley Approach') is all about. Many families have found this evidence-based eating disorders treatment model to be extremely effective. This parent has kindly allowed me to reproduce her guide here.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

"Me too!" - comments from parents, for parents, on F.E.A.S.T.'s 'Nourishing Words' blog

When a family finds itself facing a devastating eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia,it can be so reassuring to know that you're not in this alone: to read about other families' experiences, to discover what did and didn't work for them and, most important of all, to discover that young people can recover and go on to lead normal and fulfilled lives.

Friday 8 September 2017

University with an eating disorder? To take a gap year, or not?

It's that time of year again when young people are heading off to university. If you remember, my son headed off to Sheffield University in September 2012, six months after being discharged from eating disorder treatment. The CAMHS nurse said she "couldn't see any reason why he wouldn't be ready to go to university in September". Me, well I was a bit less sure. And in the event, as  you may remember if you've been following my blog, Ben lasted two or three days before he was back home for an impromptu 'gap' year. Here's an edited version of something I wrote on the Around The Dinner Table forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders) about that gap year and why it was a Good Decision for my son.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Are you a parent or carer? Are you new to the world of eating disorders?

Whether it happens suddenly or gradually, realising that your son or daughter has an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia is devastating. At a time when you're desperately seeking help for your child and wondering how you can help as a parent, you're also faced with a massive learning curve - because, unless you've experienced an eating disorder before, the world of eating disorders is probably about as far off your radar as you can get. Just like it was for us.

Monday 4 September 2017

And on a lighter note... What's Ben up to at the moment?

Well, one thing my son Ben ISN'T up to at the moment is starting the post-graduate teacher training course (PGCE) which he was to have begun this week. Basically, he's spend the entire summer working on his Master's Degree dissertation which has to be submitted on Wednesday. He's put a heck of a lot of work into this and, to be honest, the poor guy needs a bit of a breather. Also, because of the dissertation, he's not been able to prepare for the PGCE in any way. So it made sense to postpone it.

To exercise or not to exercise? The dangers are real...

Having posted two posts about the problems we had with compulsive exercising when my son was suffering from anorexia - and having read through Dr Julie O'Toole's excellent article about the dangers of exercising with anorexia - I must add that, yes, there is a real danger that exercising can kill. There is no easy way to say this: eating disorders do kill and one of the biggest killers is heart failure. And we should know... My son ended up in hospital not once but twice with Bradycardia (abnormally slow pulse). So, knowing the potential dangers, why did we allow him to continue to exercise?

I've just been reminded of this wonderful poem my son wrote following his recovery from the eating disorder

On the Around The Dinner Table forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders), some of us have been thinking about the way the eating disorder is like a separate entity to our sons or daughters. In our house we used to refer to the eating disorder as 'the anorexia demon', 'the demon ED [eating disorder]' or 'the ED voice'. It reminded me of this poem which my son wrote following his recovery from anorexia; the poem is aimed at 'the ED voice'...

An extract from my book about my son's addiction to exercise

While I'm on the subject of controlling an exercise addiction as part of an eating disorder, here's an extract from my book Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia which describes the extent of my son's addiction to exercise (during his struggle with an eating disorder).

Controlling an exercise addiction as part of an eating disorder

Eating disorders in boys (and girls) aren't just about cutting back on food; there can also be a host of other issues - and one of the big issues that many families face is an addiction to exercise which can be punishingly difficult to fix.

With my son, Ben, exercise acted as a kind of purge - not unlike Bulimia with its vomiting / laxative purging. He felt the need to micro-manage input and output: whatever went in (food and drink) had to come out in the form of exercise. Often entire days (and nights) could be centred upon input, output, without any room inside his head for anything else.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Eating disorder recovery? Is your child 'stuck'? Do they need something to nudge them forward? This solution worked for us, so it might just work for you...

Recently a mother emailed to ask if I had any tips for what to do when your child is 'stuck'. Your child has got 'so far' in their eating disorder recovery but - for some reason - have found themselves 'treading water', unable to move forward. Here's an edited version of my reply, in case your son or daughter is 'stuck' and needs encouragement to continue to move in the right direction towards eating disorder recovery.

Friday 25 August 2017

UK waiting times for eating disorder treatment are getting worse, not better, according to The Times

"In Coventry and Warwickshire, which had the longest waiting times, patients waited on average for 14 weeks last year to see a specialist... despite extra money from the government to cut waiting times", says this article in today's Times newspaper. The Times also discovered that "Some trusts were still using BMI readings to decide whether to accept a patient for specialist treatment, despite Nice saying that they should not after criticism that this risks turning people away because they are not thin enough".

Wednesday 23 August 2017

My son's MA dissertation is almost complete!

Over the past few years I have been astonished and impressed at how my son, Ben, has knuckled down to studying and organising his time like a true pro. For someone for whom anxiety was a massive issue during his eating disorder, Ben sailed through three years of undergraduate degree, course work, dissertation and exams followed by 12 months of a master's degree, course work and now a dissertation that he's been working on flat-out and diligently over the summer break to be handed in (hopefully!!) next Friday.

I really, really want to write a sequel to my book 'Please eat...' but I just can't...

It's been on my 'to do' list for some time now. After all, it's been four years since I published the story of my son's struggle with and recovery from anorexia: Please eat... But every time I decide that, yes, this is the day I'll start work on the sequel, I open up the folder I've created on my PC, have a quick read of the final chapter and epilogue (written in 2014) of Please eat... and quickly close it again.

I just can't do it. It seems 'too big'. When I think of the work I put into Please eat, I just go into panic mode at the thought of doing it all again. Even though, of course, the sequel will be largely positive stuff except, probably, my own emerging issues with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress  Disorder (C-PTSD). This is probably why I can't face it yet. Writing my blog is far simpler and 'do-able', as is responding to parents' issues on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders).

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Son or daughter about to leave for university or college? Worried about how they will cope? Links to my blog posts about my son's experience at university

I've put together some links to past blog posts which describe how my son got on at university. In a nutshell, my son went away to Sheffield University in 2012. He lasted 2 or 3 days before he was back home for an impromptu 'gap year'. One year later he made a second attempt which, despite a rocky first year, was a success. He is just completing his Master's Degree from the same university. So if your child is going away to university this September and you're a bit worried - or it doesn't work out - check out the links below to see what worked (and what didn't!) for us. Ultimately our story is a Very Positive One even though it starts off a bit negatively...

Monday 21 August 2017

The approach to eating disorder treatment in UK is changing - Good News!

Of course many CAMHS services here in the UK have changed the way they treat eating disorders in adolescents. My local CAMHS services is one of these. Outdated treatment models for eating disorders are being replaced with the latest evidence-based treatment with other treatment models available for young people for whom the Maudsley-inspired Family Based Treatment turns out to be unsuitable. This is fantastic news and whenever I hear about this I find myself wanting to shout: "See? I was right?!"

Saturday 19 August 2017

"I am only a mum" - but, wow, the power of that role in eating disorder treatment!!

Commenting on fellow mum Jen's guest post on Charlotte Bevan's CharlottesChuntering blog about some eating disorder professionals viewing parents as 'interfering', Laura Collins (founder of FEAST and its forum: Around The Dinner Table) says (in relation to Jen's statement that she's 'only a mum', yet she knows more about eating disorders than some professionals):

"I am only a mum"

You are a mum, no "only" about it. It is the most important thing. Even with broken systems and loopholes -- and EVERYONE has those -- having parents who get it and know what they're dealing with is a greater power than all the authorities.

'Old' medicine versus 'new' medicine

Thinking about all that triangulation between me and CAMHS back in 2010-2012, I was wondering why on earth the treatment team wasn't up to speed with the latest developments in the world of eating disorders. And this goes for any treatment team that is still working with older treatment models and especially those eating disorder treatment models that view parents as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Still angry with CAMHS...

Reading through the Kartini Clinic blogs I find myself nodding my head at every click. I also find myself seething with anger (yet again) at the outdated way my son was treated for his eating disorder and the constant triangulation between the CAMHS treatment team and me, with my son 'siding' with whoever was more likely to allow his anorexia to flourish which was usually the treatment team.

Friday 18 August 2017

"How to Weigh an Eating Disordered Child or Teen" Blog by Dr Julie O'Toole of the Kartini Clinic - why our CAMHS team did none of this

I'm on the US Portland-based Kartini Clinic mailing list. I have a huge admiration for them - they speak such sense. Today they sent me a link to a blog post entitled "How to Weigh an Eating Disordered Child or Teen" by Dr Julie O'Toole.

When my son, Ben, was being treated by CAMHS (the UK-based Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) the weekly weighing session was always a huge problem. If Ben had put on weight then the entire therapy session would be spent fire-fighting his severe anxiety and panic. If he'd lost weight, then everything would run smoothly.

From reading various information on the Net and as a member of the Around The Dinner Table Forum for parents of young people with eating disorders, I had a gut feeling that my son should have been weighed differently. Dr O'Toole's blog post endorses my concerns - here are my comments on what she says:

Thursday 17 August 2017

"Does my son have an eating disorder?" Yes, I was asking myself that same question back in 2009...

"Is my son developing an eating disorder?" "Does my son have an eating disorder?" It's the question that many parents of boys ask themselves as they notice unusual behaviours in their son's eating habits, attitude towards food and, perhaps, an increased focus on exercise.

New diagnostic video from the Kartini Clinic featuring presentation of an 11 yo male with restricting anorexia

Morgan O'Toole, CEO of the excellent US (Portland) based Kartini Clinic, got in touch with me to send me this link to the first of a series of videos they are making about males with eating disorders.This particular video, presented by Dr Julie O'Toole, Kartini Clinic founder and Chief Medical Officer, is about how to recognise eating disorders in boys. Here's what they say in the description:

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Being triggered by the receptionist at the GPs' surgery

I think I know what triggered me yesterday. My 90-year old mum had been trying to call the GP all morning but (as usual) the line was constantly engaged. So I drove up there to see if my mum could see a GP ASAP.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

I still find visits to the GP triggering...

Every time I walk into our GPs' surgery, I get SO VERY ANGRY. Today I had to take my mum in to see a GP and - zap, pow! - my anger took off into the upper stratosphere.

Basking in some serious 'me time'

One thing I have learned in the aftermath of my son's eating disorder is to 'allow' time for myself. For so many years I focused on One Thing Exclusively: my son, and his recovery from anorexia. Then, as his recovery from anorexia began to come on leaps and bounds, I blogged like crazy here, wrote books, did talks and other stuff in the world of eating disorders.

Friday 4 August 2017

So what is my son, Ben, up to this summer?

I just thought I'd give you an update on how Ben (now aged 23) is getting on with life now that the eating disorder is well and truly behind him...

Digging around to find the 'raw me' as a foundation for my life from here onwards

The little girl who
was about to get ticked off
on her first day at school
When I was 10 or 11, I used to walk back from orchestra rehearsals on a Saturday morning (violin...) via Woolworths in the city centre. Woolworths was famous for its 'pick'n'mix' sweets (candy). I'd pick a bit of this, a bit of that until I had a bag full of my favourites. Beginning to reconstruct a post-trauma life uses a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) technique (from Rosenthal's book Your life after trauma) that's a bit like pick'n'mix.

This technique helps you to see the wider picture of who you really are, at the core. The 'raw you', if you like. And to home in on the characteristics you want to keep and discard those negative characteristics or thought processes that you don't - those traits that may have come about as part of the trauma, weren't true to the 'real you', are no longer relevant at this point in your life, were just downright destructive, and so on.

Thursday 3 August 2017

Do we parents really want to 'pick up where we left off' before the eating disorder struck?

A great view from the top
(see penultimate paragraph)
Most probably not. Or at least that's the case with me. My journey through my son's battle with anorexia stripped away all the cr@p and superficial stuff of life to allow me to draw on those 'core' resources that have always been part of me and to use them to get my son through the eating disorder. I threw aside all the clutter and trashy stuff, and what emerged was the real me because there simply wasn't any room in my life for anything that wasn't part-and-parcel of the core resources I needed to get my son well.

My 'negative trauma story' re-written into a 'positive trauma story'

One of the first exercises in Michele Rosenthal's workbook 'Your life after trauma - powerful practices to reclaim your lost identity' is to re-write / change your negative trauma story i.e. a short description of your current feelings about who you are as a result of going through the trauma (in our case the 24/7/365 stress of getting our son or daughter through an eating disorder). I jotted down my own version and it ended up looking something like this:

Are you, the parent, having a spot of bother with PTSD following the eating disorder?

I first mentioned PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) three-and-a-half years ago at the end of 2013 in this blog post from December 2013. And, as you'll know if you've been following my blog, I've been struggling with PTSD ever since. Or, more accurately, C-PTSD (Complex or Chronic PTSD - the result of lengthy exposure to trauma). I also know of other parents of young people with eating disorders that are currently struggling with trauma-like symptoms. As their son or daughter recovers from the eating disorder, they - the parents - find themselves debilitated with this confounded C-PTSD thing.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Eight years on it seems as if nothing has changed...

Last night's BBC Panorama programme was about men, boys and eating disorders. On the whole it was an excellent programme even though, for some unknown reason, they didn't mention the charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too. All the way through I found myself nodding my head. It all sounded so depressingly familiar: the typical symptoms, the lack of awareness from GPs and other medical professionals, BMIs still dictating access to treatment, long waiting lists while the patient gets even more sick, problems of accessing treatment for the 18+ age group, stock responses from NHS trusts that had failed patients, lack of Government investment, needless deaths... and the 'icing on the cake', Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt declining to appear on the programme to comment...

Monday 24 July 2017

A post from 21st June 2011 - disagreeing with the CAMHS treatment team

For a heck of a lot of time during my son Ben's treatment for anorexia, I was at loggerheads with the treatment team. They'd say one thing and my gut instinct (plus everything I was reading and hearing) said another. Since then I have never stopped believing that certain things that were said in front of my son were harmful. Here's a post I uploaded to this blog in June 2011, 16 months into Ben's treatment for anorexia.

Still the newspaper blog, this time disguising the real reason why my son was rushed to hospital...

At the end of January 2010, my (now 16-year old) son, Ben, had been on the waiting list for eating disorder treatment for a while. His descent into anorexia had been rapid and, if you've read my book Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia you'll know that, at the end of January, he was rushed into hospital with a dangerously slow pulse rate of just 29 bpm. Meanwhile I was still attempting to write the light-hearted blog for that regional newspaper. So the following post disguises what was really going on and the sheer horror of it all (with notes in red made today).

Saturday 22 July 2017

Another post where I was blissfully unaware of what was happening...

Here's another post which I wrote for that newspaper back in the summer of 2009 as I continued to be blissfully unaware that my son, Ben, was sinking into an eating disorder. Had I been aware that boys and men can get eating disorders, then the alarm bells might have been ringing, but it was a couple more months before they began to tinkle - purely and simply because I was completely ignorant of eating disorder symptoms, especially in boys. If you've read my book, Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia, you'll recognise some of this text which I adapted for one of the chapters.

Eight years ago my son was heading into an eating disorder, but I was blissfully unaware...

Eight years ago this summer, my 15-year old son, Ben, was beginning to descend into something that was way, way beyond anything that had ever entered my psyche; something worse than my worst nightmares. But of course I was blissfully unaware that he was developing a potentially deadly eating disorder: anorexia. What I was aware of, however, that Ben was getting increasingly fussy around food. Ben, who used to eat anything and everything, had suddenly become mega health-conscious and an expert on 'healthy' nutrition. He'd also developed a passion for cooking which, at the time, I applauded. I even found it amusing as can be seen from the following blog post which I wrote on the 22nd July 2009 (8 years ago today!!) as part of a series for a regional newspaper and which I was reminded of this afternoon as Ben pummelled the dough for pizza:

Thursday 20 July 2017

Processing anger - and the cardboard BMI calculating wheel

During the 18 weeks I was with Steve, my EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapist, we processed a ton of stuff relating to my son's eating disorder. (We picked out the key issues that were haunting / bugging me still in 2017 in the hope that, by focusing on these, other issues may get processed at the same time.) One of the major issues was anger. I mean, ANGER. Even A. N. G. .E. R. Anger at those in the medical profession who made my life more difficult as the parent of a teenage boy with anorexia and, I believe, may actually have prolonged my son's eating disorder.

Thinking about C-PTSD again... trying to make sense of it...

I thought I'd share something I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders). A while ago I started a thread aimed at parents like me who may be suffering from post-trauma-related symptoms after years of battling with our child's eating disorder. It seems I'm not alone in experiencing typical PTSD symptons (or, rather, C-PTSD - Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Other parents are struggling with this too. So here's what I wrote today (in the hope that it might strike a chord with someone and help in some way):

Saturday 15 July 2017

In many ways I've fixed the PTSD but in other ways it's still very much around

It's not surprising, really, that some of us parents will find that the eating disorder comes back to haunt us in the guise of medical issues either with our body or with our mind. In his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, world trauma expert Dr Bessel van der Kolk talks about how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, "compromising sufferers' capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust".

News release going out to local press / media in Yorkshire

Leeds mum invited to join the board of national men's eating disorders charity

A Leeds mum who became a campaigner after her teenage son developed anorexia has been invited to join the Board of a national men's charity tackling eating disorders. Bev Mattocks Osborne, who spent several years fighting to get her son through anorexia is joining the charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too (MGEDT) as a Trustee. Men Get Eating Disorders Too was founded in 2008 by Sam Thomas as a response to the lack of awareness and adequate information and support for men and boys battling with an eating disorder.

Thursday 13 July 2017

Honoured to be invited to be a Trustee of the Men Get Eating Disorders Too charity

I've known Sam Thomas, founder of the charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too, for some time. We occasionally meet up at conferences and so on. Sam does an amazing job. Not only is he the founder of this incredible charity but he campaigns tirelessly across the country, on TV and radio and in the press to raise awareness of the fact that men get eating disorders. If there's a report about males and eating disorders, then the chances are that the reporter will be interviewing Sam!

Monday 10 July 2017

Lots of things to catch up on!

It's all been a bit quiet here recently. That's because I've been focusing on fixing the C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) which I've been battling with for at least 3 years. After several therapists and therapy models, both NHS and private, I do believe it's finally been fixed (fingers crossed, famous last words and all that...) 18 sessions with Steve, my excellent private PTSD therapist (using EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), seem to have worked wonders. Of course it's early days and I'm taking things slowly as I gradually rediscover who the heck I am after all this time and where I go from here. "Gradually" being the operative word. So more on this shortly...

Sunday 21 May 2017

"Unpleasant scenes at A&E......" - a post from 8th October 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

October 2010 was a pivotal moment in both the CAMHS eating disorder treatment and Ben's attitude towards recovery. But it began badly. One morning the (other) school nurse called me to say that Ben had fainted in the sixth form common room and his pulse was abnormally low (again). There followed a massive battle for me to get Ben to A&E because he refused to go, claiming he had faked the fainting.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Why I hate BMI as an indicator of the severity of an eating disorder - or even that an eating disorder exists in the first place

In my PTSD sessions we are going round and round in (necessary) circles as my head tries to process the issues I was having with CAMHS during the first 7 or 8 months of my son's eating disorder treatment. One of the main pictures I keep getting in my mind is of the CAMHS nurse twiddling her cardboard BMI (Body Mass Index) indicator wheel every week. For CAMHS, as with many medical professionals, BMI is still trusted as an indicator of healthy weight, despite the fact that - at a so-called 'healthy BMI' - an eating disorder can be raging.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Parent support: what helped us and what might help you

The ATDT forum
I've been thinking about the support that was available for parents when my son, Ben, was sick with anorexia - because I, like most parents, was desperate for help even if that help was just a sofa, a cuppa and a friendly ear. I really hope that there is more support these days because parents really shouldn't have to go through this distressing, confusing and life-changing experience alone.

It's approximately 8 years (spring / summer 2009) since Ben first began to display signs that I now know were relatively typical of a male descending into an eating disorder: anorexia, in his case.

Friday 12 May 2017

Notes from my meeting with CAMHS in September 2010

In September 2010, I requested a private meeting with the CAMHS psychiatrist. It had always been really tricky to pin down members of the CAMHS team outside of Ben's treatment sessions when he wasn't around. Usually it was a case of grabbing them for a few minutes as they were about to dash off. So I went along to this meeting armed with a clear list, agenda-style, of what I needed to talk about. I remember asking the psychiatrist how long we had, expecting her to say 20 or 30 minutes. When she said "an hour" I nearly danced with joy.

"Son back in school but still isolating himself..." - a post from 20th September 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

In September 2010, my son Ben went back to school after months of being at home - into the Lower Sixth Form. It wasn't a great success. The eating disorder was still raging. He found it difficult to handle the fact that he was "sitting around doing nothing" (i.e. not burning up so many calories). He found it difficult to integrate back into his friendship group and isolated himself by studying frantically in the library during breaks and free periods.

On top of this he wasn't sleeping. In fact insomnia became a major problem as the constant maths were going round and round inside his head: input, output, input, output. How much exercise would he have to squeeze in to work off whatever he'd eaten that day... And meanwhile, despite promises to hand back control of his food intake to me (constant promises throughout the whole of the summer), CAMHS simply weren't doing this.

"Still can't get son to eat enough..." - a post from 8th September 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

The summer of 2010 was a nightmare on so many fronts - and if you drew a straight line on his weight chart from the middle of May to the date I posted the following on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (8th September), you would see a steady drop in weight. With this came a deterioration of mood and behaviours yet CAMHS were insistent that Ben had arrived at a stage where he could manage his own food intake. In fact they were keen for him to do this right from the start.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

"Mum hatred, threats to run away, etc" - a post from 3rd August 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

The wonderful Charlotte Bevan
Just in case you're wondering who 'Charlotte' is... the mum I refer to in these early Around The Dinner Table Forum posts... she is, or rather was, the most amazing and supportive fellow-mum you could ever imagine. Before she passed away from breast cancer in January 2013, Charlotte Bevan supported many, many families, not just here in the UK but abroad, too. She was almost invariably the mum who popped up first with support, help, advice and a shoulder to cry on whenever new members to the ATDT forum posted for the very first time. She would also call us on the phone whenever we posted up an emergency cry for  help. On top of this Charlotte was constantly advocating for better treatment and a whole range of other things to help families facing an eating disorder. To find out more about Charlotte, click here to go to the post I wrote after hearing about her death, back in January 2013. Meanwhile, below is a post I wrote on the ATDT forum on the 3rd August 2010, during the 'summer from hell'.

Monday 8 May 2017

At the end of my tether in August 2010...

As the summer of 2010 went on I became more and more depressed, exhausted and frightened. We weren't having our regular CAMHS sessions as the treatment team were taking their own vacations. I was also having to rely on emails sent to the CAMHS secretaries if I had any concerns. Following our return from France, I sent the following message to CAMHS as a summary of where I felt things were heading.

"Holiday / vacation... and the eating disorder came too..." - a post from 2nd August 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

In early August we arrived back in the UK after the 'holiday from hell' in France and I posted the following on the Around The Dinner Table Forum. I'd been instructed not to talk about food; indeed to take a break from the eating disorder for the duration of the holiday. So every time I mentioned food Ben screamed these instructions at me. Yet right from the 'word go' we had serious issues starting off with a nightmare lunch at a pub en route to Portsmouth.

It was one heart-breaking experience after another culminating, on arrival at at our hired villa, an Almighty meltdown which resulted in my husband in tears threatening to return to the UK the following day. And so it went on... meltdowns... shouting... suicide threats...

"Screaming, shouting and bullying" - a post from 5th July 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

I was getting so very, very tired, feeling utterly powerless and my morale was at rock-bottom. At CAMHS I was being given the impression that Ben's eating disorder wasn't too bad yet the hours... days... weeks... months... I was spending with him at home was telling me something very different. Although my gut instinct screamed out for me to do something... to take action and insist that Ben eat... I was getting all these messages that I should be doing the exact opposite and taking a far more relaxed attitude about food: to trust Ben to be eating for himself and to shut up about food.

Hmn... feeling a little murderous... - a post from 1st July 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

In June 2010 we received the bombshell that our helpful dietitian was being withdrawn due to funding issues. Very quickly the shock turned to anger and I posted the following (edited) thread up on the Around The Dinner Table Forum. I'd hired a private dietitian to replace her. However I quickly realised my mistake; the private dietitian simply didn't have sufficient experience in dealing with eating disorders and, on top of this, CAMHS were cross with me for going behind their backs and doing this.

Meanwhile I was so very, very angry about everything as can be seen below. I was also panicking and desperate; it was as if no-one was listening to me or taking my concerns seriously. It also shows how difficult it was to contact the CAMHS team, relying on the secretaries to pass on messages which they didn't always do. (Please note that I've removed any reference to specific weights, BMIs or calories.)

Sunday 7 May 2017

Something's been bugging me all weekend...

Of course I can never, ever expect to read every fellow parent's blog about eating disorders. The same goes for any books they may publish or articles they may write. But I do know why I, and the other blogging mums who I know, do it. To raise awareness of eating disorders (in my case that boys get eating disorders) and to help other parents identify symptoms, get speedy help and to find support from other parents who've 'been there, got through it'.

No other reason. 

The animal instinct to 'protect our young' kicks in when we see our child suffering

I am not a scientist or a physician, but - as a mother of a boy who's been through and recovered from anorexia - I know what a punishingly difficult illness this is to treat successfully. I've read a ton of stuff over the last 8 years as well as attending eating disorder conferences, talking with eating disorder professionals and mixing with other parents who have been through an eating disorder in the family. What comes across clearly is that some treatment models work for some families whereas other models work for others. And some are more evidence-based than others, especially when it comes to treating adolescents with an eating disorder. So, to me, it's not rocket science that clinicians employ the evidence-based model first and if that isn't working, then try something else.

Friday 5 May 2017

Oh how I can feel the desperation, fear and helplessness I felt back then!! A post from 23rd June 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

This truly was the start of the hellish summer of 2010. My 16-year old son Ben was sliding downhill in both weight and mood. I felt increasingly gagged by CAMHS and under instructions to take a back seat, to not talk about food and to focus on things that were "helpful" to Ben instead.

It seemed as if it was very much Ben, CAMHS and the eating disorder versus me. The triangulation continued with my husband who was also taking sides. And much of this in-fighting was done in front of Ben. The eating disorder loved it!!

"De da de da de da... ED still going strong..." - a post from 14th June 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

By this point I was getting tired - as can be seen from the following thread which I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum. I'd arrived at the not-so-ideal stage of bribery and threats, mainly because I simply didn't know what to do. Sometimes I felt CAMHS was on my side while at other times I felt as if it was the CAMHS team, my son and the eating disorder ganging up against me.

Keeping your child safe when they're a danger to themselves

I wish I could say that when my son was under the control of the professionals (GP, CAMHS, the local hospital, etc) that I trusted them implicitly to keep him safe. But various things happened along the line that removed this trust. Then the other month I heard the tragic news about a friend's daughter who had been under the care of the professionals for her eating disorder yet had managed to take her own life. This week the media has been full of the equally tragic news of 15-year-old Pippa McManus (coincidentally a friend of a friend) who, just five days from being released from The Priory, threw herself under a train.

Thursday 4 May 2017

The urgent letter I emailed to CAMHS that morning

In an ideal world, I'd have picked up the phone first thing in the morning and talked to the CAMHS eating disorder treatment team. But we weren't allowed to call them direct; we had to send emails and hope that they'd get passed on. So I sent the following email and called the CAMHS receptionist with the urgent instruction to make sure our psychiatrist saw it right away. Thankfully she did and later that day we were sitting in front of her, as described in my previous blog post.

What happened that night...

On the 3rd June 2010 I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders). The subject was that the dietetic support had been withdrawn (from my son's eating disorder treatment) and you can read what I said in yesterday's blog post. That evening... or, rather, at some unearthly hour the following morning... I posted on the forum again. I was distraught because of what had happened earlier that night.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

"Dietitian axed from our CAMHS team" - a post from 3rd June 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

So, back in spring 2010, there we were with this triangulation going on - the dietitian appearing to say one thing and the rest of the CAMHS team saying another. Then on 3rd June I got a shock. Our CAMHS dietitian announced she'd been axed from the service. I burst out into tears in front of her! And when I got home I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (before writing letters of complaint to the NHS Commissioners who were unsympathetic).

Update on how the C-PTSD therapy is coming along (and Ben)

As you may know, I'm currently undergoing (private) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for the C-PTSD annoyance. So far, Steve, my therapist has been brilliant and everything is progressing OK. Generally I feel a lot better. The key word here is feel because, for so very many months (over a year... or longer!) I couldn't actually feel anything at all. It was as if my brain was numbed and I was simply going through the motions of just about everything in life that involves feelings (stunning walks by the sea, cycling in the beautiful countryside, being with friends and loved ones...). At the same time I was in panic mode, on a kind of 'red alert', which is sort of odd when coupled with numb feelings, but that's PTSD for you.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

"Pear-shaped and very, very messy" - a post from 16th May 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

A week after I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum about the ice-cream incident everything imploded. Ben was allowed to take back control over his eating with the caveat that if he lost weight, then I would take back control. Meanwhile there was a heck of a lot of triangulation going on with the dietitian appearing to say one thing and the rest of the CAMHS team saying another. On top of this I had my husband siding with CAMHS, so I really did feel like the Arch Baddy in the proceedings.

"Rebellion, actively cutting down" - a post from 10th May 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

This is a thread from 10th May 2010 which I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (which exists to support parents of young people with eating disorders). I desperately needed advice on how to get my son to eat as he'd arrived at the stage where 'Mum's Eating Plan' was about to be thrown out of the window. We really had done well, food-wise, up to this stage even though it had been really tricky. God only knows what I would have done without the support I found on the ATDT forum. I daren't even guess how things might have panned out... This thread also shows the roller coaster or cat-and-mouse nature of the eating disorder. Just when you think you're seeing progress it all goes t*ts-up again.

Monday 24 April 2017

"Fats phobia again..." - a post from April 21st 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

This is another thread from April 2010 which I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (which exists to support parents of young people with eating disorders), this time about my son's fear of fats, my increasing stress levels and despair, plus the fact that we couldn't take our eyes off him for a moment (see summary at end). It was just one nightmarish roller coaster and I have no idea how I managed to go on from day to day, not helped by a local GP who was completely disinterested in the fact that my son had anorexia nor the fact that we had large gaps between CAHMS sessions.

"The eating disorder fights back" - a second post from April 11th 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

Here is a second post from 11th April 2010 on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (which exists to support parents of young people with eating disorders). What this post demonstrates is the roller coaster nature of an eating disorder: one day things are HELLISH and yet the next there are chinks of light at the end of the tunnel followed by HELL again. It's a bit like a game of Cat and Mouse in that just when you think you're getting somewhere the eating disorder muscles in again and you're back where you started. It also demonstrates the similar roller coaster relationship that I had with the CAMHS team: one minute they were great and the next they were saying stuff that was potentially harmful. (Please note that, as with all these forum posts, I'm only posting my words, not those of the parents who responded, for confidentiality reasons.)

Friday 21 April 2017

"Any lunch suggestions? Run out of ideas!!" A post from April 11th 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

What follows is a short thread I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in early April 2010 asking the question: "Any lunch suggestions? Run out of ideas!!" Unsurprisingly I was finding it mega difficult to get my son to eat using Eating Plan 6 which CAMHS had given me. It was full of all kinds of stuff that he wouldn't have touched with a barge pole: sponge pudding, custard, butter, cheese... The only things I could get him to eat were from his minuscule list of 'healthy' foods like diet this and that, vegetables and fruit. As a result, getting my son to eat enough calories meant getting him to eat a HUGE VOLUME of this low calorie stuff and by the 11th April, around 4 or 5 weeks into CAMHS treatment for his eating disorder, I had run out of ideas.

"Nearly at target weight but mindset is way off... what now?" My 3rd post from March 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

One of the first things I did, when we found ourselves sitting in front of our local CAMHS team all those months into my son's escalating anorexia, was to ask if we'd be given an Eating Plan. This was met with some surprise, but in the end the nurse rooted around in her briefcase and pulled out a 'typical eating plan'. It was entitled Eating Plan 6 (I've no idea how it differed from numbers 1 - 5). Rightly or wrongly, yet desperate for my son to put on weight, I embraced Eating Plan 6 with a vengeance and did my best to implement it. But without any support, indeed CAMHS were quite resistant to what became known as 'Mum's Eating Plan', it was never going to work. My son refused to eat anything on the Plan, so I found myself having to tweak Eating Plan 6 considerably. But I did manage to get some weight onto my son during those early months with CAMHS. In late March 2009, I posted the following on the Around The Dinner Table Forum, asking the question: Nearly at target weight but mindset is way off... what now?

But if you don't have the cash, then what's the point of raising awareness about adult mental health?

Earlier this year I sat down in front of my NHS EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist (for my Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress) only to be told that we had just THREE SESSIONS left. And you know what? I was LUCKY that I'd been offered TWENTY sessions in total; very soon the NHS would CUT these to just SIXTEEN. I was also DOUBLY LUCKY because I'd had a large number of other sessions prior to this - a mix of CBT and psychotherapy (which obviously didn't work, hence why I was undergoing EMDR).

Thursday 20 April 2017

For all the battle-weary parents out there...

We've been having a discussion on the Around The Dinner Table Forum about how some of us parents are getting along in a 'post eating disorder world' i.e. when our child is either recovered or almost recovered. Most of us have been left with a brain that's pretty frazzled to say the least and we've been wondering how this compares to others who have been through trauma whether another serious and possibly life-threatening illness in the family or something equally as traumatic.

Refeeding: calories or portion sizes? My second post from March 2010 on the ATDT forum for parents.

During those early weeks of CAMHS treatment for my son's eating disorder, I clashed with his therapists quite a few times on food-related things. One of these things was: Do we do calories or do we do portion sizes? The general rule was that we should do portion sizes but the trouble was that my son's food intake was super-low in calories i.e. virtually just salad or vegetables. So a portion of that kind of thing was, in my opinion, going to do naff all when it came to putting on weight. Quite the reverse, in fact. This is why my gut instinct told me to go for calories. This way I could be sure that he was eating enough. Or, at least that was the case as long as I was allowed to take control of his food intake. As soon as this control was passed over to him (as happened just a few months into treatment), his calorie intake went downhill. But that's another story. Here is my second post on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in March 2009 which asked the question: Re feeding: calories or portion sizes?

More from that first ATDT post seeking support and advice from other parents

From the very first moment I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in March 2009 I realised I'd found the support I'd been craving for so many, many months. After feeling completely alone and isolated in having to deal with a teenage child with an eating disorder, I finally felt that I was amongst friends. True friends. Real, caring parents who 'got' what it was like to live with an eating disorder in the home 24.7.365. I am posting some of these threads here in the hope that they may help other parents who've just embarked on this nightmarish journey, show them that they are not alone and lead them to the support they need on this wonderful forum. Here is the rest of that first cry for help on 9th March 2009, edited slightly for length:

Wednesday 19 April 2017

More from that ATDT first post in March 2010

When I uploaded that first post on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in March 2009 I was astonished at the incredible response I got from other parents who had 'been there, done it' or where 'still in there, but doing it' - from the UK and across the English speaking world. I finally felt that I had the support I craved and was amongst people who 'got it'. If you are a parent of a young person with an eating disorder I can't recommend this forum highly enough. It was a true life-saver for me. Here are a few of my responses to the replies I received following that first cry for help on 9th March 2009:

9th March 2010: my first post on the Around The Dinner Table forum

If you're going through the hell of being a parent of a young person with an eating disorder, and especially a boy with anorexia, you might be able to identify with my posts  on the Around The Dinner Table forum. This is my first post from 9th March 2010:

The life-saving forum that I joined back in March 2010

The Around The Dinner Table Forum is an amazing forum for parents of young peope with eating disorders. In case you haven't discovered it yet, here's what its founder, Laura Collins, said in the Introduction to my second book When Anorexia Came to Visit about the F.E.A.S.T. community and its online forum Around The Dinner Table (ATDT):

EMDR therapy: what we're working on at the moment

I'm receiving private EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy for the Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and we're gradually working our way through things that trigger it off. Over the past three weeks it's been flashbacks to various CAMHS sessions when things were said and done that, in my opinion, made my 16-year old son's eating disorder worse, not better. Amongst the strongest memories are those of the early CAMHS sessions which began 4 or 5 months after I first took my son to see our GP. Back then, CAMHS didn't seem to think the eating disorder was too bad. Ben was acting as if nothing was wrong and that it was just fussy, anxious mum worrying in the way mums do. He also looked pretty OK in their eyes (except they hadn't seen him as a big, burly rugby player).

Sue, who always had time for me, just to listen, with a coffee and some cake

Someone posed the question after sharing this article on Facebook: What are GOOD things to say? What would you like to hear other than 'cuppa?' Which immediately brought back memories of my wonderful friend, Sue, who was always there for me during the dark days of my son's eating disorder. Sue, who lost her life to breast cancer five years ago (is it really five years?), who would willingly lend an ear over a coffee and cake. Just after she died, I wrote the following at a writers' workshop in an attempt to describe what Sue was like which I haven't posted online until now:

The Catch 22 situation of being a parent in a post-eating-disorder world

I know what parents who are still going through the hell of an eating disorder might say: "Think yourself chuffing lucky, Bev, that you're through this. I'd give my right arm to be shot of this deadly thing that's hi-jacked our family." But for those parents out there who are stuck in my situation, I'd like to describe a little of what's been going on inside my head.

Saturday 1 April 2017

For anyone wondering how Ben is getting along

Yes he is disappointed about the teacher training interview, but he's dealing with it brilliantly. In between the huge amount of studying he is doing for his Master's Degree he's keeping an eye out for job opportunities. He has also submitted an application to UCAS for various teacher training opportunities whether in-school training or the more traditional college route.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Such rotten, bad, bad luck - the chance of a lifetime missed because of internet failure!

Initially, once he's finished his Master's Degree in Medieval History, Ben wanted to do a PhD and so he could teach at a university. But the fees are too high. However the other week he met up with his old history teacher from school for a coffee. She told him about a new scheme available at some UK independent schools where you can train to teach on the job - a bit like the Government's Teach First scheme, but at a private school (with potentially less disruptive pupils). And - excitement, excitement - the other week The Dream Job came up: the chance to train as a history teacher at his old school! Wow and super-wow!!

Thursday 23 March 2017

"I no longer have to dread the calls in the middle of the night saying she is in hospital again after another overdose"

I hope she won't mind me saying it but I am in awe of Rosie Flett's mother, Kirsten, at the selflessness she is showing at this terrible and tragic time, always with thoughts of others in mind, keen to raise awareness of the devastating effect that an eating disorder can have on a family.

Kirsten has paid the highest possible price. She has lost her much-loved and beautiful daughter. She has received the news that every parent dreads - and, despite having to face the unthinkable, Kirsten wants to do her very best to prevent this happening to other families by speaking out.

Parents of eating disorder victims - the Biggest Fear of All

As you know I'm having EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapy for my Complex Post Traumatic Stress (C-PTSD). Unfortunately I've had to go private as the NHS is only permitted to offer 16 or so sessions and if you're not recovered in that time, then... well... to put it bluntly... you're out on your ear. Yesterday I came to the session with a whole raft of triggers that had occurred since the last time I was there (a fortnight before). Initially after our last session I'd felt elated and light - as if a great big thick cloud had been lifted and the sun had started to come in. I really felt that this was it: the EMDR was working - it was a miracle!

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Time to end mental health stigma

Following on from Rosie Flett's tragic death I pledged to blog here as regularly as I can to continue to raise awareness of eating disorders and mental health. To reinforce this pledge I 'made it public', if you like, on the Department of Health, Lottery and Comic Relief funded Time To Change website which is building a wall of pledges from people committed to ending mental health stigma. (If you haven't done so already, can I suggest that you make a pledge of some sort too?)

Friday 17 March 2017

A heartbreakingly powerful message about mental health

I never met Rosie, but I did meet her mother - at an eating disorders conference in London where I was giving a talk a couple of years back. I first 'met' Rosie's mother through the Around The Dinner Table Forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders) when I joined in March 2010. She was one of the first UK mums that rushed in to offer support and show that other parents were going through what we were going through as 'newbies' in the world of parenting a young person with an eating disorder. It was only later that I learned of her own struggles with ill health and other problems while battling to get her beautiful daughter successfully treated for her eating disorder.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Can I make a request please? Can anyone who has bought my book and found it helpful please post a review on Amazon?

I don't make a fortune from my books on eating disorders, the most important of which is the account of our story: Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia which was published in 2013. In fact when you take into account the number of books I've given away for free and any royalties I give to charity, I barely break even. So...

The truth about what it's like to live with an eating disorder like anorexia

It's the end of Eating Disorders Awareness Week and earlier in the week one of my friend's daughters courageously wrote about what it's really like to live with an eating disorder like anorexia. I have her permission to share it with you below. Meanwhile I would like to thank this brave young woman for speaking out about something that was obviously very difficult for her to put into words, but she has done it admirably:

Wednesday 8 February 2017

When the mental health professionals let you and your child down

On Monday I flicked on the TV and began to watch BBC's Panorama - Revealed: Britain's Mental Health Crisis which was about "the troubled state of NHS mental health services", the "deteriorating national picture for mental health care funding" and "new figures that show a shocking increase in unexpected deaths of mental health patients".

Monday 6 February 2017

Why standard relaxation techniques are simply sticking plasters

I am so thankful for the friendship and support I have from friends and family. Last week my mum gave me a book entitled 'Quiet Moments', others have recommended hypnotherapy, mindfulness and meditation. While these activities can kind of help someone get a rest from the incessant vice-like grip of fear that is a key symptom of C-PTSD, they are more of a sticking plaster / band aid. This might be why, the other night, one of my regular nightmares was about me trying to cover up a huge wound with the smallest sticking plasters / band aids you have ever seen.

Should I be blogging about C-PTSD in a blog specifically dedicated to eating disorders in boys and young men?

Yes of course I should be for the simple reason that the latter was caused by the former - the 24/7 of caring for my son as he plummeted into and slowly emerged out of his eating disorder - anorexia - between summer 2009 (when it first became evident to me) and, probably, right up to the end of his first year at university in 2014/15 (when things began to improve quite considerably). The worst period was an 18-month stretch between October/November 2009 and Easter 2011 (when Ben and I began to implement our 'contract' which helped to turn things around). For nigh on 18 months on a daily basis... on an hourly basis... on a minute basis... I was -