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.

Eight years on since Ben first fell sick with anorexia, I have changed massively. The world has changed, too. During this time we've experienced the recession. We lost our confidence in bankers and other professionals who we thought were rock-solid and dependable. In our family, our incomes took a nose-dive as a result of the recession and the eating disorder pretty much landing on us at the same time.

As a family we also lost our confidence in yet more professionals who we believed to be rock-solid and dependable: the medical professionals. The GPs (for not recognising Ben's emerging symptoms as an eating disorder, for not diagnosing him, for not referring him for treatment, indeed for not informing us that any treatment was available)... Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services for putting Ben on a stupendously long waiting list for treatment after taking ONE MONTH to get back to us after our GP was eventually persuaded to refer Ben for eating disorder treatment. And for my 26-month battle with CAMHS as my gut instinct as a mother screamed out that their treatment model (whatever it was, we never did find out) appeared to be causing more harm than good.

In early 2012 I lost my dad. The family house I'd grown up in was sold as my mum moved into a 'retirement apartment'. I lost that security that had always been there. It wasn't perfect, but our family life (and especially my dad) was always rock solid and dependable.

Then, a couple of months later I lost my new best friend, Sue, to breast cancer.

So who was I before the eating disorder and recession struck?

The pre-eating disorder me was optimistic. My freelancing business was going from strength to strength. My son, Ben, was going from strength to strength at school and in life in general. Everything felt secure and dependable. As a family we felt that we'd got things just as we wanted them to be. All three of us - my husband Paul, Ben and me - were happy and content. And meanwhile the wider family - my mum and dad, and my sister - continued to live life as they'd always done.

And then, gradually over the first eight months or so of 2009, everything changed.

It was to be a complete paradigm shift across virtually every area of our lives.

That established sense of security and dependability evaporated and in its place was an illness that I quickly discovered had the potential to kill my teenage son and destroy us as a family.

Once you've been through something like a serious, deadly eating disorder, or indeed any other prolonged trauma experience, things can never be the same again.

So even if I wanted to 'pick up where I left off' eight years ago, I wouldn't be able to. The world has moved on and so have we.

Actually, you know, I don't think I want to be that pre-eating disorder, pre-C-PTSD person again. I've changed massively. I've discarded all the skin-deep unimportant stuff. For the past eight years I've been focusing almost exclusively on what really matters in life.

So it's going to be a case of pick'n'mix, of working out which parts of me I want to take into a post-eating disorder, post-PTSD life and discarding the rest, just as you would with trash you no longer need or old clothes you'd take to a charity shop.

I like to think of it as a kind of 'adventure', not a 'journey'. An exploration of who I really am rather than desperately trying to work out if I'm anyone at all.

Exploring new places
Much like my regular cycle rides, discovering who I am and where I go from here is an exploration - like trying out new lanes and routes, climbing new hills, enjoying new views from the top, taking in the sights, scents and sounds of the British countryside as I cycle from A to B. But also accepting that, along the way, I may find myself cycling along some muddy tracks when the road might have been a better option - or the 'stunning view' from the top turns out to be of five ugly power stations belching out steam (like it was the other Sunday!!)

Rough with the smooth and all that...

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