Sunday 15 October 2017

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.

I have a theory (and it has evidence to back it up) that it's like a jar of stuff. Each trauma adds to the contents of the jar and then we're faced with the months or years of battling with our child's eating disorder, 24/7/365, all of which is crammed into this jar until - BOOM! - it explodes and the 'jar' (our mind) is all over the place like some kind of den of writhing snakes.

And we begin to suffer from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

EMDR as an evidence-based treatment for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder does work although, at the start, I wasn't convinced. All that finger moving in front of my eyes seemed like a load of mumbo-jumbo rubbish.

But it does work.

What it doesn't do, in my experience, is to completely eradicate all the traumatic memories. But, then, you wouldn't expect it to. You are hardly likely to forget several years of 24/7 trauma!

But what it does appear to do is to sort out the jumbley mess in your head and begin to compartmentalise it all. Like on one of those TV shows where the cleaners move in on a chaotic house and leave it clean and tidy as a new pin.

Well, maybe not as dramatic as that. In my experience there is still a lot of stuff going on, but it's not as 'messy' and 'front of mind' as it was at its worst.

And there are experiences that I kind of don't want to process. A prime example would be my anger at CAMHS for some of the things they did and said that were damaging to my son and his recovery from anorexia. And the NHS in general: all the stuff I go on about ad infinitum on this blog about the GP not recognising a blossoming eating disorder when it was staring him in the face, the length of time it took to get Ben referred and into treatment plus the sheer lack of empathy shown by the NHS and the fact that no-one seemed to care.

That 'drawer' of stuff is still very much at the front of my mind.

I was chatting to another mum recently and we both agreed that it's as if we don't want to file away certain memories, almost as if by doing so we would be belittling the whole eating disorder experience. By having 'war wounds', so to speak, it's as if we are still saying: "Look what we went through for all those years, day in, day out, round the clock." We don't want people, and indeed ourselves, to 'forget' that all this horrific stuff happened. It was part of our daily lives for so very long and it will always be part of our present lives and who we shape up to be in the future.

Unless you've 'been there, done it' this is very difficult to explain in words.

My therapist asked me why I didn't want to file all that anger away. Was it actually benefiting me by keeping it at the front of my mind? Was I becoming a tad 'bitter and twisted' about things?

No, it's not like that. It's the foundation of why I write this blog, why I respond to posts on the Around The Dinner Table Forum, why I talk about eating disorders and so on.

Because it's not as if everything is sweetness and light on the NHS mental health front as regards treatment of young people with eating disorders in 2017. Certainly some enlightened NHS Trusts have introduced modern evidence-based treatment for eating disorders (such as Family Based Treatment - FBT) as well as aiming to see new patients quickly.

But there are others that are still doing things the old way. Not only can it prolong and eating disorder but it can result in deaths, whether from suicide or organ failure. I know because all too often I hear about young people here in the UK who have been failed by The System. I heard about one young teen this week whose heart suddenly gave up.

And it makes me mad.

Which is one of the reasons why, despite compartmentalising much of the trauma memories, I want to keep my anger alive so I can continue to write and talk in a bid to make some kind of difference, in my own small way.

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