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.

The final sleepover was just before Christmas 2009. At the time Ben was rollercoastering into anorexia and the sleepover was a disaster with Ben freaking out in the middle of the night, upsetting and frightening the whole household.

I prefer to remember Christmas 2008, 12 months earlier, when Ben held the final 'normal' birthday sleepover. This was the Christmas before we realised that anything was germinating inside Ben's head. The two-night sleepover was as riotous, fun and food-fuelled as ever.

Then came the eating disorder years - those years that robbed Ben of his friends and forced him to isolate himself, resulting in extreme social phobia, so much so that in early 2010 we had to remove him from school.

Ben never really got those friends back and it's only recently that he's begun to get back in touch with them again.

I remember Ben crying on his 18th birthday because it was just family. No friends, sleepovers, no parties, no trips to the cinema, no meals, nothing.

Although we tried to cheer him up with a weekend in Edinburgh, it was still a very depressing time, not to mention heartbreaking for us as parents.

As the eating disorder began to disappear, Ben began to make new friends and, this weekend, these friends came round for a sleepover followed by a cinema trip yesterday to see Star Wars.

It was just as riotous as the pre-eating disorder days and I should have been thrilled.

But I couldn't help noticing that, on the Saturday night, when the other boys sent out for pizza, Ben nipped up to the local Sainsbury's and returned with a diet meal.

While the others tucked into pizza, Ben tucked into a 'Be Good To Yourself' curry.

It is this incident that has remained with me since then.

Ben obviously still has anxiety about eating certain foods, especially when he doesn't know how many calories are in them.

It's left me feeling really low because why the heck, more than eight years since the eating disorder first emerged, is he still counting calories and avoiding certain foods? Why does he still go for diet foods? And why won't he talk to me about it when I challenge him?

I would hazard a guess that the answer lies in the fact that he weighed himself a month or so ago and told me he'd put on 5 kilos, taking him over and above the low weight which CAMHS insisted was right for him. He is still terrified of creeping over and above this weight even though, as a pre-eating-disorder teen, he was never ever that weight.

I would hazard a guess that this is what the problem is.

That, and Christmas looming, with all its food...

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