Friday 22 December 2017

"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.

What was so sad, though, was that he feels responsible for the eating disorder. He feels that it was his fault that he didn't pick up on it and "snap out of it" during that summer of 2009 when the ugly green shoots began to emerge. He feels that he is to blame for all those "stolen years" from our family's lives and for "messing up" my head with PTSD and so on.

"You weren't to blame," I said, "You know eating disorders are a mental illness. It's the way your brain is 'wired up'. Genes are involved and you can't help your genes. It's like you can't help having blue eyes or freckles; they are part of your makeup. These things are PHYSICAL. The brain is PHYSICAL. Of course it is - it's part of the body.

"Or look at it this way... If you'd had a childhood illness, for example leukaemia, which meant having to put our lives on hold to support you through it, would you blame yourself for developing it? No, of course not, that would be crazy. The eating disorder was no different."

"But I should have been able to fix it when it started," he insisted.

"Ben, none of us knew what we were dealing with back then. We didn't know that boys get eating disorders. We didn't recognise the signs - signs which I now know are textbook symptoms of emerging anorexia, especially in boys. This is why I blog - to help other parents to recognise the signs. If you'd developed anorexia today, you'd have been diagnosed, referred and into treatment - evidence-based treatment - far, far faster. I really believe this. But none of us is to blame for this not happening back then."

This is just one of the topics that came up in our long (and hopefully fruitful) conversation yesterday and it's one of the reasons why I believe that the issues Ben is struggling with at the moment are not a relapse back into the eating disorder.

That, at least, is Good News and I feel a heck of a lot better for it.

And for our talk.

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