Monday 27 December 2021

Some good things that have come out of the Covid pandemic lock-downs

If anything good has come out of the Covid pandemic, it's that lockdowns, pressure on NHS staff, etc has raised the profile of mental health issues. Increasingly, celebrities and people in the media are 'coming clean' about their own struggles with mental health. Unlike when my son began to develop the deadly eating disorder, anorexia, in 2009, there is much, much less of a stigma attached to mental health struggles. It seems completely bonkers that, back in 2009, I felt pressurised to keep my son's emerging eating disorder as a secret to avoid being blamed as a 'bad mother' i.e. the cause of my son's eating disorder - or, to protect my son, the antiquated conclusion that an individual's mental health battles are a sign of 'weakness'.

After all these years, we know that, far from being a weakness, struggling with poor mental health and keeping going, is a sign of amazing strength. In my son's case with anorexia, it was his determination to say "No!" to the eating disorder that had him in a vice-like grip for so very long. My son said that he refused to "allow the eating disorder to steal any more years from my life". It wasn't easy, as the eating disorder threatened to destroy him and changed his appearance and personality beyond recognition.

However, as he began to recover, he kept going, as do so very many others who struggle to overcome or successfully manage mental illness.

Once over the eating disorder, my wonderful son - now 28 years old - refused to let Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD - a result of the trauma that he underwent while struggling with anorexia) and depression take him over despite frequently wondering if he'd be better off just ending it all.

He continued with therapy. (Yes, I admit that we were able to pay for private therapy; help on the NHS for the over-18s would have meant waiting for months or longer on waiting lists only to end up with whichever therapist he was allocated. We have been very fortunate.) When a therapist didn't feel like the right fit, he found one that did.

As I said last week, the wonderful school nurse, Sheila, who was a lifeline for both of us during my son's worst anorexia years, recommended a fantastic therapist who my son worked with, via Zoom, for a year or so.

And here's another positive thing that's come out of the pandemic: Zoom. I'm no expert, but I imagine that online mental health therapy via Zoom, etc wasn't really a 'thing' before the Covid lockdowns. As lock-downs saw many face-to-face interactions go online, it brought people access to (private) mental health practitioners all over the UK, even the world.

I, too, have found a wonderful online therapist - a fabulous counseller who lives hundreds of miles away. I talk to her once a week, via Zoom. She's the best therapist I've ever had, and I've been through a fair few as a result of my C-PTSD struggles and, before that, the strains that came from the sheer horror of being a parent of a teenager plummeting into deadly anorexia. 

So, yes, that's it for today - just putting my thoughts down here. Not perfect, I know, but that's another thing that's come out of all this: I've been fighting against my own need for perfection; the way I used to read and re-read, then tweak and re-tweak, all the stuff I wrote down here and in the writing of my book from 2013: Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia.

If things aren't perfect; if there are grammatical errors or spelling mistakes or if I go off on a tangent, then that's OK.

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