Sunday, 5 November 2017

What's making me jump for joy today?

Remember how the eating disorder stole my son's social life as well as so many other things in his life? Remember how, for a very, very long time, he was unable to go to school or meet up with his friends? How, gradually, the boy who'd been so popular became so very isolated and alone, so much so that on his 18th birthday in December 2011, he was virtually in tears because he was celebrating alone with just me and his dad?

Monday, 30 October 2017

Why are some eating disorder treatment teams still using outdated treatment models?

I feel a mixture of anger, sadness and fear when, in the modern world, in 2017, I hear about advice that's being given to parents of young people with eating disorders that's so very out of date. Advice like we received eight years ago along the lines of 'Don't keep going on about food, it makes him/her anxious... it's not helpful to him/her'. Worse, for food to be pretty much taken off the agenda except for playing a small 'bit part' role in the background. Or, as we were told just before the Summer of Horror in 2010, to 'take a break from the eating disorder' for the duration of our two-week family vacation. Can you believe that?

Saturday, 28 October 2017

It's vital that the parents get support when their child has an eating disorder

The other day I was having a discussion with a friend about how both of us had little or no support during the months and years that our children were suffering from anorexia. It was almost as if, as parents, it was our job to 'just get on with it'.

The fact that, outside the treatment room, we were having to deal with the hellish nightmare of an eating disorder in the family, hour in hour out, day in day out, month in month out, year in year out was pretty much ignored.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Saturday night it was about catching trains, last night it was about exams... I still have high-anxiety nightmares

I have to catch a specific train but everything is preventing me from doing so: I'm at the wrong station, I haven't bought my ticket, there's a queue for tickets that's moving at a snail's pace, there's no information on platforms and no platform numbers, I'm waiting for people to catch me up... and so on and so forth... Or, like last night, I'm about to sit the most important exam of my life yet I haven't done any revision. I haven't even been to lessons. I know zero about the subject. There are other variations on the high-anxiety nightmare, but these are the two most common nightmares I've been having for the past eight years or so.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

"Will my son always be stuck standing short of the 'finish line'?" I asked myself in September 2015

In September 2015 I was toying with the idea of writing a sequel to my book Please eat... A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia and I wrote this in the Diaro app:

The book will be about me 

Rather than my son. Mainly. How I coped (or didn't) with getting my life back. The blips we had, my worries about his weight and relapse. He is not the person he used to be and it's upsetting. But might he have been this person regardless?

Struggling to cope in a post-eating-disorder life? You are not alone...

Because I know I'm not alone in having struggled with serious trauma symptoms as our family emerged from the anorexia years, I've decided to write the occasional post about what I found myself going through from around 2015 onwards. It will be about the (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms and how I coped (or didn't cope) with them in the hope of helping other parents to identify with similar experiences. It will also be about other stuff that was going around in circles inside my head. Most importantly the aim will be to show you that you are not alone in feeling like this.

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.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Here's what my son, Ben, is saying on World Mental Health Day today

If you've not seen it yet, you live in the UK and you don't think it will trigger you, BBC3's recent drama Overshadowed, A vlogger's life spirals out of control. The reason? Her new “best friend” Anna. You can watch it here on BBC iPlayer.

This is a very real portrayal of what an eating disorder like Anorexia can be really like, written by a former sufferer who plays 'Anna' in the drama (the 'eating disorder voice').

The incident in the friend's bathroom is particularly reminiscent of our own experiences with Anorexia; it reminds me of the time when my son had his friends round for a sleepover on that first Christmas with the eating disorder in 2009. Something set him off and he came screaming downstairs in the middle of the night in a similar state to Imo in Episode 6.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

What is FBT (Family Based Treatment) for eating disorders? What is the Maudsley Approach? Here's an excellent guide...

One of my fellow Around The Dinner Table parents has put together this excellent guide which explains what FBT (Family Based Treatment for eating disorders otherwise known as 'the Maudsley Approach') is all about. Many families have found this evidence-based eating disorders treatment model to be extremely effective. This parent has kindly allowed me to reproduce her guide here.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

"Me too!" - comments from parents, for parents, on F.E.A.S.T.'s 'Nourishing Words' blog

When a family finds itself facing a devastating eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia,it can be so reassuring to know that you're not in this alone: to read about other families' experiences, to discover what did and didn't work for them and, most important of all, to discover that young people can recover and go on to lead normal and fulfilled lives.

Friday, 8 September 2017

University with an eating disorder? To take a gap year, or not?

It's that time of year again when young people are heading off to university. If you remember, my son headed off to Sheffield University in September 2012, six months after being discharged from eating disorder treatment. The CAMHS nurse said she "couldn't see any reason why he wouldn't be ready to go to university in September". Me, well I was a bit less sure. And in the event, as  you may remember if you've been following my blog, Ben lasted two or three days before he was back home for an impromptu 'gap' year. Here's an edited version of something I wrote on the Around The Dinner Table forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders) about that gap year and why it was a Good Decision for my son.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Are you a parent or carer? Are you new to the world of eating disorders?

Whether it happens suddenly or gradually, realising that your son or daughter has an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia is devastating. At a time when you're desperately seeking help for your child and wondering how you can help as a parent, you're also faced with a massive learning curve - because, unless you've experienced an eating disorder before, the world of eating disorders is probably about as far off your radar as you can get. Just like it was for us.

Monday, 4 September 2017

And on a lighter note... What's Ben up to at the moment?

Well, one thing my son Ben ISN'T up to at the moment is starting the post-graduate teacher training course (PGCE) which he was to have begun this week. Basically, he's spend the entire summer working on his Master's Degree dissertation which has to be submitted on Wednesday. He's put a heck of a lot of work into this and, to be honest, the poor guy needs a bit of a breather. Also, because of the dissertation, he's not been able to prepare for the PGCE in any way. So it made sense to postpone it.

To exercise or not to exercise? The dangers are real...

Having posted two posts about the problems we had with compulsive exercising when my son was suffering from anorexia - and having read through Dr Julie O'Toole's excellent article about the dangers of exercising with anorexia - I must add that, yes, there is a real danger that exercising can kill. There is no easy way to say this: eating disorders do kill and one of the biggest killers is heart failure. And we should know... My son ended up in hospital not once but twice with Bradycardia (abnormally slow pulse). So, knowing the potential dangers, why did we allow him to continue to exercise?

I've just been reminded of this wonderful poem my son wrote following his recovery from the eating disorder

On the Around The Dinner Table forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders), some of us have been thinking about the way the eating disorder is like a separate entity to our sons or daughters. In our house we used to refer to the eating disorder as 'the anorexia demon', 'the demon ED [eating disorder]' or 'the ED voice'. It reminded me of this poem which my son wrote following his recovery from anorexia; the poem is aimed at 'the ED voice'...

An extract from my book about my son's addiction to exercise

While I'm on the subject of controlling an exercise addiction as part of an eating disorder, here's an extract from my book Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia which describes the extent of my son's addiction to exercise (during his struggle with an eating disorder).

Controlling an exercise addiction as part of an eating disorder

Eating disorders in boys (and girls) aren't just about cutting back on food; there can also be a host of other issues - and one of the big issues that many families face is an addiction to exercise which can be punishingly difficult to fix.

With my son, Ben, exercise acted as a kind of purge - not unlike Bulimia with its vomiting / laxative purging. He felt the need to micro-manage input and output: whatever went in (food and drink) had to come out in the form of exercise. Often entire days (and nights) could be centred upon input, output, without any room inside his head for anything else.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Eating disorder recovery? Is your child 'stuck'? Do they need something to nudge them forward? This solution worked for us, so it might just work for you...

Recently a mother emailed to ask if I had any tips for what to do when your child is 'stuck'. Your child has got 'so far' in their eating disorder recovery but - for some reason - have found themselves 'treading water', unable to move forward. Here's an edited version of my reply, in case your son or daughter is 'stuck' and needs encouragement to continue to move in the right direction towards eating disorder recovery.

Friday, 25 August 2017

UK waiting times for eating disorder treatment are getting worse, not better, according to The Times

"In Coventry and Warwickshire, which had the longest waiting times, patients waited on average for 14 weeks last year to see a specialist... despite extra money from the government to cut waiting times", says this article in today's Times newspaper. The Times also discovered that "Some trusts were still using BMI readings to decide whether to accept a patient for specialist treatment, despite Nice saying that they should not after criticism that this risks turning people away because they are not thin enough".

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

My son's MA dissertation is almost complete!

Over the past few years I have been astonished and impressed at how my son, Ben, has knuckled down to studying and organising his time like a true pro. For someone for whom anxiety was a massive issue during his eating disorder, Ben sailed through three years of undergraduate degree, course work, dissertation and exams followed by 12 months of a master's degree, course work and now a dissertation that he's been working on flat-out and diligently over the summer break to be handed in (hopefully!!) next Friday.