Wednesday, 8 February 2017

When the mental health professionals let you and your child down

On Monday I flicked on the TV and began to watch BBC's Panorama - Revealed: Britain's Mental Health Crisis which was about "the troubled state of NHS mental health services", the "deteriorating national picture for mental health care funding" and "new figures that show a shocking increase in unexpected deaths of mental health patients".

Monday, 6 February 2017

Why standard relaxation techniques are simply sticking plasters

I am so thankful for the friendship and support I have from friends and family. Last week my mum gave me a book entitled 'Quiet Moments', others have recommended hypnotherapy, mindfulness and meditation. While these activities can kind of help someone get a rest from the incessant vice-like grip of fear that is a key symptom of C-PTSD, they are more of a sticking plaster / band aid. This might be why, the other night, one of my regular nightmares was about me trying to cover up a huge wound with the smallest sticking plasters / band aids you have ever seen.

Should I be blogging about C-PTSD in a blog specifically dedicated to eating disorders in boys and young men?

Yes of course I should be for the simple reason that the latter was caused by the former - the 24/7 of caring for my son as he plummeted into and slowly emerged out of his eating disorder - anorexia - between summer 2009 (when it first became evident to me) and, probably, right up to the end of his first year at university in 2014/15 (when things began to improve quite considerably). The worst period was an 18-month stretch between October/November 2009 and Easter 2011 (when Ben and I began to implement our 'contract' which helped to turn things around). For nigh on 18 months on a daily basis... on an hourly basis... on a minute basis... I was -

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Thrilled to have found a therapist who really 'gets it'

Feels like I was dumped here...
Today I spoke to a therapist who specialises in trauma treatment - usually EMDR (an acronym for ‘Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing’) - and especially complex trauma like Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). Just talking to someone who so obviously 'gets it' was incredibly liberating and after several days of feeling as though I'd been thrown out of the vehicle that was taking me on my journey to recover and forced to stop off at the worst roadside motel in the world, I feel as if a limo has come to pick me up and take me onwards.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

I can't fix the PTSD so will have to pay for private treatment

You know me... always trying to fix things (like my son's eating disorder) and refusing to give in. Or at least that's what I used to be like. I really, really hoped that I could fix my C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) that I've been struggling with for four years (as a result of the trauma of the eating disorder years when my son was sick). Last week the NHS spat me out to fend for myself because I'd reached the end of a limited number of therapy sessions. I don't blame the therapist who admitted that this isn't the way she likes to practise. In other words, if the patient isn't recovered in a given number of sessions, then tough luck, they're out on their ear.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

I so, so, so want to find a girlfriend for my son!!!

One of the casualties of my son Ben's eating disorder was his relationship with girls, indeed his relationship with anyone for that matter. Ben's long struggle with anorexia resulted in complete social isolation for a number of years. The good news is that, following his recovery from anorexia, he has rebuilt his social life very impressively both at home and at university. The trouble is that these friendship circles (and clubs) are almost exclusively male (sci-fi, fantasy nerdy societies like tabletop war games and dungeon and dragons style role playing). As a result Ben has little to no contact with girls. And, because he doesn't drink, he doesn't go out socially to places where he might meet girls e.g. pubs and clubs.

Monday, 23 January 2017

"Eating difficulties"... You mean like fussy kids who won't eat their vegetables?

On Friday I got a letter from my PTSD therapist saying that she was sorry I'd "felt unable to continue with the session [on Wednesday]". It also refers to the "trauma and stress associated with Ben's experience of eating difficulties"... Eating difficulties? It makes it sound oh so simplistic. Like fussy kids who won't eat their vegetables.

Naming my inner critic

Back in the mid-1980s I was PA to a very unpleasant gentleman who I will call Mr McNasty. Mr McNasty was a bully, a control freak and a misogynist. He ran a department full of women and even his second-in-command was afraid of him. Mr McNasty told me that I'd "never be anything but a lowly secretary". Okay, I pledged on that day, I'll show him. By the end of the decade I was a senior copywriter in a large advertising agency.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Calling all Scottish parents and carers - don't miss the SEDIG carers' conference in March!

It's the annual SEDIG (SCOTTISH EATING DISORDERS INTEREST GROUP) carers' conference on Saturday 4th March 2017 in Edinburgh. Keynote speaker is Gill Todd talking about Motivational Interviewing and doing a workshop. Find out more and book a place here.

I did a talk at last year's conference and it's well worth coming along - and it's not too costly either. Gill Todd is amazing - I've met her on a couple of occasions. Such a nice person, and excellent at what she does.

If you're not recovered within a set time then - ping! - out you go!

I had the mothers (plural) of all nightmares (plural) last night. The theme was generally along the lines of being left in the lurch at the 11th hour without warning. Hmn, I wonder where that came from...

After the Christmas PTSD difficulties, I told my therapist how worried I was that I'd be discharged before I fully recovered; I was aware that NHS mental health treatment isn't infinite. She reassured me. She also reassured me that the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy would fix the PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and that I would recover.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Classic flight or fight - which did I do?

Today my PTSD therapist greeted me with "I'm afraid we've only got 3 sessions left; we've had 17 and it's been limited to 20 in total. Actually, they're just about to cut it to 16 sessions max, NHS funding cuts and all that, so you've been lucky!" So, I replied, that means that in a couple of weeks I'm going to be thrown out to fend for myself? "Well, there are other options..." You mean going private, I said, I can't afford it; I'm not able to work at the moment because of the PTSD...

Friday, 13 January 2017

Remembering wonderful Charlotte Bevan...

This month marks the 3rd anniversary of the death in 2014 of one of the most loving, caring, energetic and strong women in the world of eating disorder support - Charlotte Bevan, the mother of a teen eating disorder survivor. The best way I can describe Charlotte is to re-post my blog from the 13th January 2014, so here it is: Boadicea in her chariot, guns a-blazing in the fight against eating disorders and poor treatment...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Why weight restoration in eating disorder treatment must come first - and why I agree with Dr Julie O'Toole on the fact

In her last blog post for 2016, Dr Julie O'Toole of the Oregon-based Kartini Clinic reminds us 'Why Weight Restoration in Eating Disorder Treatment Must Come First' and why this fact isn't exactly rocket science - yet many people continue to overlook it. As she says: So why the heck do people seem so impervious to the message that without weight restoration you get nothing? And I do mean nothing: no physical recovery AND no psychological recovery. Remember: psychological recovery is about the brain. The brain is an organ of the body; like all other organs it needs fuel to replace broken or used-up cells, and for functioning cells to communicate with each other. Starvation is as bad for children and for any other living thing. This takes no great leap of intellect: you can’t become psychologically normal in a state of malnutrition. You don’t (or shouldn't) need access to all “latest science” to know this. What happens when you starve any other mammal? Think about it. Why the resistance to this simple message?

Looking back, what do I wish I'd done differently?

Oh gosh, that's a massive question... I know what I wish our GPs and CAMHS had done differently when assessing and treating my teenage son for anorexia - but me?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I wish I'd been more forceful - both in my interactions with the medical profession and with my son.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A short sabbatical to 'self soothe' and get myself on the road to recovery from PTSD

Well, 2017 was supposed to herald my return to work (self-employed) but I took one look at my computer keyboard and went into a panic (damn that PTSD). Nevertheless I made the decision to plough on with that huge and immensely helpful book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world's foremost experts on trauma / Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (This link summarises the book well.) Dr vdK also talks about yoga as an evidence-proven method of helping PTSD sufferers to recover. So I'm planning to do some yoga very soon. Next week, with any luck.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

More on the importance of finding a safe place, whether real or imagined

Throughout the months and years when I was battling with my son's anorexia and the accompanying mood volatility and violence, I found myself naturally seeking a Safe Place: somewhere I could escape in order to briefly to calm down, catch my breath and gather my thoughts - or to help me get to sleep at night. Sometimes these places were real, other times they were imagined. But they did  help when things became intolerable and overwhelming.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Want to discover why trauma affects us in the way it does and how to get through it?

I am still reading the substantial but incredibly informative and helpful book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk who is one of the world's foremost authorities on trauma and recovery. Really and truly if you want a proper understanding of the effects that trauma has on the mind and body, and techniques and treatments that may help you to recover from traumatic memories, I'd say this is the #1 'bible' on the subject.

When your home stops being a safe place to be

When my son was plummeting into anorexia during the autumn and winter of 2009 and spring and summer of 2010, I reached my lowest point as a mother. Up to 2009, our home had been a safe haven from the world 'out there' - stuff like work, crime, bad news, even rude people in the supermarket and all those other things that irritate you in life. 'Shutting up shop' for Christmas on the 23rd December, my husband's and son's birthdays, was like shutting out the outside world and sinking into a warm scented bath tub of safety and security.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A tricky few days thanks to my C-PTSD...

I can only say that the C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Disorder) came on with a vengeance from sometime on the evening of the 23rd until early evening on Christmas Day itself. It was quite frightening as I have never felt like that before: raging PTSD symptoms on full pelt - the works. And I had no control over it. Well, that's not strictly true. I had a choice: either to hide under the duvet for 48 hours or emerge and 'do business as usual'. I chose the latter as I didn't want to spoil everyone else's Christmas and we were entertaining the family at our house.

Friday, 23 December 2016

A not so 'silent night' (or day). Woohoo, it's Ben's birthday!

It's Ben's 23rd birthday today. Before he developed anorexia back in 2009 this day was usually loud and noisy with the sound of umpteen boys laughing, yelling and generally messing around up in Ben's attic room. You see, Ben's birthday parties were legendary. Indeed so many friends were invited that his parties had to be held in two shifts - countless friends one day followed by countless other friends the next with a sleepover inbetween. Then, during the years of the eating disorder, the house fell silent - apart from the final birthday sleepover when his anorexia had begun to rage and we had Ben hurtling downstairs in the middle of the night screaming and weeping because something had upset him. The following day was subdued as the boys' parents collected them from our house. The contrast between emaciated eating disordered Ben and his normal friends was heart-breaking. His friends stopped coming to our house after that and Ben's birthdays were solitary affairs with just the family. I remember his 18th birthday being especially poignant as he told us how down and depressed he felt - to be 18 and have no friends to celebrate with...