Tuesday, 25 April 2017

"Pear-shaped and very, very messy" - a post from 16th May 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

A week after I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum about the ice-cream incident everything imploded. Ben was allowed to take back control over his eating with the caveat that if he lost weight, then I would take back control. Meanwhile there was a heck of a lot of triangulation going on with the dietitian appearing to say one thing and the rest of the CAMHS team saying another. On top of this I had my husband siding with CAMHS, so I really did feel like the Arch Baddy in the proceedings.

"Rebellion, actively cutting down" - a post from 10th May 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

This is a thread from 10th May 2010 which I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (which exists to support parents of young people with eating disorders). I desperately needed advice on how to get my son to eat as he'd arrived at the stage where 'Mum's Eating Plan' was about to be thrown out of the window. We really had done well, food-wise, up to this stage even though it had been really tricky. God only knows what I would have done without the support I found on the ATDT forum. I daren't even guess how things might have panned out... This thread also shows the roller coaster or cat-and-mouse nature of the eating disorder. Just when you think you're seeing progress it all goes t*ts-up again.

Monday, 24 April 2017

"Fats phobia again..." - a post from April 21st 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

This is another thread from April 2010 which I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (which exists to support parents of young people with eating disorders), this time about my son's fear of fats, my increasing stress levels and despair, plus the fact that we couldn't take our eyes off him for a moment (see summary at end). It was just one nightmarish roller coaster and I have no idea how I managed to go on from day to day, not helped by a local GP who was completely disinterested in the fact that my son had anorexia nor the fact that we had large gaps between CAHMS sessions.

"The eating disorder fights back" - a second post from April 11th 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

Here is a second post from 11th April 2010 on the Around The Dinner Table Forum (which exists to support parents of young people with eating disorders). What this post demonstrates is the roller coaster nature of an eating disorder: one day things are HELLISH and yet the next there are chinks of light at the end of the tunnel followed by HELL again. It's a bit like a game of Cat and Mouse in that just when you think you're getting somewhere the eating disorder muscles in again and you're back where you started. It also demonstrates the similar roller coaster relationship that I had with the CAMHS team: one minute they were great and the next they were saying stuff that was potentially harmful. (Please note that, as with all these forum posts, I'm only posting my words, not those of the parents who responded, for confidentiality reasons.)

Friday, 21 April 2017

"Any lunch suggestions? Run out of ideas!!" A post from April 11th 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

What follows is a short thread I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in early April 2010 asking the question: "Any lunch suggestions? Run out of ideas!!" Unsurprisingly I was finding it mega difficult to get my son to eat using Eating Plan 6 which CAMHS had given me. It was full of all kinds of stuff that he wouldn't have touched with a barge pole: sponge pudding, custard, butter, cheese... The only things I could get him to eat were from his minuscule list of 'healthy' foods like diet this and that, vegetables and fruit. As a result, getting my son to eat enough calories meant getting him to eat a HUGE VOLUME of this low calorie stuff and by the 11th April, around 4 or 5 weeks into CAMHS treatment for his eating disorder, I had run out of ideas.

"Nearly at target weight but mindset is way off... what now?" My 3rd post from March 2010 on the ATDT parents' forum.

One of the first things I did, when we found ourselves sitting in front of our local CAMHS team all those months into my son's escalating anorexia, was to ask if we'd be given an Eating Plan. This was met with some surprise, but in the end the nurse rooted around in her briefcase and pulled out a 'typical eating plan'. It was entitled Eating Plan 6 (I've no idea how it differed from numbers 1 - 5). Rightly or wrongly, yet desperate for my son to put on weight, I embraced Eating Plan 6 with a vengeance and did my best to implement it. But without any support, indeed CAMHS were quite resistant to what became known as 'Mum's Eating Plan', it was never going to work. My son refused to eat anything on the Plan, so I found myself having to tweak Eating Plan 6 considerably. But I did manage to get some weight onto my son during those early months with CAMHS. In late March 2009, I posted the following on the Around The Dinner Table Forum, asking the question: Nearly at target weight but mindset is way off... what now?

But if you don't have the cash, then what's the point of raising awareness about adult mental health?

Earlier this year I sat down in front of my NHS EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist (for my Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress) only to be told that we had just THREE SESSIONS left. And you know what? I was LUCKY that I'd been offered TWENTY sessions in total; very soon the NHS would CUT these to just SIXTEEN. I was also DOUBLY LUCKY because I'd had a large number of other sessions prior to this - a mix of CBT and psychotherapy (which obviously didn't work, hence why I was undergoing EMDR).

Thursday, 20 April 2017

For all the battle-weary parents out there...

We've been having a discussion on the Around The Dinner Table Forum about how some of us parents are getting along in a 'post eating disorder world' i.e. when our child is either recovered or almost recovered. Most of us have been left with a brain that's pretty frazzled to say the least and we've been wondering how this compares to others who have been through trauma whether another serious and possibly life-threatening illness in the family or something equally as traumatic.

Refeeding: calories or portion sizes? My second post from March 2010 on the ATDT forum for parents.

During those early weeks of CAMHS treatment for my son's eating disorder, I clashed with his therapists quite a few times on food-related things. One of these things was: Do we do calories or do we do portion sizes? The general rule was that we should do portion sizes but the trouble was that my son's food intake was super-low in calories i.e. virtually just salad or vegetables. So a portion of that kind of thing was, in my opinion, going to do naff all when it came to putting on weight. Quite the reverse, in fact. This is why my gut instinct told me to go for calories. This way I could be sure that he was eating enough. Or, at least that was the case as long as I was allowed to take control of his food intake. As soon as this control was passed over to him (as happened just a few months into treatment), his calorie intake went downhill. But that's another story. Here is my second post on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in March 2009 which asked the question: Re feeding: calories or portion sizes?

More from that first ATDT post seeking support and advice from other parents

From the very first moment I posted on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in March 2009 I realised I'd found the support I'd been craving for so many, many months. After feeling completely alone and isolated in having to deal with a teenage child with an eating disorder, I finally felt that I was amongst friends. True friends. Real, caring parents who 'got' what it was like to live with an eating disorder in the home 24.7.365. I am posting some of these threads here in the hope that they may help other parents who've just embarked on this nightmarish journey, show them that they are not alone and lead them to the support they need on this wonderful forum. Here is the rest of that first cry for help on 9th March 2009, edited slightly for length:

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

More from that ATDT first post in March 2010

When I uploaded that first post on the Around The Dinner Table Forum in March 2009 I was astonished at the incredible response I got from other parents who had 'been there, done it' or where 'still in there, but doing it' - from the UK and across the English speaking world. I finally felt that I had the support I craved and was amongst people who 'got it'. If you are a parent of a young person with an eating disorder I can't recommend this forum highly enough. It was a true life-saver for me. Here are a few of my responses to the replies I received following that first cry for help on 9th March 2009:

9th March 2010: my first post on the Around The Dinner Table forum

If you're going through the hell of being a parent of a young person with an eating disorder, and especially a boy with anorexia, you might be able to identify with my posts  on the Around The Dinner Table forum. This is my first post from 9th March 2010:

The life-saving forum that I joined back in March 2010

The Around The Dinner Table Forum is an amazing forum for parents of young peope with eating disorders. In case you haven't discovered it yet, here's what its founder, Laura Collins, said in the Introduction to my second book When Anorexia Came to Visit about the F.E.A.S.T. community and its online forum Around The Dinner Table (ATDT):

EMDR therapy: what we're working on at the moment

I'm receiving private EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy for the Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and we're gradually working our way through things that trigger it off. Over the past three weeks it's been flashbacks to various CAMHS sessions when things were said and done that, in my opinion, made my 16-year old son's eating disorder worse, not better. Amongst the strongest memories are those of the early CAMHS sessions which began 4 or 5 months after I first took my son to see our GP. Back then, CAMHS didn't seem to think the eating disorder was too bad. Ben was acting as if nothing was wrong and that it was just fussy, anxious mum worrying in the way mums do. He also looked pretty OK in their eyes (except they hadn't seen him as a big, burly rugby player).

Sue, who always had time for me, just to listen, with a coffee and some cake

Someone posed the question after sharing this article on Facebook: What are GOOD things to say? What would you like to hear other than 'cuppa?' Which immediately brought back memories of my wonderful friend, Sue, who was always there for me during the dark days of my son's eating disorder. Sue, who lost her life to breast cancer five years ago (is it really five years?), who would willingly lend an ear over a coffee and cake. Just after she died, I wrote the following at a writers' workshop in an attempt to describe what Sue was like which I haven't posted online until now:

The Catch 22 situation of being a parent in a post-eating-disorder world

I know what parents who are still going through the hell of an eating disorder might say: "Think yourself chuffing lucky, Bev, that you're through this. I'd give my right arm to be shot of this deadly thing that's hi-jacked our family." But for those parents out there who are stuck in my situation, I'd like to describe a little of what's been going on inside my head.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

For anyone wondering how Ben is getting along

Yes he is disappointed about the teacher training interview, but he's dealing with it brilliantly. In between the huge amount of studying he is doing for his Master's Degree he's keeping an eye out for job opportunities. He has also submitted an application to UCAS for various teacher training opportunities whether in-school training or the more traditional college route.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Such rotten, bad, bad luck - the chance of a lifetime missed because of internet failure!

Initially, once he's finished his Master's Degree in Medieval History, Ben wanted to do a PhD and so he could teach at a university. But the fees are too high. However the other week he met up with his old history teacher from school for a coffee. She told him about a new scheme available at some UK independent schools where you can train to teach on the job - a bit like the Government's Teach First scheme, but at a private school (with potentially less disruptive pupils). And - excitement, excitement - the other week The Dream Job came up: the chance to train as a history teacher at his old school! Wow and super-wow!!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

"I no longer have to dread the calls in the middle of the night saying she is in hospital again after another overdose"

I hope she won't mind me saying it but I am in awe of Rosie Flett's mother, Kirsten, at the selflessness she is showing at this terrible and tragic time, always with thoughts of others in mind, keen to raise awareness of the devastating effect that an eating disorder can have on a family.

Kirsten has paid the highest possible price. She has lost her much-loved and beautiful daughter. She has received the news that every parent dreads - and, despite having to face the unthinkable, Kirsten wants to do her very best to prevent this happening to other families by speaking out.

Parents of eating disorder victims - the Biggest Fear of All

As you know I'm having EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapy for my Complex Post Traumatic Stress (C-PTSD). Unfortunately I've had to go private as the NHS is only permitted to offer 16 or so sessions and if you're not recovered in that time, then... well... to put it bluntly... you're out on your ear. Yesterday I came to the session with a whole raft of triggers that had occurred since the last time I was there (a fortnight before). Initially after our last session I'd felt elated and light - as if a great big thick cloud had been lifted and the sun had started to come in. I really felt that this was it: the EMDR was working - it was a miracle!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Time to end mental health stigma

Following on from Rosie Flett's tragic death I pledged to blog here as regularly as I can to continue to raise awareness of eating disorders and mental health. To reinforce this pledge I 'made it public', if you like, on the Department of Health, Lottery and Comic Relief funded Time To Change website which is building a wall of pledges from people committed to ending mental health stigma. (If you haven't done so already, can I suggest that you make a pledge of some sort too?)

Friday, 17 March 2017

A heartbreakingly powerful message about mental health

I never met Rosie, but I did meet her mother - at an eating disorders conference in London where I was giving a talk a couple of years back. I first 'met' Rosie's mother through the Around The Dinner Table Forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders) when I joined in March 2010. She was one of the first UK mums that rushed in to offer support and show that other parents were going through what we were going through as 'newbies' in the world of parenting a young person with an eating disorder. It was only later that I learned of her own struggles with ill health and other problems while battling to get her beautiful daughter successfully treated for her eating disorder.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Can I make a request please? Can anyone who has bought my book and found it helpful please post a review on Amazon?

I don't make a fortune from my books on eating disorders, the most important of which is the account of our story: Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia which was published in 2013. In fact when you take into account the number of books I've given away for free and any royalties I give to charity, I barely break even. So...

The truth about what it's like to live with an eating disorder like anorexia

It's the end of Eating Disorders Awareness Week and earlier in the week one of my friend's daughters courageously wrote about what it's really like to live with an eating disorder like anorexia. I have her permission to share it with you below. Meanwhile I would like to thank this brave young woman for speaking out about something that was obviously very difficult for her to put into words, but she has done it admirably:

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.