Christmas is a couple of weeks away and here in our household, the tree is up, but it remains undecorated. I just don’t have the energy to do anything about it. No Christmas cards have been sent, no presents wrapped; indeed I’ve only bought a couple of gifts this Christmas – and my mum is taking my H and me out for Christmas lunch, so we’re pretty much going through the festive season blindfold.
Ben is spending Christmas with his girlfriend and her family (he’s been seeing her for over 6 months). He’s the only person in our family who’s embraced the Christmas spirit this year!
2018 has seen me spend yet more money on private therapy in a bid to sort out these crippling mental health problems followed by a couple of assessments with the NHS (the same therapists I saw a couple of years back).
Unfortunately no-one knows what to do, except to say they’ll recommend an occupational therapist is engaged to help me adjust to “real life” again, something I’ve found very difficult. These days I get out of the house rarely. I visit my elderly mum, I go to the supermarket and, if the weather permits, I get out on my bike. And that’s pretty much it.
Strangely enough, though, while most tasks are punishing difficult to do, I can sit and knit for hours! I have knitted tons of stuff!!
The therapists say they’re stuck; they have no solutions. They have tried a range of therapies… psychotherapy, CBT and EMDR… yet I am still unwell. They say they “can’t wave a magic wand” and that it is “really up to me now”.
Ah yes, but as I responded to them: “I am a natural fixer; look at how I helped my son recover from anorexia. If I could fix this thing believe me I would have done it by now or at least be well on the road to doing it.”
I guess if we could all fix our own mental health problems, it would save the NHS £zillions!
The consolations are that (a) my son is well again and living his life; he has a steady job and a girlfriend plus lots of friends; these days we scarcely see him which is GOOD NEWS compared to the days when he’d be sitting on our sofa every night watching the telly with us. And (b) to just know the reasons why I got to where I am today… By being too strong for too long in unbelievably terrifying circumstances, 24/7/365, hour on hour, day on day, month on month, year on year, refusing to give up and continuing to fight.
Just like so many of us who are parents of children battling with eating disorders.
Not surprisingly, as may also be the case with you, this has taken its toll on my own mental health which has been deteriorating for a few years now.
But, hey, here I am, writing a blog post when for many months just the thought of blogging again sent me into a cold sweat of sky-high anxiety and panic.
As I said, I am a fixer. I fix things. I bash away at the same problem until I find a workable solution (sorry if that sounds a bit Brexit-ish!!) and, slowly… very slowly, I am reading through a ton of scientific proof about how the brain reacts to sustained trauma, how it ‘short-circuits’ and re-moulds itself and how the hormones that deal with various things change. Genes also play a part; if you’re raised by naturally anxious parents you’re more likely to be anxious yourself. In other words, part of it is due to my biological makeup.
A bit like an eating disorder, really.
But it is so reassuring to know that it isn’t me, that it’s not because I “didn’t recover quickly enough” or that I have caused this thing. I didn’t choose to feel like this and I can’t “snap out of it” or “cheer up”. If only it were that easy.
So if you’re struggling to do something as “simple” as decorating the Christmas tree or even getting out of bed and emptying the dishwasher or failing to change out of your PJs day on day, you are not alone.
It is not surprising that being the parent of a child battling something as frightening and serious as an eating disorder, for so long, messes up your own head or health in some way.
It would be a surprise if it didn’t.