29 January 2016
A Mother's Perspective...
I would not wish my worst enemy to go through what Jess has gone through in the last year. Reading her blog people may think it was obvious there was a problem, but it is a very slow process where little habits became the norm and it is not until it is too late that you realise there is a problem.
We obviously had noticed that Jess was losing weight, but it didn’t cause us major concern because of some of the factors she has mentioned. When we realised that the university course wasn’t for her and she came back home, yes we could see that she had lost a lot of weight but we thought we will get her home, get her settled again and that everything would come right, how wrong we were! Even though she had not been diagnosed, anorexia had well and truly settled in.
In January 2015 we took her to the doctors for a problem she was having with her feet, at the time he noticed she had lost a significant amount of weight and weighed her, we mentioned we were concerned about the amount she had lost and he said he would see her again in a couple of weeks. She went back and was weighed again and had lost again, he thought it would be advisable for her to see a dietician.
I set up the appointment with a private dietician and we visited frequently, Jess would eat what she was advised and was seen to be trying, but reflecting back now and knowing what I know, she was eating the bear minimum and discarding food.
All the time in the process up until she was admitted to hospital we were trying to get help, Jess had continual assessments, but we felt like we were banging our head against brick walls all the time, as no help was forthcoming.
We were screaming out for help but just couldn’t get it anywhere. Home life was so difficult; you don’t want to make an issue about food and so you become frustrated when you cannot say anything and you are just sitting there watching you child deteriate even further. You feel totally helpless and obviously your heart is breaking, you want to just say EAT, but it is not that easy, it is the mental issues that are the problem. It was a vicious circle as Jess’ BMI was that low she was not thinking rationally. When she was admitted to hospital, as hard as it was it was a huge relief, as at last she was getting the care she needed and there was light at the end of the tunnel.
When I sat in for her initial assessment at the hospital, they couldn’t believe she had been working right up to being admitted and were horrified that she had been driving, as she could have had a heart attack; that’s when the reality of the situation sunk in.
Hospital visits were hard. Sometimes I would go and she would just sit in silence, if she did talk it would be about what she had eaten and was having to eat and this was causing her so much distress. I was so excited to go and see her, but the visits weren’t always pleasurable. I was always aware though that she was in a safe environment with some wonderful nurses that looked after her, and I will always be eternally grateful to them for caring for her so well during her stay.
As she started to put the weight on things did get slightly better, but then the home visits started, bringing with them a whole other set of issues.
Her first home visit went well, although, I didn’t trust that she had eaten everything that she was required to eat. This meant that I was constantly checking up on her. She caught me in the act of measuring how much juice she had drunk and everything blew up. I was so upset. I thought I had blown everything, but when I explained to the staff at hospital they said they would have been more concerned if I hadn’t been so observant on reflection of her previous behaviours.
It puts a big strain on family life and in some ways it is like having a young child again; watching out for them all the time, and to an extent, giving in to them to not cause confrontation.
I am sure that when people think of an eating disorder, they presume that it would just be meal times that would be a challenge. I don’t think people realise that this illness has an impact on every aspect of everyday life. Food shopping, clothes shopping, eating out, family events; the list is never ending as to where the eating disorder makes an appearance.
Food shopping could take a considerable amount of time. Jess was adamant that she would attend these outings, and this was all down to the sense of control she desired over options regarding the selection of food. It was a horrendously frustrating event. Jess would stand staring at products for an incredibly long time to try and make a decision. Knowing what I know now, this was because she was scrutinizing the multitude of labels on show. She wouldn’t reach out to put a product in the trolley unless she was certain that it complied with the many rules she had felt the need to adhere to. Every time I tried to question her choices, I was hit with a snappy remark and false justification. In the early stages, I was so worried about falling out with her that I just tried to make suggestions, but even then, her moods were so erratic that you could never predict what response you were going to be greeted with. It was only when she started to come back from hospital and we had a definitive meal plan that we had to follow that things got so much easier. She knew what she had to do, and her mindset had completely shifted to become more positive and focused on recovery; that is not to say that everything was smooth sailing!
In January 2015, Jess started an apprenticeship at a school, and this required the need for suitable clothing. I remember one day we decided to go to Meadowhall to do some shopping, and again this was an extremely distressing venture. I obviously knew Jess had lost a lot of weight but I don’t think either of us expected us to have the problems that we did in finding clothing that fit her petite frame. Jess was adamant that she could still fit in adult clothing, however as we started to search for a pair of black trousers, her current health situation was thrown into perspective. We walked into the changing room with a size 10, but gradually the sizes began decreasing, as I would make several trips back onto the shop floor to retrieve a pair for her to try. It was only when we had exhausted every adult size in every possible style that both Jess and I were hit with a flood of emotion. I had to remain strong, but seeing your then 18 year old daughter having to walk into the childrens’ section of clothing is not something you want to witness. I was convinced that this was going to be the pivotal point in spurring Jess to change her eating habits. However, again, at this point I don’t think any of us were aware of the extensive damage this illness had already done to her mental state.
Jess is home full time now and is making good recovery progress. I must say that I am so proud of her. I can honestly say that since the day she was given the lifeline of a bed in hospital, she has followed the rules to the letter of the law and done whatever she was told to do. Because of the rejections that she had along the way she was so grateful of the opportunity to get better and didn’t want to throw this back in anybody’s face and was determined to give it 100%.
I would say to anyone that if you do have any concerns about a loved one don’t leave it too long or bury your head in the sand. We did try to get help but it is just not out there in certain regions, until you are at a very low weight and by that time you are in a critical condition.
This blog is helping Jess’ recovery and although it is hard reading, it brings back sad memories, but I know she hopes that it will help others and also help us all to get some understanding of this terrible illness.