It's been quiet on here for some time. Life seemed to be ticking a long nicely. Life's drama's were all being coped with, all was well. Then in June we realised that there was a dinosaur living with us. He had crept in uninvited and was slowly devouring our beloved 14 year old daughter. How can you miss such a creature coming and living with you? Hindsight and talking with friends, youth leaders and each other has helped us to recognise some signs that we missed, though they are all so insidious by themselves that maybe we would never have picked up on them at the time.
It was easiest to start by looking back at when he definitely was NOT around. Christmas is one time I can think back to and know he wasn't here then. However by Easter he was definitely making himself comfortable. I should maybe introduce him properly, his name is Anorexia, Rex for short. We have given him a name as that is the only way we can cope with the voice in my daughters head that shouts and abuses her. We have learnt that it is very important to recognise when Rex is talking and making her behave in certain ways, she is not choosing to have these thoughts.
So what were the signs?
cutting out certain food groups (until there were no acceptable food groups).
wanting to make all her own meals.
going out with friends over meal times and saying she would get food while she was out (but not)
cutting down portion sizes at meal times.
taking a very very long time to eat meals, leaving a lot of mess spread around her plate.
wearing baggy clothing all the time.
being cold all the time.
getting blue lips when she exerted herself physically.
not doing things that she usually enjoyed, eg. yoga, drawing
becoming more and more withdrawn
just taking a piece of fruit to school for lunch when we checked with her what she had got.
How on earth did we miss these things? It wasn't until my step mother in law came to stay at the beginning of June that she pointed out to us that something seemed wrong. We then started looking and were appalled to see that she was right. We talked to my daughter about it and she had already realised that something was very wrong and out of control. She knew that she had felt in control at the beginning, it probably started by giving up stuff for lent! It was then that we started to realise that she was not eating food at school at all, it was all going in the bin. I found ways of getting to see her body, making her a jumper and buying her new underwear. The sight made me nauseous - how could I not have noticed those bones sticking out!
For a couple of weeks she refused to go and see the Dr or get any proffessional help. We managed to get her supervision at lunch times at school, however the food that she was taking was still not enough and she was totally resisting increasing it. Eventually my husband and I went to see our GP by ourselves to talk about her. It was very hard to talk about, especially as I knew that the only route they would probably suggest was that we returned to CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services). We had such a terrible experience with these guys when my niece came to live with us that just the thought of the service gave me mild anxiety attacks. The GP wanted to see my daughter for herself and I was actually quite surprised when we got home, told her where we had been and that we had made an appointment for her the next day, she was fine about it. I think she was probably quite releived as she knew how serious this had become.
Our CAMHS appoitment came through in less than 2 weeks and it is only now (8 weeks on) that I realise why they saw her so quickly - she was very close to needing hospitalization.
The good news is we hopefully have got intervention just in time. She had not gone through to the stage of total denial that there was a problem, she knew there was a problem and she wanted to get rid of it. We have got a very long road ahead of us. She is currently on a weight gain programme. This involves 3 meals a day, two with puddings and 3 calorie rich snacks a day. She is not allowed to prepare any food for herself (I have found this very hard as she has been making her own breakfast and lunch for years and years!) and all meals have to be supervised for their entirety. Meals usually take about an hour for her to eat and so it often feels as though every day is one long eating marathon. Eating in public is excrutiating for her, and therefore has become so for us as well, so even having folks over for meals as a family has had to decrease enormously.
Weeks of family therapy and weigh in appointments seem to be making time rush by. CAMHS have thankfully changed a lot. It is a completely new team that is now in, but still going into rooms that I have had to sit in with my niece make me very uncomfortable, thankfully the team are lovely and very sensitive to this.
We have had tremendous support from the youth team at church and friends. She has still been able to go on 2 camps over the summer holidays with an appointed leader doing the job that I do at home for her.
It has also been an enormous learning curve for both my husband and I. As an occupational therapist I did a module on eating disorders but did not have any direct contact with anyone, either when I was training or when I was working. It seems to be that you are forever hearing about anorexia on the tv and I knew it was about not eating and having body dysmorphia where you see fat in the mirror where there is none. However I had never come across the condemning voice, that the sufferer has no control over. I have issues with food, but I always feel in control of my over eating and binge eating, from talking with others I know that this is a common issue - the element of choice is definitely still there fore me. For my daughter it is not.
My niece stopped eating and then starting binging and using diet pills when she was in a children's home, which eventually lead to her last admission into a secure unit where she has now been for two years. However this was not Anorexia, this was part of her self harming behaviour, she has voices that condemn her and abuse her but it is not a Rex. Maybe this is why I did not recognise Rex coming to stay, I didn't really understand that he was real, so he could creep in and start his devouring and when you notice the changes, he has already made himself very comfortable and is not going to be easily evicted.
But eviction is what we are now aiming for. Weight gain is required for physical health, however the main purpose of the treatment plan that we are using is to get Rex evicted. So onwards and upwards ( or outwards is maybe more apt), now I had better be going and get a snack down her!!!!!!
I thought I'd better check in, it has been quite a while! As all things have quietened down on the home and health front, we are settling into a nice quiet routine. I am still swimming, most weeks managing to get to the club 3 times and clocking up 6km swam and lots and lots of repetitions of my hydrotherapy exercises completed. My weight is slowly (very slowly) coming off, the good thing about this is that it is staying off, even when I have 'naughty' weeks. I am now the same weight I was about 10 years ago after I had my children, still a long way to go!
When I am not at the club swimming, I have decided to relaunch my crafting shop on folksy, Mrs Craftypants. In addition to making things for my shop, I have also purchased my domain name, so you can find out a little more about me over at www.mrscraftypants.co.uk. There has been the purchasing of business cards and getting out and about touting for business. This is the bit I like least - I wish I could just make and not have to do the selling! However this hobby needs to fund it self and so I wondered off to a little shop near by armed with a selection of Easter bits and pieces and they have agreed to sell it for me on a sale or return basis.
Another new venture is the start of doing workshops. I am starting with a crochet workshop first of all on Saturday 7th March, so I am busy this week writing up patterns, taking photo's to go on the patterns and doing things like writing this blog to distract me from doing what I am really supposed to be doing!!!!!!!!
I will try and keep popping by and keeping up to date with other blog posts, maybe if I set myself a few deadlines then I will spend more time prevaricating and do this more often.
Do you ever have those moments when you want to be able to throw a tantrum and have everyone just leave you alone, or maybe someone just gently distract you with something nice to help you get over it?
That is how I was feeling last week as I put pen to paper to write to my niece - I really didn't want to do it. However taking a big reality check, I knew that if I didn't apologise for getting so angry towards her then I was not really acting like the adult I would like her to grow up to be.
That got me thinking. As adults/parents we take on the role of teaching the younger generation by how we act/behave, whether we are aware of it or not. This means we are modelling our good AND our bad behaviour.
If I had made no attempt to get back in touch with my niece, what would have happened. I may have had one person less making demands on my time and emotions, however it would have been at a cost. That cost being, not taking the opportunity to model how to 'make up' when things go wrong.
Could I have lived with myself knowing that not only had I been a part in breaking our relationship, but that I had also denied showing her how to make amends in tough situations as well?
Well I'm pleased to say that it has worked okay - so far. We are communicating again, I am withdrawing a little from the hands on 'caring' stuff. I shall be visiting less, not looking after her money or doing her shopping, hopefully this means I will not get so worn out. Sadly it seems her behaviour has gone back to square one again and there is no longer any talk about her being discharged by the time she is 18, instead a transfer to adult in patient services seems likely after she turns 18. This makes me very sad, but at least I know that I am not going to feel responsible for any failure an earlier discharge may have caused.
Back to the subject of apologies and owning up to mistakes, this whole debacle has made me much more aware of how important it is with my children (and others around me) to make sure I speak up. If we keep quiet about the mistakes we make how are our children going to ever learn that making mistakes happens. What has to be the most important thing is that we try and model to them how to deal with mistakes - even if it sucks!
I continue to count my blessings:
980. Communication restored.
981. Prayers whispered with friends.
982. Puppy dog keeping my legs warm as she sleeps.
983. Piles of fabric.
984. Sorting out advent calenders.
985. Counting swimming lengths.
986. No piles of leaves in the back garden.
987. Chilly evenings.
988. Browsing books in the library while girls shop.
There is one problem with becoming more self-aware - it makes it very hard to hang on to your negative behaviour!
You may have seen my last rant of a post and if so you will be pleased to know that my anger and frustration is calming down.
You see, I am aware it is MY anger and frustration. And what I am learning is........sometimes it is better to just get it out there. Blow what anyone else might think about it! I have watched people I love sit on their feelings, refusing to acknowledge them and seen those same people completely self-destruct.
However, when you have spent most of your life relying on the affirmation of others, being real is exceptionally hard.
Trying to explain how I feel when I am still trying to work it out myself is also very very hard. It takes me some time and an awful lot of thought and energy.
Does it really matter? Would it not be better to learn to just not let STUFF bother me in the first place, to just let it go.......... Or would that just lead me into a shallowness, where I was not really able to connect with others around me? I suppose I am really hoping that by becoming more self-aware 'stuff' will not bother me in quite the same way as it does with all these hang ups, hanging around.
I have still not quite worked out how to try and mend the broken relationship with my niece - I think I am going to be letter writing. Things will also have to change a little in our relationship, I was obviously giving far to much of myself for it to blow as it did. She will soon be turning 18 and will need to rely on me less if she is to have any hope of getting any sort of independence.
Gah! life can be so scary................ what would I do without my faith. Taking on the responsibilities of the world would most definitely be enough to squash me completely!
So as I go into this new week, I shall keep forgiving those that have upset me (I never seem to be able to do anything just once) and I shall keep giving thanks for the bounty of gifts that I have been given ......
970. Unexpected kind words from a friend.
971. Putting fabric through my sewing machine.
972. Blowing bubbles with each breath as I swim.
973. Watching my dog watching the world go by from the window.
974. Conversations with my daughter in the car.
975. The cup of tea made by my son.
976. Using up the meal, that was frozen from left overs.
977. Green foods, boosting my iron intake.
978. The smell of real fires in the outside air.
979. A hug from a new very little friend.
May your week be full of acknowledged blessings xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I must have put it down and now I can't find it anywhere?
I hate the term compassion fatigue! I'm not tired of being compassionate, I've just lost the ability to have it!
For the last 18 months since my mum died I have been faithfully 'caring' for my niece while she is in an adolescent secure psychiatric unit. This has involved a fortnightly 210 mile round trip to visit her, almost daily phone calls, regularly shopping and managing her finances.
To be honest in my heart I have been 'caring' for her for the last 14 1/2 years, that is when my sister asked me to take care of her if anything should happen to her or my parents. Well that something happened and in the last 6 years I've lost the three of them!
My compassion has wondered off in the past. Over the two years that my niece lived with us I finally snapped, compassion was lost and the following 2 years were spent searching for that compassion, tempting it to come back.
But right now, this minute, I don't think I even want it to come back. I'm sick of caring. I want to see progress. I want to know that this caring can end, that I am not going to be 'needed' like this forever.
And of course the effect of this loss is her ANGER, she is cutting me off. All the work on our relationship feels lost too.
I COULD summon up the energy to write a letter, to apologise for the things that I have said, but am I really sorry - would that be honest of me?
I really do not know what to do next. I am trying to do what 'professionals' would advise, I'm exercising, trying to eat okay, not drinking too much. I really cannot blame this 'loss' on stress, I'm the most stress free I have been in years!!!!!!
So I will do the only thing I know I can do at the moment and continue to count my blessings, the simple gifts that God gives me in abundance that I just need to stop, see and receive.........
960. Leaves blowing in the wind.
961. A baby sleeping on my chest.
962. Watching healthy knees going up and down stairs.
963. The aeroplane bringing my loved one home.
964. The sound of my son cooking.
965. Open windows in November.
966. My swimsuit drying, ready to get wet again.
967. The sounds in the street of life existing.
968. My pot of crochet hooks.
969. Friends dropping round to say hello.
May your days be filled with blessings too xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I have spent the last 30 minutes going back in my blog trying to discover when I first found out about Ann Voskamp and the commitment she was making and daring to others, counting the gifts that God gives us in the everyday moments of life. It was way back in January 2010! You can see that very first post of mine here.
I did discover that by taking on this attitude of gratitude I did start to change. I did notice that my prayers were less full of 'wants' and more full of 'thanks' and my joy as a result was definitely increasing.
For three years I stuck at the counting, however the last time I wrote any blessings down in was back in February 2013, I had got to number 949 - this was written just a few days before my mother took her own life.
So why am I talking about it again - well to be honest it has never been out of my mind. The teaching that Ann was discovering and sharing had shifted something in me. I no longer read many blogs (You can read Ann's here) and so have not been keeping up with where she is now, but I do no that her book is a New York Times best seller. What really started to draw me back was when I took on the role of looking for new resources for the women's group at our church which I help to lead. That is when I saw the book and thought - NOW was the time to get this, especially as I noticed she had done a DVD as well (our group particularly likes a bit of DVD as well as discussion). I ended up finding quite a few resources, enough to fill the whole year!
When I met with my fellow group leaders we decided that this particular book/DVD would be a good one for our quiet away day which we usually do in November. Now you see why this has brought everything back into my mind! Our away day is this Saturday and I am so enjoying finally getting round to reading the book, the study guide and watching the DVD. I am doing a section about how our hearts get closed to gratitude - quite apt considering when I stopped! I'm also doing some craft which I am so so excited about.
I am even more excited that we are only covering the first DVD session on our away day which means we get to do the next 4 sessions on the Fridays to December.
So I shall stop blathering on now and do a little more counting!
950. Reawakening my attitude to gratitude.
951. Soft tumble dried towels.
952. Golden leaves still on the trees.
953. Summer blooms still out in the garden.
954. Washing still drying on the clothes line.
955. Chocolate cake in the cupboard.
956. Watching an ever changing sky scape as I swim.
957. Another finished home made Christmas present.
958. Children loading and unloading the dishwasher.
959. A dog to cuddle up to when my hubby is away.
And here are a few photo's of my garden (still in bloom in November) - something I am so very grateful for.........
This blog is a bit like a journal for me. I have found over the years that I can never sustain writing in a physical journal. However I seem to be able to quite happily tap out my thoughts now and again on this blog. My thoughts are often very random and sporadic. I would love to hear your thoughts on what you read.