Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Lonely Parent

Being the parent of a child with anorexia is terribly isolating. We continue to be quite private about our struggles. I really wish that the public perception of anorexia was more accurate and not so based on assumptions of the past. It would be good to speak publicly and help change these inaccurate perceptions. But the reality is that those old perceptions are prevalent and most of those around us really don't understand. And N is going through such a tough time in life anyway. I just feel like we can't openly discuss the anorexia and not have people prejudge him (because I continue to see evidence of that judgement). N is a great kid -- but it seems that the anorexia gets in the way of people seeing that.

In the past few weeks, I've felt this loneliness more than usual. I've had several conversations with people who are aware of N's illness. I thought that they understood the realities of the disease. But in these conversations, I became quite aware of how much they don't understand. I spent many minutes last week, for example, trying to explain to someone how exercise figures into the problems of anorexia. It was hard to help her understand the idea that not exercising (regimentally) was in N's best interest. The media's misunderstanding of weight right now just adds to the isolation as I realize just how much of a paradigm shift I've already had (and how crazy I must sound sometimes).

Thankfully, I have a few friends and family members who really listen to me and believe in me regardless of understanding. [Edited to include]: And I also have a wonderful community of parents supporting each other as we all go through the same thing!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Trip to the Therapist

N's OCD behaviors have been increasing significantly since school started. So last night, T & N went and met with his therapist for the first time since January. We had some new concerns because the OCD patterns have changed some. Instead of touching door jambs and holding his breath when someone "fat" is on the tv, he has started being concerned about chemical contamination, becoming autistic, becoming gay, and masturbation. Some of these are pretty tough topics - which we don't avoid, but are trying to be sensitive about how to talk with him about them. He hears his friends bring up these topics (in a less sensitive manner) and it scares him. I've been concerned about whether our reassurances "that he isn't autistic" for example, were just feeding the OCD loop. I didn't know whether to reassure/discuss (and potentially enable the cycle) or to refuse and potentially make things much more difficult.

N's therapist indicated that it was okay for us to reassure him once -- to give him the information and reduce his anxiety. But after that, if he seeks reassurance on the exact topic again, we should refer to our earlier conversation. His therapist didn't seem to think that the intense topics were indicators of larger issues, but rather were just the anxieties N was encountering at this moment.

Other than some of this new information, the appointment was just a rehash of many concepts and principles that have been addressed before. In some ways, it felt like a waste of time, but I wonder if N needs to be constantly reminded of the ways he can address the OCD.

I also suspect that the stress of a new school year is aggravating the OCD behaviors. N is doing well with his grades and assignments. I'm trying to let him be responsible for when he does his homework and the potential natural consequences of waiting to the last minute. He's had some of those consequences and it seems to make a difference. N is pushing himself pretty hard to get all As. We don't really care about his grades - just that he turns his assignments in. But he often lapses back to that typical "all or nothing" approach. He would rather not turn in an assignment than turn in one that is imperfect. In fact, last night I drew attention to the fact that he had very little time left to do his homework -- but he was so wrapped up in finding the perfect "third argument" that I could envision his essay taking another two hours (and it was already late). So I reminded him that it was better to get the paper done, turned in, and get a B - than to not have it done at all. I don't know if that helped or not.

His doctor was very surprised to see how much N had grown -- and that his voice has now deepened (I knew that it was happening, but it just isn't as noticeable when you live with him everyday).