It must be well over a year since I first approached Becky Henry who I already ‘knew’ through the F.E.A.S.T. network (Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders) – to pick her brains about a book which I was planning to put together.
Initially my new book, "When Anorexia Came To Visit: families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives" wasn’t going to be the British version of Becky’s book, "Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders." It was going to focus on the issues faced by British families from the first signs of their child’s eating disorder through to diagnosis and referral – and then stop there.
This is mainly because I wanted to see how the problems we encountered during the early days (described in my book Please Eat… A Mother’s Struggle To Free Her Teenage Son From Anorexia) overlapped with other families’ experiences.
But the more I talked to families, the more it became obvious that each chapter had to describe the whole story, not just the first part. So the result quickly became a British version of Becky’s book.
Becky was enormously helpful, guiding me on a whole manner of aspects – and, of course, I was thrilled when she agreed to write a Preface for When Anorexia Came To Visit (which follows a Foreword by UK eating disorder specialist Professor Janet Treasure OBE).
The primary purpose of When Anorexia Came To Visit is to help parents to identify the warning signs of an eating disorder and take prompt action – and to empower them to demand the best, evidence-based treatment for their son or daughter while drawing on the strategies that these 20 families found most helpful. Most important of all, its purpose is to offer parents the hope that, given excellent treatment and support, their child can recover from this illness and remain well.
The other purpose of When Anorexia Came To Visit is to highlight inconsistencies in the way eating disorder treatment is delivered across the UK – and to draw attention to the problems encountered at GP level where there is often a low awareness of the complexities and symptoms of eating disorders.
Of course with such a complex illness and widely differing personal circumstances, every story is different. Also, these stories focus on experiences of the British NHS where treatment is free.
Nonetheless there will be overlaps and elements that families from every corner of the globe will recognise and identify with. Every family will read these stories and find themselves nodding their heads and saying “Me, too!” as they read about families undergoing similar experiences.
Getting a son or daughter through an eating disorder is one of the toughest and most distressing things parents will ever do. But re-visiting painful memories is unbelievably tough, too. Yet each of the families I interviewed for this book willingly volunteered to come forward and describe their own struggles.
Not only did they agree to talk frankly about their experiences, they agreed to read through the various drafts I sent through for checking. In other words, being involved in this book meant having to re-visit distressing memories not once but several times over. This takes courage and commitment. It also demonstrates how much these families care about others - families they have never met who will read this book and hopefully draw inspiration, strength and hope from its pages.
This book could never have been written without the help of these 20 families – or generous people like Becky Henry, Janet Treasure and Laura Collins of F.E.A.S.T. who wrote the introductory chapters.
In many cases all I have done, as the author, is to edit the transcript of a taped conversation or tweak a detailed written account. So, strictly, I should be calling myself editor, not author.
Finally I must thank the young people themselves for demonstrating the courage, grit and determination to fight the eating disorder and win. Being a parent is tough, but being someone who has fought to break free from this insidious illness is even tougher.
Our sons and daughters are truly awesome. And so are their parents.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bev Mattocks is the author of Please Eat… A mother’s struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0957511809]. Her second book When anorexia came to visit: Families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0957511841] has just been published, with a Foreword by Professor Janet Treasure OBE.
Both are available on Amazon and as Kindle downloads
Visit Bev’s blog AnorexiaBoyRecovery http://anorexiaboyrecovery.blogspot.co.uk/