Sometimes, if you hit a bruise enough times, it ends up feeling numb.
The last few months have undoubtedly bruised us all. Ollie has been ravaged by the beast that is anorexia, and we have had to weather his storm as best we could. As parents, we have watched him suffer, and have witnessed things I wish that I could forget. Our most basic nurturing instincts have been battered. All we wanted was to feed our child, and we failed to do that most basic part of parenting.
I think each assault by the anorexia has left its mark on us all. Whilst I can't begin to imagine the horrors that Ollie has to face, I can now start to see that as parents, we have been traumatised. We've seen our child lose himself, to become a stranger to us: a violent, devious demon overtook him. We have seen our baby pinned down by four adults as he screamed. We have watched as he has been forcibly tube-fed and medicated. We despaired when he became mute, we felt fear as we looked into his glazed eyes. We have unpacked his belongings in a tiny room on a psychiatric ward. We have had to leave him, to drive away, back to our old lives, and to had to start to live as a family of three.
Yesterday I was out running, and I passed a funeral procession. I looked on, sized up the coffin, and found myself wondering how small Ollie's coffin would be. I thought about what his funeral would be like, who would come, what we'd say. My feet carried me forward but my head drifted away. It felt like an inevitability. Ollie wasn't going to get better.
We have been sleepwalking through the days, numbed by the repeated blows. I hadn't realised quite how numb we had become until we received some startling news.
Yesterday, after a month of being 100% tube-fed, Ollie ate a two-course lunch.
When I heard the news, my first reaction was one of disbelief. I slowly smiled, and then quickly started to worry that it might be a one-off. It made no sense. Why would he suddenly eat? What had happened? My reaction was definitely low-key, muted, cautious; I couldn't cry, or really feel the joy. I felt numb.
Today, we heard more news from the ward: Ollie had spoken to a nurse. Not just a single word, but he said that he "thought he had lost the hope". A meaningful phrase, uttered by our mute son. We went on to hear that he was doing well in his new environment, he was attending school daily, and attending group meetings and therapy (albeit silently). We shrugged and said "that's good". In 24 hours, the turnaround from thinking about Ollie's funeral to hearing his progress should have seen a hugely emotional response. Instead, I feel empty.
Perhaps the enormity of Ollie's progress will take a while to sink in. Or maybe we are not allowing ourselves to feel any real hope, in case it is snatched away again.