This week we said goodbye to two wonderful support groups at GOSH. It’s the first step in moving on, and Ollie was very happy to hand out some little gifts and skip merrily on his way. He has, for some time, been almost “too well” to attend the children’s group, and although he has been a positive presence, he hasn’t needed to attend. In fact we’ve begun to worry that keeping him “in with the poorly kids” is not in his best interests. He feels such empathy for his fellow patients and we feared that he would bear their burdens - but it seems that Ollie has been largely unaffected by it.
My husband and I also attended our last parents group. It is a weekly, one hour session where the parents of both in- and out-patient children sit together, drink coffee and chat. The sessions are generally unstructured and the topics seem to just bubble up. We have shared triumphs, fears, setbacks and small steps. It has been so important to have that safe place, surrounded by other parents who truly understand, to be able to say it like it is.
Parenting a child with anorexia is bloody awful. That’s a truth that is difficult to admit, and one that is only really understood by those who are living in it. The group has been a place where we’ve not been judged. It’s also the one place that has offered real, concrete hope. It’s one thing reading statistics or even listening to medics - it’s another to hear from fellow parents who can say “my child was mute/self-harming/absconding/admitted for 11 months/tube-fed, but my child has recovered. My child came through the darkness. Yours can too”. The value of that testimony is immeasurable.
We hope that we were able to pass on that hope to other parents by telling them Ollie’s story. If one family has been buoyed by our endless rambling, then we have given something back. We have certainly gained so much from the company of the other families. It’s a simple thing, really, but seemingly a rare resource. We also hope to find something similar once we’re back with local CAMHS.
I had never understood the value of “group therapy” until this last year. It was something vaguely horrifying as a concept - I’m generally reluctant to speak in front of a group - and it took me months to really embrace it. Once I started to talk though, it was hard to stop. Some weeks I felt sure that everyone was getting sick of the sound of my voice. But other than this blog, and my husband, I had no other forum for my experiences. Our friends have largely retreated away from us, and there’s only so much ranting you can do on Facebook. Sometimes it really is good to talk.