This is a guest post by Wendy Hunter.
As a parent of a 15-year-old boy, I never would have believed that he would be diagnosed with anorexia. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened 10 years ago to my son Steven. Initially we thought he had mononucleosis because he was always exhausted and didn’t want to eat much. I suspected it was something else, especially when he told me he thought he was fat! At the time, he was about 115 pounds and 5’10”. I contacted the eating disorders program at Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Barrie and the journey to get him well began.
As a parent, I moved into action. We began working with the RVH eating disorders Program. My son and I both received individual counselling and both participated in group counselling with other families who were struggling like us. It was quite helpful, especially for me because I kept wondering what I did wrong as a parent. How did I fail my son?
Because anorexia can be resistant to treatment and is so complex, I needed an outlet to discuss my frustrations and sense of helplessness. At times I felt hopelessness as well. What kind of future did my son have? Would he get to university? Would he be able to work? Would he be happy in his life? For me, the best thing I did was surround Steven and I with positive, supportive people which included professionals, friends and family.
Steven and I had an uphill battle waiting for us. Steven was struggling with many more issues than what he was eating…or not eating. Anorexia is an insidious disorder that is treatment-resistant and involves distorted thinking. On top of that, he also experienced social anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder, which is a distorted view of your body. The symptoms of these issues were extremely strong and debilitating for him.
Steven identified the cause as several factors. He was dealing with the effects of chronic bullying at school, dealing with a learning disability and changes within our family. There is no doubt that his biology was part of the cause as well since his mother (me) and father and one set of grandparents struggled with depression and anxiety.
Steven worked very hard to overcome, and in some cases, learn to live with some of the lingering aspects of anorexia. Today, he has extensive knowledge of health and understands the balance that he needs between food and exercise. He still deals with some depression and anxiety but now has some effective strategies to deal with these issues.
He moved to Toronto to pursue his goal of living in Toronto and attends York University. He also works part-time as a security guard, which suits him because he is empathetic, respectful and compassionate to everyone he meets. He tells me I had a significant role in making him who he is…which is a very nice thought for me! I know that he has a bright, bright future.