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Archive for the ‘School/HSC’ Category

Soph has sailed really through her HSC. Her mood has been mostly stable, apart from one weekend melt-down. She studied (mostly), kept an even keel on her boat and got through.

One day after the exams are over all the triggers suddenly start hitting. The biggest trigger on her mood and the tense outburst from her are all to do with the coming Yr 12 formal. It’s like the HSC was able to block and ‘keep her safe’ from all the other things.

Interesting isn’t it, what sets a trigger and what doesn’t. When the exams you would think are the biggest thing, are eclipsed by a social event. It not about marks, future, uni or career. It’s about friends, socialising, hair, dress, and surviving a social event and her dad will be there too. The Year 12 formal has become an event not disimiliar to a wedding in its planning and anxieties of ‘getting it right’.

Once the formal is over, then she will get anxious about results and uni acceptances. It’s not ostrich behaviour but more a full focus behaviour. Each coming ‘event’ has claimed her full focus, so that when it is over she is confronted by a whole new situation and panics. It’s like each situation is in isolation to anything else and she is running up and down huge mountains rather than learning to ‘flatten’ her environment.

Most of us tend to spread our focus around. Giving a bit of attention to all coming events, setting bits and pieces in motion towards each of them. Then when one event is over, the next can be faced with some planning in place. It is not a ‘surprise’ or ‘help’ situation. For Sophie, this is obviously part of her personality, all or nothing approach, being unable to plan ahead or to smooth her future path.

At the moment, home is punctured by her terse, anxious outbursts with bouncy puppy moments in between. Her brother is having panic moments mid afternoon, alternating between half smiles and looking tortured. Thinking of becoming an ostrich myself. 🙂

Oh and today is family group therapy day. Yay! (sob)

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time makes a differenceEach time I stop and look back, I can see how far we have come. How much my daughter has matured and stabilised. Someone recently said, “She is just blossoming”. YES!! (Oh and she chose the photo on right to go on this post)

Since leaving school, she hasn’t struggled with the usual ‘I’m bored’ and the triggers that can feed from that. Last holiday she did well too, but she prepared by making sure she had things to do. This time she didn’t even prepare. She sorta just let it flow and happen around her. That’s pretty cool.

The fact that Soph is actually studying reasonably, not panicking (well not yet) and still eating normally is a very good sign. If she was starting to fear and be insecure her eating habits would be the first sign all wasn’t well. But so far so good. But whatever happens is still ok. Only a year ago she was a mess about the thought of exams and cancelled them all.

Tomorrow she gets all 4 wisdom teeth out. So yes, today she has been hyper, very talkative (almost manic) and stayed close to me (with big eyes) – she says she is fine, but her behaviour gives her away.  At least is is a late morning operation (all in hospital) and we can be home early afternoon and get her settled. How she goes after that I don’t know – apart from being very painful and swollen. What I hope most, is that there are no complications or prolonged changes to her eating pattern. That will be enough to trigger the eating disorder behaviour. God has it all in His hands, and whatever the outcome she will be cared for. That is all I can do.

So the fridge is ready with soft foods, medicine cabinet full of pain killers, ice packs freezing, movies and books stocked up. Good to go. I will tell her what to expect from surgery in the morning. It isn’t a horrific thing to talk about, but even the slightest knowledge will worry Sophie. She needs a good sleep tonight instead of worrying.

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Almost 3 years ago Sophie’s dietitian looked me straight in the eye and said very seriously, “she possibly won’t get an education because of the anorexia”. It was a chilling moment for me, a real reality check. This illness was here to stay for years, and was capable of taking my daughter’s future.

Yesterday Sophie graduated Year 12, with a first in Ancient History and a first in Japanese for this year’s subjects, and a first in Visual Arts last year. It’s not the firsts that is the greatest achievement here, but the fact she gained her high school education through incredible odds.

Many components have gone into this achievement:

  • Sophie’s commitment to her recovery despite the many relapses and home life situations
  • Her slow regaining of self-confidence and belief that she is allowed to own and live her life apart from the anorexia
  • Her teams unwavering positive support and counselling through everything
  • The schools commitment and offering options to enable her to complete each year
  • Exemptions from exams and assessments, special considerations, pathways for two years to complete the Year 12 subjects for HSC

There were many times during the past years that both of us wondered if she would ever get there. Days and weeks of major insecurities and doubt, coupled with relapse. It sometimes seemed a mountain to high and difficult to climb over.

She is proud, elated and now very tired. This last week of finalising Year 12 has been an emotional roller coaster and a huge event in itself. After the intense high will come the low, but the knowledge of achievement will remain with her. It will give her confidence to know she has the right to claim the same ‘right of passage’ that every other teenagers has – university and a future.

As for me, I am intensely proud of her, to have come through so much and to have made it with a spectacular finish. I am teary as I review the past to present journey, and know that whilst my daughter is still not safe, the future is looking far better than it looked those 3 years ago. To my beautiful, lovely daughter.

Celebrate

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making informed decisionsThe age group that an eating disorder usually hits is the one that sees our teenagers, young adults choosing subjects, courses or careers. It is a huge decision from the age of 16 onwards as to what to choose and what would be right, your life path so to speak. All teenagers find this a big step.

Spare a thought for those with eating disorders, or any kind of illness that affects judgement and decision making. Eating disorders destroy the normal thought process. Decision can be made based on what will benefit the eating disorder behaviour and allow it to exist. Or the decisions can be based on insecurities, fear, unworthiness. The decisions made can be completely out of character or ability realm. Medication further muddies the water by lowering concentration, memory and awareness The whole psychology behind ED’s is low self-esteem, little self-confidence and seeing no hope or future.

Sophie was in-between hospital stays when she had to choose her senior subjects. Parents often wonder if their child is even going to get an education when the eating disorder moves in – it is that destructive. But we don’t realise just how much more can be affected. Sophie chose subjects she thought would be the path of least resistance based on the anorexia affecting her memory, focus, learning capabilities. Her self-esteem was zilch and she figured there wouldn’t be much of a future. Now at her second year of HSC, realisation has finally hit. Subjects are wrong or not wide enough. She wants to pick up the other side of her academic abilities and do science and research. It has taken over two years of recovery for her memory and focus to finally start to work properly again.  I am seeing the academic girl who existed before anorexia.

Of course she is now annoyed and saddened – (1) the realisation again of the cost of the anorexia, it is an illness that just keeps giving but not good things, (2) whether she can follow the path of science or have to now wait for mature age entry.

Some have found the same as Sophie about subjects/career choices, others have just dropped school altogether, others have started one uni course and found it wrong or can’t cope, others lose dream jobs. In a world that applauds academic success, study and career paths and expects it within a certain timeframe, we provide very little to help those unable to make rational or wise decisions. Worse it is left to the sufferer to try and unravel this mess by themselves, pay the price (yet again) for having an ED and then to make a life worth living.

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Two weeks ago Sophie’s psychiatrist challenged her to self-care enough to make a difference to her life. Dr W was very no-nonsense about her challenge and really wanted Sophie to pick this up. It was not only about learning decent self-care but also to realise that half of Sophie’s whining and poor attitude was all self-inflicted and would not be there if she changed her life a bit.

Surprise, surprise Sophie actually picked up the challenge. First time EVER she took notice and did exactly what the psychiatrist has asked. (lol, how long have we been seeing Dr W – exactly 3 years – can’t hurry these things).

So Sophie has got up earlier, gone to sleep earlier, not missed meals, eaten better, got dressed most days. And wonders of wonders, even cooked two family meals.

She has noticed a difference. Bit rude to say I told you so. But hey self care does work and it is important to you mental health and your emotions. The wheels are starting to fall off the early starts and having to push herself to achieve this, but a lesson has been learnt. Sophie can changed how her days look, she can change how she feels about life and living. It might seem like small potatoes to many, but to her and others like her just getting out of bed earlier and getting dressed can change a whole day.

We have also managed to get down to 1/4 of the olanzapine every day. The next step now is to miss a dose once a week, then twice a week and so on. Bit scary this next move, but it is now time to try. Now the HSC trials are over, TAC entries are in, and she is finalising her english major work this weekend for lodgement, there is space before the main HSC to start weaning back more on the medication.

Sometimes you think how much longer will all this take, how long the distance is behind you and what is still up ahead. Thankfully we are not given that knowledge, I think that would be just too much. A day at a time, achieving small victories, gradually changing negative into positive is enough to cope with.

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but i swear that after this week I will pay anyone to take her. Just kidding but it has been a swinging week. I am thinking that if she remains at home next year instead of finding full time work or a uni course away from home, we will both combust. Sigh, and then when she is gone I will worry every day that she is not eating right (because I know she won’t be) and when to expect her home because she is too sick.

Science is no longer the new life saving degree. Really? So.not.surprised. Sophie not only throws out the baby with the bath water, but also the sponge, soap and the actual bath. All gone. She is after black and white, all or nothing. Today was the day she did all her uni submissions. Am wondering if anyone else has put in submission to VTAC, UAC and QTAC for a total of 16 courses. Am pleased at least the are no submissions for the state of WA.

So of course her mood is all over the place. Others would say ‘I am stressed with doing my trials and deciding my uni entries’. Sophie says ‘I won’t eat eggs again, as they add to my iron levels’, or decide to tell me what I can and can’t buy at the supermarket. No ice cream this week (it’s bad for me) or only low-fat yoghurt (cause I am choosing my own yoghurts). Try to point out the illogic of this or that the ED is stronger than she thinks, and clearly I am lying.

Her counselling appt I think went fine but instead of close appointments that her counsellor wanted, it is now monthly. How can you talk about the issues if it is only monthly!!! I thought they were going to talk about the issues and actually work towards something (BIG SIGH). She told her psychiatrist last week the anorexia was only present about 2/10 in her thinking. BS. We both know that you can add at least 3 points to that and then you are getting closer to reality.

So tonight am chilling out with biscuits, cheese and wine. Anything to block the week and hope the weekend might be better. Cheers!

 

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No new textbooks, no new courses. Just confusion, doubt, insecurities, and maybe I shouldn’t do uni. It is also HSC trial week for her.

The high of the last 2-3 weeks is gone, replaced be the low of depression, better off dead than choosing the wrong career mindset.

I am not surprised. The high of the science degree had to fall. History is showing that she gets a high, rides it for a while with a new idea, then plumments. It is finding the key to getting her to listen in what state she is in. She doesn’t fit Bipolar criteria but the highs and lows do feature in her character.

She doesn’t have to go to uni, no one does straight away after school. There are so many paths to careers that the tension and expectation placed on the HSC is not needed. Unis and university agencies push the market to get students in. It’s all about bums on seats and government funding. Taking time after school to think things through is a good idea. Far too many student race into degrees they find they don’t like or want, so chop and change degrees (bigger HECS debt) or just drop out.

Eating disorders change the field you were playing in. What you wanted to do or be can radically change, whether as a direct result of the eating disorder or through the therapy given. Recovery is a mix of being the person you were and a newly birthed person. You also have to take into account how you are going to manage away from your usual support routine and team. You can’t ignore this. No plans means a very real possibility of relapse. Even with plans it is going to be hard.

Sophie hasn’t even thought of how to cope with part-time or full-time uni, away from home and how to sustain her health. She just wants to ignore her past and pretend she can just ‘do it’. It doesn’t work like that. Like it or not the eating disorder goes with her and she has to learn to live with that and make exceptions, compromises or whatever is needed to protect herself.

Today is psychiatrist day and counselling next week. Hoping both may help sustain her a bit.

 

 

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