My 13 year old son is in an eating disorder unit

Like Comment

My 13 year old son is in an eating disorder unit and I don’t really know what to do with that.

He’s been there for 5 weeks, his anorexia having become so severe we had no choice. He had no choice. Choice is not something you have a lot of where anorexia is concerned. I know that from personal experience having lived with it myself for more years than I care to remember, and now via my son too. He was 9 years old, not even double figures when the claws of the disease sunk in to my child’s young life. And who’s to blame? Me, genetics, society, popular culture, social media, damned bad luck? All of the aforementioned?

So what to do now? He lives his nightmare behind secured hospital doors and we live ours behind doors that we unlock with our house keys.  Just because we can open ours and come and go as we please doesn’t mean our lives are any freer than his. Our beloved child is ill and in torment - the pain and terror all too evident in his voice via the frequent daily phone calls. And I can’t help him. Me, his mother, the one who’s supposed to make it all right again. I’ve run out of answers for him. I can’t make it better, not this time.

But he’s putting on weight. A small amount anyway and he no longer looks like he’s about to die – which he did. His head nothing more than a skull and his tiny 13 year old frame reduced to skin and bone and not much else. So for this slight improvement we are grateful. So god-damned grateful. No child should go through this. No parent should have to watch their child as they do.

So one day at a time. That’s all we can say to concerned enquiries from friends and loved ones. Because if nothing else that is what I’ve learnt. We do not know what tomorrow may bring. Small wins, big wins, challenges faced and conquered, the sheer bravery and will of my amazing boy humbling me to my core. Or will it be meltdowns, panic attacks, self loathing or physical harm that defines the day to come. We just do not know. And we don’t have yesterday, that’s gone. Sometimes that’s a blessing, sometimes that’s a curse.

But we take each day as it comes because for now we don’t know what else we can do. And I pray. Not something I’ve ever done much of before I admit. I pray that something or someone will keep my baby safe. Look after him whilst I’m not there. Do all the things a mother should do for her sick child. Be me. Be what he needs in these darkest, scariest of times for him. But most of all I pray that he will get better. That he will come home. Be happy and healthy and live his life in the way he so desperately wants – at 100 miles an hour, doing his beloved parkour, having adventures, being alive and free.

I love you my cherished son. Please come home soon x

Susannah Hebden


Person centred/existential counsellor, stylist, mum of two, adoptee