“My son was very, very mentally unwell. It was the most horrific thing we’ve ever been through.”
2017 started like any other year for Rachel*. By August that year she was fighting for her 10-year-old son’s life. His battle with anxiety and anorexia nervosa had become so severe his heart was failing.
“I was so lost for words. I couldn’t believe what was happening,” says Rachel.
Rachel’s son was admitted to hospital for three months. Prior to his admission and upon his release the family worked closely with the Child, Adolescent and Family outpatient service. The journey was long and the toll it took on the family was immense.
“It was all so traumatic. He had voices in his head telling him that he was hopeless and that no one loved him. He was aggressive, violent, and volatile. Every single minute of every day I had to be careful with what I said, what I did and how I looked at him. He thought I was attacking him just by looking at him. He thought I was poisoning him. He lost the ability to think rationally as his illness took over his mind and body.
“He was one very, very sick little boy. He had no idea that what he was going through was a severe mental illness as he had never heard of anorexia nervosa. He had no idea what was happening to him,” says Rachel.
For Rachel’s younger son, it was hard to understand. It was his 5th birthday when his brother stopped eating.
“What was supposed to be a fun time, starting school and making new friends was instead unpredictable and a bit chaotic really.”
Rachel tried to separate her son from his illness.
“I told my five-year-old that his big brother’s brain had been taken over by a monster. We named the monster Bob. It was Bob making him do things.
“I remember on one occasion my five-year-old and I were at the kitchen bench and my older son was in the corner of the kitchen screaming. I just held the younger one’s hand and said don’t look at him right now, look at me. That’s not your brother, that’s Bob. I reassured him that we were doing all we could to get his big brother back.”