How Many Times Can Your Heart Break? Really?

by Mel

So I have mentioned The Boy and some of the obstacles we have come against with his learning. What I haven’t mentioned…what I never ever mention…are some of the other obstacles we face. Aside from the very rough start with the Sensory Integration Disorder, dysgraphia, and processing and output problems….The Boy has acquired a new…I don’t know…”thing”. The Boy is emetophobic. Note the completely emotionally depleted, head-in-hands, broken-hearted sigh that the last phrase is spoken with. Today, I hit one of the lowest points in my time as a parent – my 9 year old son asked to see a therapist.

I could write a novel on the difficulties The Boy has had since day one…but I will try to sum up the latest. About six weeks ago, The Boy got a touch of food poisoning. He threw up…only once. It was the second time in his whole life he had ever thrown up. Really. The first time was his first day of school in the first grade. At the lunch table. In front of everyone. Someone he didn’t know had to help clean him up. He had to wear someone else’s emergency clothes home. He then, in the worst case of the stomach flu I have ever seen, threw up every 15 minutes, like clockwork, for then next 48 hours. It was horrific. While most people would look back at a memory like that and cringe, but move on, The Boy has internalized it and it has manifested itself in this phobia. It may seem silly. No one likes to throw up, right? And throwing up is not something you have to deal with very often anyway, so what’s the big deal? In the past six weeks, I have watched this phobia wrap its tentacles around my baby boy and slowly begin to squeeze the life out of him.

The Boy eats nothing. For the first weeks…yes, weeks…after the incident, The Boy ate only Saltines and strawberry milk. Week three, he added Tums to his diet… which we removed shortly after. He now eats english muffins and plain In ‘n’ Out hamburgers…sometimes a quesadilla. He has given up all but a small handful of foods. He used to beg to go out to dinner every night. Now he begs for us to bring it home to eat. He takes every meal into his room because he associates sitting at the table to eat with throwing up because he threw up in the middle of dinner. His friends come to get him and he makes excuses not to play. On the occasions he does choose to go outside, he will either come rushing back in with shrieks of panic, thinking he was going to throw up again, or maybe make another lame excuse and retire to his room, leaving his friends bewildered. He has lost so much weight that looking at him sometimes makes me cry. He is still within the parameters of healthy, but just barely. He fears going in the car because the “roads are bumpy” – he will only go after the driver promises to “go slow”. He won’t go to visit his dad or cousins – something he has always loved to do.

We have been trying every angle to help him get a handle on this. The bottom line is…no matter how much you want to…you can not make some one eat. Now he eats just enough to keep us pacified and have us put our mentions of doctors and other help on hold.

Tonight, I attempted to move him forward. I told him I needed him to eat with the family. I made him a plain hamburger, and set us all up picnic-style on the floor so we could watch a movie. The hamburger got barely a nibble. I told him he needed to eat something. He made himself an english muffin. Another nibble. We presented him with an Ensure. A few slurps and he couldn’t go on. His stomach was “upset”. As he retreated to his room, there was the familiar shriek.

“Mom, I’m going to throw up! Hurry! Please!”

I followed. None too quickly, I am ashamed to admit…but I knew that yet again, there would be no throwing up. He was misidentifying hunger pangs as the need to throw up. As I stood and rubbed his back, I assured him that he was not going to throw up. ”

“It is in your mind,” I told him. “You”re going to need to get control over it.” Then he broke my heart.

He sobbed and said “I want to, but it is defeating me.”

And my heart broke. Again.

Later, he asked if therapy could make you forget something that you wanted out of your mind. We talked about therapy and he asked for help. I am relieved. Exhausted. Depleted.