“When hope is hungry, everything feeds it.” ~Mignon McLaughlin
My 15-1/2-year-old son is angry and isn’t speaking to me.
It would be easy to chalk it up to hormones and typical teenage behavior, but that’s not it; he is angry because he is hungry, and he cannot eat. He is angry because there is nothing he can eat other than his “safe” foods. I am angry because I feel like I’ve failed him.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to eat what I have on hand: fruit, ingredients for a salad, lunch meat or leftovers -he simply cannot eat any of those foods. This is not picky or selective eating; it is not stubbornness; my son’s brain tells him it is not “safe” to eat food. My 6 ft 2-inch tall, 140-pound son has five “safe” foods: Cheerios, French fries, black beans, bean and cheese burritos and chocolate almond milk.
As a baby, he was a voracious eater; as a toddler, he would eat a variety of foods: chicken, steak, string cheese, apples, and applesauce but after the age of four, he stopped eating these foods and would only eat crackers, Cheerios, and milk.
The pediatrician said not to worry. At each annual appointment, I would raise concerns about his very limited diet but would be reassured when the doctor pointed out that he was on the 95% for height and weight.
“He will grow out of it” I was told.
As he got older, he refused to try new foods. He wouldn’t eat meat; he wouldn’t eat fruit; he wouldn’t eat vegetables. He was afraid of food: the sight, the smell and even the thought of what it tasted like.
My son self-diagnosed himself with ARFID (Associated Restrictive Food Intake Disorder); he wanted to eat but couldn’t go beyond his “safe” foods. We tried CBT, two EFT doctors, a naturopath, acupuncture, and hypnosis to help get him past his fear of food all without success.
My emotions are a roller coaster of worry, anger, fear, hope, and frustration. The impact on our family is indescribable; there are many days I feel like giving up yet there is always a flickering candle of hope: he wants help.
Last year I was I was clinically diagnosed with Lyme and blood tests showed positive results for Bartonella Ehrlichia, and Babesia; both of my sons also tested positive. The doctor explained that Bartonella triggers psychiatric manifestations and in the case of my son, his brain was saying “food is not safe.” I felt hopeful with this diagnosis.
As we journey down the path of recovery aided by our Osteopath, treatment with supplements, DBT, and neuro-therapy, I remind myself that while my son is hungry for food, we both are hungry for hope as we get through this.