Meet the mum behind The Boy Who Loved Apples

Meet the mum behind The Boy Who Loved Apples

The Boy Who Ate Apples - meet author Amanda Webster in Brisbane at the At Home with Eating Disorders Conference.

The Boy Who Loved Apples – meet author Amanda Webster in Brisbane at the At Home with Eating Disorders Conference.

When people noticed Riche, the 11-year-old son of Australian Amanda Webster, was not only too skinny but dangerously ill, they were surprised and somewhat in disbelief.

Do boys get anorexia? they asked.

And then: How did he get it? 

That was the question Australian mother, Amanda, asked herself, too. She had trained as a doctor; she knew that every disease has a cause. And if her son had an eating disorder, she wondered if she and her husband Kevin were to blame — was there something they had failed to do?

Amanda was catapulted into a full-on battle to save her son, and at the same time, found herself re-assessing her own life. Such big challenges, so little help available. Like many parents whose home becomes a treatment centre to help their child survive and recover from anorexia, Amanda felt determined to somehow make this experience count. When the time was right, she began to write a book, The Boy Who Loved Apples, to help others benefit from her family’s experiences. You can meet Amanda at the meet-the-authors’ event on the eve of Australia’s first eating disorder for conference, At Home with Eating Disorders. Other authors present at this not-to-be-missed event include  researchers Professors Janet Treasure, Daniel Le Grange and Cynthia Bulik, carer Becky Henry and myself.

Here, Amanda explains why she wrote The Boy Who Loved Apples:

I started writing The Boy Who Loved Apples at the end of 2004, when our son Riche, then 12, was well into recovery.

Author of The Boy Who Loved Apples - Amanda Webster.

Author of The Boy Who Loved Apples – Amanda Webster. Picture by Karl Schwerdtfeger.

It’s a personal story of our experience written from the perspective of a mother and former doctor.I wrote the book for many reasons, frustration and gratitude being the two most important.

Frustration because we struggled to find effective treatment for Riche. We came up against ignorance and blame among health practitioners before we eventually found suitable treatment. We spent many, many thousands of dollars in a system that supposedly delivers good quality, free medical care. We encountered misunderstanding among friends and strangers alike.

But I also wrote the book from a place of gratitude. Gratitude to sufferers and other families who had previously shared their stories. They made us feel less alone in our struggle and helped us to avoid pitfalls. In particular, gratitude for Laura Collins’ book, Eating With Your Anorexic, which is where I first heard about the Maudsley Approach or Family-Based Therapy. The knowledge came too late to help in the acute stage of Riche’s illness, but it helped me make sense of what we’d been through and it helped in the ongoing management of Riche’s health.

I also wrote from a place of gratitude for the health professionals involved in providing better treatment for sufferers. Some of those people will be present at the At Home with Eating Disorders Conference. I can never thank them enough.

The book took almost eight years to write. I took many online creative writing classes and eventually enrolled in a low-residency Master of Fine Arts program, based at City University of Hong Kong. Most of the work is long distance but I fly to Hong Kong for residencies every so often. I expect to have my degree next year.

The Boy Who Loved Apples is meant to help families who have a child with anorexia. I also see it as the kind of book you could ask friends or family members to read in order to gain a better understanding of the illness and the demands it places on immediate family.

I would dearly love  health professionals and students to read it to help them understand what it’s like at the coalface. It’s not a book for sufferers to read, nor is it suitable for young children. Writing The Boy Who Loved Apples is one way I’ve found to raise awareness about anorexia, to promote Family-Based Therapy, and to ask for a better deal for families and sufferers alike.

* Register for At Home with Eating Disorders Conference today!

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