Mullumbimby mother Amanda Skelton’s memoir of her son’s battle with anorexia is up for a manuscript award.
Mullumbimby mother Amanda Skelton’s memoir of her son’s battle with anorexia is up for a manuscript award.

Son's battle worth writing home about

A MULLUMBIMBY mum's harrowing account of her son's battle with anorexia has been short-listed in this year's Litlink/Northern Rivers Writers Centre Unpublished Manuscript Award.

Amanda Skelton's eldest son Riche was just 11 when anorexia took over his life and turned him into an unsmiling shadow of his former self. The year that followed was one of the loneliest and painful of Amanda's life. Her family was thrown into turmoil and her marriage almost fell apart.

Counselling and therapy, combined with the writing of her family memoir, Not My Son, was how she helped herself make sense of it all.

“Nothing good comes out of this disease, there's no silver lining,” she said.

It was 2002 when Riche first started showing symptoms of anorexia.

Amanda, who is medically trained, was shocked at how different her experience of anorexia was as a mother. Nothing in her training could prepare her for the bizarre rituals and obsessions ruling her son.

“One of the problems during Riche's illness was that he believed calories could float through the air and penetrate his skin. This was enormously debilitating,” she said.

Amanda also found the medical system used punitive measures to treat children and blamed parents for the disease. Her search for compassionate treatment for her son eventually led her to the Maudsley approach - a home-based re-feeding treatment supported by family therapy.

It focuses on training the parents rather than patient, because of the impaired thought processes starvation causes in sufferers.

The approach allowed Riche, now 18, to recover fully from the disease.

Not My Son is Amanda's first novel. She said she was honoured to be short-listed for the award.

Organisers received 75 submissions from across regional NSW. Amanda's novel was one of only four short-listed.

All four writers will appear at a dedicated session at the Byron Bay Writers Festival next month, where the winner will be named and awarded a two-week fellowship at Varuna, The Writers House, in the Blue Mountains.



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