Anorexia: A Son’s Battle, A Mother’s War


Judith Haaser attends the launch for Debbie Roche’s newly released book Anorexia: A Son’s Battle, A Mother’s War and finds out more about her experience of Anorexia.

Anorexia: A Son’s Battle, A Mother’s War Online


It’s Saturday morning and I’m on my way to a book launch my friend invited me to. I knew the title but I didn’t want to read too much ahead of the event. I think it’s more important to be surprised. I also don’t know much about Anorexia or many people who suffer from it, at least I think I don’t. So what did I expect? I thought it would be interesting but also emotional and sad.

I entered the Plymouth public library and went up to the room on the first floor, full of people including an energetic woman in a purple dress at the front looking anything but sad. It was Debbie Roche who has just launched her first book.

Originally from Sheffield, Debbie, mother of three, lives in Plymouth and works as an accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainer. Debbie also delivers a diverse range of mental health related awareness courses. Due to her own experiences with mental health in her family, she works as the Plymouth Mental Health Network Coordinator. She is a member of Healthwatch Plymouth and also sits on various strategic boards.

She talked freely and passionately about what happened. Her son Oliver became anorexic and it took a long time to realise and be able to find help. She became his carer as well as his mother. She described things that happened scientifically but mixed it with her emotional moments and experiences. In the book she writes: “I found myself faced with the most frightening devastating and incomprehensive situation that any parent would quake at. I was witnessing my gorgeous son slowly kill himself.”

She not only talked about dealing with this disease as a mother but also about the symptoms, the frustrations, feelings of guilt and how little help she received. She came across common misconceptions around eating disorders and showed some helpful videos especially about men with anorexia. She described a journey of how she and her son went through different stages with this disease, from signs of depression to knowing that slowly but surely he was recovering. This was a long journey and now she wants to help others with her experience. Debbie writes: “Recovery offered an opportunity to live life as one really should, driving one’s own destiny and not being the back seat passenger.”

I asked her how she ended up writing such a personal book and she said: “The book started off as a piece of therapy really. I needed an outlet for all of my frustration and guilt and, as I believe in writing therapies and personal narratives, I began jotting down little annoyances and experiences and the rest is history! It really was a cathartic process for me. I believe the book is unique in that it details my personal narrative (encompassing my emotions, thoughts and feelings). It includes areas of the learning I found necessary to support my newly imposed caring responsibilities, it examples modes of support and tips for identifying anorexia presentations. Plus, most importantly, it serves to break the stigma around eating disorders and mental health.”

Even if you don’t suffer from an eating disorder, it’s important to talk about it and be able to recognise the symptoms. Debbie also worked with professionals and Plymouth eating disorder charities. As a little exercise, the audience was asked to relax, close their eyes and imagine carrying heavy bags of the Past and Future, only to realise how important it is to let go and live in the present. Debbie tells me later: “I wanted to make the book launch interactive, not like one of the usual book launches where the author reads chapters straight from the book! Hence the poems, videos, speakers and little mindfulness exercise. Everything that occurred throughout the book launch had some relevance to my lived experiences.”

Debbie wants her book to be first port of call for parents, carers and anyone interested in anorexia or with concerns about someone. She plans to write more books which will give insights into the stigma that surrounds mental health and provide help, guidance and support. For information about Debbie’s book, email

Anorexia: A Son’s Battle, A Mother’s War is available to buy from Amazon

Visit the Plymouth Libraries website to find out about upcoming events