You Watch your loved one deteriorate physically and emotionally, but there is nothing you can do, except watch…
This is what it feels like to know someone with an eating disorder.
I bring this topic to you because it is crucial for gaining understanding, but realize this is a very sensitive topic for me to discuss, seeing I am currently in the middle of this struggle.
So many parents, spouses, and friends don’t understand eating disorders. To them it seems like a very illogical concept.
“Why don’t you just eat? It’s not that hard.”
I was even told something similar to this by a doctor recently. Except he compared me to an elementary schooler…
We constantly talk about how magazines and the media causes eating disorders and we are always having discrepancies over what the female body should look like, yet eating disorders still seem to be a very taboo subject…
Because it is a mental illness.
It’s not dieting gone wrong or vanity.
I absolutely hate calling it that. In fact, I despise calling it by what it truly is because I will always refuse that I have a mental illness. In my mind I don’t… I think this shame that I feel shows America still has a long way to go in educating the nation about mental illness. People think this stuff is made up to get attention, and I knew people would think this so I almost died trying so hard to cover it up.
I will still deny myself the help I need in fear of looking like I want attention. We have got to start looking at mental illness differently in our country. We minimize it, over-diagnose it, or ignore it all together. We need to allow the people who need help to feel comfortable asking for it.
My therapist brought a new prospective to me. I am still trying to accept this.
When I felt ashamed about going to a residential treatment center, she asked me if a cancer patient would be ashamed of getting treatment.
I said, “Of course not, it’s different.”
And she told me that it really isn’t any different. They are both serious illness that need extensive treatment.
This is how we should view mental illnesses. Again, I struggle will believing this myself, but I think the closer I can get to whole-heartily agreeing with this, the more comfortable I will be with receiving treatment
Now that I have talked about this, I want to give you a few tips on how to interact with your loved one.
Don’t Be the Food Police
We have dietitians for this reason…and we most always can’t stand them…(it’s true). Do not be the food police unless you want us to pick fights with you. Don’t talk about what’s on our plates and we won’t talk about what’s on yours. This can cause a lot of animosity between friends and family. And sometimes if you tell us we are doing “good” with eating we will take that the wrong way. You must know your loved one’s specific triggers.
We worry that you will stare at us during meal time too. Try to make meal time as relaxing as possible.
Don’t Treat Us Like Children
We aren’t babies. Most of us understand what healthy looks like (at least at the beginning we do). We aren’t immature, we are hurting, there’s a massive difference. Sometimes not feeling independent or feeling repressed can actually cause eating disorder behavior.
Don’t Talk About Your Own Weight
This one is self-explanatory. You must be an example to your friend or family member. If you don’t want them to be consumed with their weight then don’t talk about yours. Conversations about dieting or not eating deserts or junk food can be triggering for us.
Do Listen to Us, but Don’t Try to Fix Us
Most of the time when I talk to people about these problems it’s because I want them to listen. I don’t want them to overwhelm me with advice. I want them to hear me, and I mean truly hear me. We should be digging deep/getting advice from our therapists, but when we talk to you we just want support and love.
Do Show Us You Care
Take us to a movie. Send us a random text. Write an encouraging letter. We don’t want to feel isolated and ignored. We want to be loved and cared for.
And the end of it all, just treat us like a human being. Human beings need and desire the company of others, we may push you away sometimes, but down inside of us we want to be around you. We crave your affection we just don’t show it because our eating disorder tells us that it is the only affection we need.
Above all, don’t give up on us…