Angela and I

Angela and I

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We get by with a little help...

I've gotten many requests over the past few weeks to do a post about being a supportive friend/family member/loved one to an individual struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder.  I'm not going to lie, I've been putting it off because I want it to be is so important!! Before we go any further though, I need to emphasize that first and foremost, those suffering from ED's need professional treatment.  This is advice for those of you who are around these individuals on a day to day basis.  While it is incredibly important for you to be supportive, it is even more important that your friend or family member is on a guided road to recovery with professionals holding them accountable.  It is not your job to be their therapist, but you can still have an extremely positive effect.  So let's begin, shall we?

Friends. They're doing it right. 
Don't make comments about their body - even if you think it's a compliment. 
No matter what you say, it will be the wrong thing.  "You've gained weight!" is the wrong thing.  "Don't worry, you're still skinny!" is the wrong thing. "You're looking healthier!" is the wrong. thing. I know what you're thinking...these are all compliments and you mean them as a good thing or a sign of progress.  But it doesn't matter.  ED's can't help taking whatever you say about our changing bodies and twisting it into something horrible.  Just don't talk about the physical...AT ALL!! That's the whole point!  Try something like "You have so much more energy these days!  You're bright, bubbly personality is so great!"  or "You seem so much happier!" These are things I will never get sick of hearing.  (I will however, never turn down a compliment on my hair)

Don't bring up your own diet or exercise plans, struggles, or advice. 
Recovery is a bitch, I'm just going to say that right now.  You want to know the main reason it's a bitch?  because the entire UNIVERSE is fixated on diet and exercise.  You can't escape it.  I found this post on tumblr that really says it best: "If I had to describe an eating disorder, I would resemble it to a drug addiction. Now, imagine a drug addict trying to quit in a society that’s advertising new drugs while promising amazing highs all over the internet, on YouTube, Facebook, in TV, on the bus passing you right as you’re battling yourself whether to get your fix or go straight home. A society in which you can barely have a conversation without drugs being mentioned; how many you did yesterday, how amazing it felt, which drugs you want to try next. Surrounded by the mentality that it’s embarrassing, weird, lazy, even a sin not to do drugs." So please for the love of GOD...don't tell me about the cleanse you want to do.  Don't tell me about what you did at the gym yesterday.  Don't ask me what I do to stay skinny.  And don't you DARE come to me when you feel "bad" about eating that slice of cake.  I will punch you in the face. Just eat. the. damn. cake. 

Extreme Hunger is fun!  8 servings, my ass.  One and DONE.
Administer compliments and encouragement about their actions. 
This is important.  Throughout recovery, being told I "look better" has unfortunately been triggering.  I can't explain it...I really wish I could, but I can't.  "Healthy" is annoyingly a very triggering word. I know I'm not the only one who deals with this, though!  I do respond incredibly well, however, to people telling me "good job" when I have 
done something.  Let's face it, we all love to be praised -  You did a great job on a painting YAY!  You won a board game YAY! You took a nap YAY!  You went out with friends DOUBLE YAY!

Don't focus on what/how much they are eating. 
This is a major one I personally struggle with.  I hate people watching me eat and asking me what I'm eating.   Just ask Robyn (I have complained to her so much for people asking me "Is that...A SANDWICH?!"). My sass comes out in full force when people ask me if I'm eating an apple when it is CLEARLY AN APPLE I'M HOLDING IN MY HAND.  JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!! *deep breath* Because of this, people struggling with ED's tend to isolate themselves at meal times.  I have made major strides with this, but it still causes me intense anxiety when people comment.  Just the other day at a cookout attention was drawn to me and my plate, and although I'm sure no one else there even remembers the incident, I have gone over it about a million times in my head, and probably could have started crying on the spot.  So just like...find other topics of conversation.  There are so many! Music, movies, nature, the German Football team, corgis, and astrology - just to name a few. 

Don't assume it's just a phase, just about "being thin", or just an intense diet. Don't downplay the severity of this disorder.  DON'T insinuate that they are "lucky" for getting to eat more now that they're recovering. 

Eating Disorders are severe mental disorders that can have fatal affects.  Anorexia didn't come into my life because I wanted to be skinnier or because I wanted to lose a few pesky pounds. I have always been a lil nug.   I struggle with depression, anxiety, and OCD, as do the majority of people suffering from ED's. It is an irrational disorder and can make us do weird things. Don't tell us to "snap out of it" or to "just eat a cheeseburger".  I would have given anything to just "snap out of it" a year ago when I was in my room pacing back and forth because my ED wouldn't leave me alone.  I would love nothing more than to just chow down on a cheeseburger in the middle of the day with no guilt. It's not that easy.  Just let them know that you are here if they need you.  If they don't reach out to you specifically, don't push the subject.  That might not be how they cope, they might want to not talk about it, or you might be a triggering presence.  If you are, please don't take offense...just let it be.  They will come to you when they're ready.   

The most important thing about being a good friend to a person struggling with ED is to be there for them in whatever capacity they need. If they talk about it, great.  If they very clearly don't want to talk about it, also great. Don't overstep your boundaries, they will let you know what they need at that moment.  Remember what I said at the beginning - you are not their therapist. I'm really sorry that it's not "fair" that your compliment is triggering or it causes them to feel bad even though it had good intentions.  You know what else isn't "fair"?  Having an eating disorder.  Just make sure to keep the positive vibe flowing.  Love them, so that they can learn to love themselves.  

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