I’m still in Florida, but I wrote this post a while ago just to get it out in words. It’s not something I’d really thought through before, and definitely not Valentine’s Day related, but I thought I’d use it now since I won’t be able to get up a regular post until tomorrow.
One of the main things I’ve learned through the blog world, and particularly Sophia’s Weekend Eating Disorder Series, is that everyone’s experience with an eating disorder is different. Sure there are commonalities like fear foods or a near mental inability to eat, but everyone has their unique circumstances in cause, length, recovery, and support.
My eating disorder starting innocently enough by exercising more and eating healthier, but during the summer before my senior year of high school things really got bad. Since I had a full-time day job and was often with my friends at night, I was able to avoid eating around people. Breakfast was a small bowl of Special K before work, whatever “lunch” I ate was in a back room at work, and dinner was either going to be eaten out with friends (if you were my parents) or eaten already at home (if you were my friends). So while my weight loss was noticeable, it was kind of hard for others to diagnose me with no set proof. I think my parents were in denial.
That August my mom accompanied me to my yearly check-up at the doctor. When I weighed in at 100 pounds, my mom finally had a concrete problem that she could confront me about. I immediately began weekly visits with a Nutritionist and we came up with a meal plan to help me gain weight. My mom often sat in on these meetings – I think I asked her to at first because I was nervous, but it was also good for her to be able to hear from me what I was feeling and going through.
But there was a hitch…
My mom is a pediatrician and eating disorder specialist. She works at a hospital in St. Louis and most of her teenage in patients have severe eating disorders. I think this was a huge part of her denial…how could her own daughter have this disease? Why couldn’t she stop it?
The problems between us began during my recovery. I felt like my mom was trying to be my doctor by constantly reminding me that I needed to eat and trying to get me to eat at certain times. But I didn’t need another doctor when I was at home — I needed a mom. I needed someone to tell me that it would be okay and that she understood how hard this was for me. It put a huge strain on our relationship and we fought a lot.
Finally, during an appointment with the nutritionist, I told my mom how I was feeling. We decided that as long as I was gaining weight and doing well, my mom would stay out of my recovery. She would trust me to follow the meal plan on my own terms and home would be doctor-free zone. This had to be very hard for her as her job is helping girls like me recovery from eating disorders, but it was extremely important for us and our sanity.
One piece of advice I can give people who know someone with an eating disorder is to treat them normally. If you are a friend, just be a normal friend and gossip at the lunch table. If you are family, keep on bugging your sister and fighting over the remote. As tempting as it is to try to suggest foods to eat (no, cake is not a good option) or ways to eat more, that’s not your job. Let the doctors and nutritionists be the ones with the rules and advice. Relationships with friends and family are sometimes the only points of normalcy in that person’s life, and so maintaining and nurturing those during an Eating Disorder is essential. You’ll be helping more than you know!
- How have your eating issues affected relationships with your family and friends?
- Have you ever had to watch a friend or family member go through an eating disorder? How did you handle it?