“Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July…
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream? ”
At first I thought it was just a temporary hiccup, a minor setback, that I’d get back to shore in no time and off the boat I had climbed into. That was back in January, and though I have had a few good weeks here and there, it’s all been downhill.
I just haven’t fully noticed until now.
I’ve quit seeing my therapist. It wasn’t a good fit, so now I need to find a new one. Again. I’ve relapsed once more into anorexia, and I cannot express how it feels to have it’s fingers around my throat making it impossible to enjoy a sliver of life. Every thought is consumed by how many calories I’m burning, getting to the gym, whether I’m going to have to be around food soon or not, how to avoid it, panicking.
For a long time I thought I had been doing so well, but even in my relapse I was fooling myself, all the way down the slippery slope. I wanted to write out some helpful things to say and not say to someone with an eating disorder in this post, because it is crucial that people in recovery or who are battling a relapse or going through an ED the first time without support get the right kind of love and care. Without that, everything shuts down and nothing is accomplished.
WHAT TO SAY TO A LOVED ONE STRUGGLING WITH AN EATING DISORDER:
– Set aside time in a safe, supportive environment to talk so that your loved one feels more comfortable listening and perhaps opening up.
– Communicate concerns in a loving way. Let your friend know about specific instances when you have been worried, seen behaviors, but let them know that it doesn’t change the fact that you still love them the same.
– If your friend of loved one is not currently getting help, suggest that professional help might be something positive to look into, that you’re there to help them explore that option, and would be there to attend a first appointment if need be if the idea feels too overwhelming to your friend.
–Express continued support, that even if your ideas and thoughts get shot down, you are there for your friend to talk to. When or if they change their mind or decide to get help, let them know you are there for them and will support them in recovery.
WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WITH AN EATING DISORDER:
– Making simple solution comments. “You’re so skinny! Just eat more, it’s not that hard.”
– “ I wish I had your sense of self control.” (Please never say this to someone.)
– Using accusatory “you’re” statements. When asking your friend to get help, instead try sticking to “I feel this way” type of phrasing.
– Avoid placing blame, shame, or guilt. People with eating disorders live with nothing but shame and guilt already.
– Avoid conflict or a battle of wills with your friend. Someone has to choose to seek help and want to get better, so sometimes saying something won’t make that happen. You can definitely speak the truth in love, but the outcome is always hard to tell. Your friend may be very defensive or very receptive.
I’ve been very fortunate to have the support network I have in my city that I do, and I plan to start going to support groups each week as a start while I look for a new therapist.
I’m not going to let this take over my life, even though it’s been affecting it so much and at times ruling it completely since I was fifteen. Nothing should ever be able to take that much joy away from me. I refuse to let it, and I’m writing this to tell people that I won’t spend my life in a leaky rowboat.
At some point I am going to run on the shoreline and feel the waves lapping at my feet.
*For more information on how to help a loved one struggling with an eating disorder, visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/family-and-friends