Friend’s Comments ‘Trivialize the Eating Disorder’

By October 25, 2012

“AN,” a close friend of mine is recently recovering from acute anorexia. AN was inpatient 3 weeks in March this year, and since then has been nursing herself and being monitored in an outpatient ED program. According to the therapist, pediatrician & psychiatrist, AN has come a long way and gained tremendous insight into the illness. AN is very determined to recover (sorting out personal issues, while maintaining a healthful meal plan) and is not risking negative interventions that may jeopardize the (still) vulnerable state. By negative interventions, recently, a colleague/friend of AN (F) expressed interests and willingness to help, by any means. Although AN wants to resume a “normal life” (including meals in public, and socializing), the interaction with F has been “rocky” and confusing. F knows little and hardly at all about issues critical during recovery, and often AN was frustrated as most of F’s comments (regardless of the intention) seemed to be trivializing the ED. Eg. “Why is it so hard to (just) eat?” “Is this also about body image?” “Wow! you’ll look fabulous and sexy if you weigh *** more, BTW, how heavy are you now?” “I’ll make you eat the “normal” /greasy type of food. Period.” AN grieved and confided… MY utmost concern is whether AN should stop interaction with F (at least that is the intuition). Very interesting is AN felt even stronger the urge for the therapy at the ED program to safeguard the recovery. AN realized that a “normal” life would eventually (but very gradually) unfolds if ON TRACK WITH THE PROFESSIONAL HELP, and NOT the erratic (fling) interaction with F. I hope to be able to help AN… Awaiting to hear from the panel. Sincerest gratitude – K

Dear K.,

Wow. I read the original submission and just exhaled loudly at my computer screen. First, I am deeply moved by the young persons’ recovery. It is not often that one reads of such positive results at this stage.

Each person in recovery, whether from drugs, alcohol, or some form of disordered eating, must examine the community in which they recover. It is not suggested that drug addicts remain with friends that use or sell. Alcoholics must grievously let go of “friends/pals/cohorts” that drank. And disordered eaters must relinquish ties with any one that damages their recovery.

This young person is in the midst of taking back their own mind and answering the questions: “Do I deserve to live? Am I alright as I am? Am I beautiful? Am I acceptable?” When a person is in the midst of choosing between life and death, and choosing the morals and values they are going to live by, it is not healthy for them to be surrounded by persons who don’t live where they are headed. In short, my vote is to cut ties with the friend that wants to “help.” Allow the person in recovery to build their own support community by invitation only. Other well meaning “friends” who want to help but who do not have the ability to lift her to the “light” can serve external roles that do not impact the person directly; for instance, prayer, volunteering with an organization to learn more about eating disorders so they can show support without impacting the friend personally, sending flowers, etc.

Recovery for this young woman is about learning to live without anorexia. It is not about her friends’ ability to be her friend, to change her friend, or to appear as if she was the most caring. I do appreciate your insight and caring in to this particular situation and sense that your gut and read on it is correct.

Blessings and Peace to you,