As some of you may know this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. EDs and other mental illnesses are currently on the rise yet still so misunderstood. If I hadn’t gone through one myself I’m not sure I would have understood it. Equally, even though I’ve experienced both bulimia and anorexia, my experiences, advice and ways of dealing with it could be totally different to someone else’s.In this post I want to talk a bit about how YOU could possibly help someone that may be going through an eating disorder. Or maybe it’s actually you who’s suffering, maybe this could help someone help you. But again, everyone’s experiences are different, these are merely things that helped me.
- The first and absolute main thing is to TALK to the person. Don’t bring up food or weight or go charging straight in questioning if they’re ok. Just talk to them, mindless chat to begin with then maybe try and delve a little deeper, if you feel they’ll let you. If the person is still quite closed, just take it in small steps, chatting, gaining their trust.
- TRUST is another huge thing. If the person doesn’t trust you or senses you’re speaking about them behind their back, they will clam up, instantly, and possibly never open up to you. Always be honest, once the trust is gone it’s very hard to talk openly to someone about deep rooted issues
- Remind them of all the things they used to LOVE, whether that be social things, hobbies, interest, anything. Remind them that they have, and have had other things in their life that aren’t related to an eating disorder. And ed often takes over full control and you forget the person you actually used to be
- AVOID making plans around meal times, and never try and ‘test’ them. The eating disorder will always win and the person will become smart to your tests and if anything it’ll make them more headstrong in what they’re currently doing. Plans around meal times can cause huge amounts of anxiety, and again, the eating disorder will win, which could in turn make the person feel a lot worse.
- Never act SHOCKED if they tell you something food related. I’ve told people I used to weight lettuce and enter chewing gum into MyFitness Pal and a few didn’t exactly take it in their stride. I was fine with it as I consider myself quite far on in recovery terms but it may make others feel extremely self conscious. Even if something does shock you, try and hide it, for their sake. Remember, how another person reacts can have a huge effect on how you feel about something
- Never DISMISS. This is really important and something my mum was and still is so patient with. Anorexics often seek reassurance that things are ‘ok.’ The number of times I’d ask my mum is it was alright to eat something, if she thought I looked a lot ‘fatter,’ or if it was ok to have 10 almonds rather than 6! Every questions she would consider an answer and then reply, or at least act like she was considering the answer. I would never get ‘of course it’s fine just eat it.’ Possibly after the 15th time of asking but she would always take her time and reply to me, not dismiss me as being silly.
Mental illness is hard, it’s hard to go though and it’s hard to watch people go through but you can get out the other side. Want to recover, want to get your life back, want to beat the horrible, vile, ugly little thing that chips away at you. Open up, let people help. From the opposite side, be there for that person, let them know you’re not going anywhere, accept there will be awful days, really awful days but know that your help is more help to them than you’ll ever know