Friday, March 14, 2008

dear emmy.

i received an e-mail, semi-recently, from a supporter having some very common concerns about a friend of hers with an eating disorder. i thought it was important to share this because i realize how difficult it is for those outside of the disorder to understand their loved ones in the midst of the fight.

I know this is random and I'm sorry, no need to offer advice if you don't want to :-)
I stumbled across your blog, and although I'm not really sure how, you're an amazing writer, and you're story is one which I hope provides inspiration to many others.
I know you have been there, and I wanted advice. One of my closest friends (or well, at one time before she began to separate herself from others due to depression and anorexia), has been in and out of treatment for a few months now. I try to be there for her, and I know that its hard because I can't completely understand where she is coming from, but I want to be there for her, and I want her to know that many people do in care about her and want the best for her. Basically, I try to leave her nice voicemails, and text's but when they aren't returned its hard to find the motivation to continue. It's hard because I'm not sure if there is anything I can say that will help her, and certainly don't want to furthur damage a friend. I guess I'm just searching for the right things to say to her, and was wondering if you had any thoughts/ideas?

first things first, never apologize for e-mailing me asking for help. i love getting e-mails from my readers; it just shows me that my blog is serving its purpose.

i'm sorry to hear about your friend. i know how difficult it must be from the outside. i've been on both sides of the spectrum, unfortunately, and it doesn't make it much easier. isolation is a huge problem with eating disorders and depression. i used to lock myself in my room for days and not talk to *anyone*. i lost contact with a lot of friends during that time. the first thing i want you to be aware of is that it's nothing personal - which, it seems like you know, but it's important to make sure.

i'm wondering what kinds of things you tell her? i'm sure it always feels like you're walking on eggshells when you talk to her. even i feel like that with my eating disordered friends because everyone reacts to words differently, no matter how similar the disorder. some of the hardest things to hear are, "you look healthy", "you've really filled out" or "you look good!" they seem like great compliments, but when you say these things to someone with an eating disorder, they hear "you've gained weight" and "you've gotten fat." "you're beautiful" never hurts, though ;) but it's also difficult for many to take compliments in general, so even that might make her uncomfortable, but i don't believe that means you shouldn't compliment. just don't say it because it's a nice thing to say; mean it.

the best thing you can do is not push too hard. just let her know that you're there when she needs someone and you're always ready to talk. you can't make her stop her behaviors and, unfortunately, you can't make her better. i know how difficult that is. i hated watching my best friend go through it, even though i was, too. it's torture to watch.
just let her know how much she means to you and how much you love her and let her have her space. however, once in a while, it never hurts to really push for her to come out with you. isolation is a dangerous thing and she should really try to fight the urge to lock herself away.

just don't give up. i've seen unbelievable things. pass my blog on to your friend. maybe it will help her to see what's possible. as a patient, it was very hard for me to fight for my reovery thinking that it might just not be possible. when i was able to see that full recovery really existed, that's when i was eager to turn my life around.

the most important thing to remember is that she's not doing this intentionally. this is a *disease*; it's not a chosen lifestyle. she's sick and i'm glad to hear she has been seeking professional help. the best you can do is support her.

i hope this was helpful. if any readers have any advice to add, please feel free to leave your comments.

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