Sunday, June 29, 2008

excuse me, miss.. there seems to be an elephant in your personal space.

fellow blogger and a mother of a young recovered (i believe?) anoretic, came upon a sticky situation a while back. while shopping with her daughter, she noticed another girl - same age - shopping with her mother as well. the girl was frail and emaciated-looking (from what i gather of her post), which is enough to make your only-human mind jump to judgement as it is. the tip-off, however, was that she was apparently desperately trying to convince her mother that she was, in fact, a size 7 and that the dress she wanted would fit her body. long story short, she made the decision to pull the mother aside and offer her a little awareness. (click here for the whole story, in harriet's words.)
on more than one occasion, i have heard a close loved one of mine say, "i saw a girl in class/the mall/my gym today who looked so painfully skinny. she was obviously anorexic." this drives me insane, as i've openly voiced to the closest of these loved ones. first of all, you could be the closest loved one in the world - attending years of doctor's appointments, reading all the books amazon could offer, sitting through treatment intake after intake, even being talked to extensively by the person him/herself - but if you think all it takes is looking at a person to tell, you still really don't get it.
second of all, people who appear underweight to emaciated may be anorexic. they may also have thyroid problems. unexplained weight loss is also a symptom of cancer and arthritis. my brother became rather thin before he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. there's a reason treatment intakes usually last at least an hour. if all they had to do was see how a person looks, a small percentage of ED patients would be unpacked within 30 minutes and a much larger percentage would not even be accepted into the program. have you thought about that: how many people we probably walk by each day that look perfectly "normal" to us and probably have severe weight problems? i digress.
my feelings on the matter are as follows: i, personally, believe it's best not to say anything. please know, harriet, i respect your decision to do so. however - and i hope you do not take this to offense - i know that if i were that mother, i would have been very upset by a stranger overstepping my personal boundaries and making assumptions about my family's mental well-being. this is less towards you and more to the other parents who are wondering if and when they should step forward and say something to others, themselves.
the fact of the matter is that if someone is ignorant enough to miss that there is possibly a serious problem with themselves or someone they love, no stranger outside of that wall would certainly be able to break that boundary. it is really unfortunate how this disease goes unnoticed often for far too long, but it can rarely go any other way. people cannot seek help until they are willing to accept that they need it; this goes for both the patient and their families.
now, if this is a close family member of yours or a friend/friend's child, that's a different topic and that is based solely on your relationship with them. but for a completely random person in the store who has only known you for 30 seconds, tops, you don't know what is going on with that family or person. i mean, for all you know, that girl could have just been kicked out of treatment for the 6th time. it's far too large of an assumption to make with less than all the facts.


b said...

It's hard to tell. I, personally, don't think this woman made the right decision. Yes, perhaps this 12 year old did have eating problems, or, perhaps like you said, she had other health problems, as well. Also - as a 12 year old, I had not even begun my ED - I had not such thoughts in my head, but I was very tall and very painfully thin. People always thought something was wrong with me, when nothing was.


We don't know if this girl has an ED or not, but really, it's not our business. As a mother, I would NOT have appreciated someone diagnosing my daughter in 30 seconds.

emmy. said...

that's also another really good point..

when i was 12, i was very skinny but i was just always tiny for my age. i ate great at the time even though people would always comment on my stickish figure.

even up until the time i was 16, people started to show serious concern about my eating habits - which were disordered - but i had no idea. i wasn't doing it intentionally and i didn't know that i had a problem.

the teen years make the "diagnosis" that much more difficult to determine. i totally agree.

Vickyann said...

It's difficult, when I was a teenager I wanted someone to notice, pull me aside and help, I didn't believe I could talk about it on my own. I think it upsets my mum to see underweight girls, although I'm not sure if she'd say anything unless it was a close friend's child.

Maybe a less direct approach, not focusing on saying 'it could be an ed' but as a mother to mother voicing concerns about the fashion sizes in that particular situlation.

I still believe it can just take one person to plant the seed of concern for an ed, but then I do believe in fairy tales too!


Labyrinith said...

It is so hard to know when to say something to someone and when to back off. I remember being younger and this woman was SCREAMING at her child in the parking lot of a restaurant, it was SO painful to watch, clearly abusive because my family and I saw the entire thing and this kid was about four. My grandmother went right up to her and said something-definitely out of line because the mother raised her hand to my grandmother. But, this being said some of us, as humans, just feel more compelled at times to say something when we see something as a red flag or a worry. I don't know if it was right or wrong, but clearly the girl has some distortions going on. It sounds like the mom was aware of them. I hate eds.

IrishUp said...

I hope you will consider this from a slightly different perspective. I think it's important to note that Harriet didn't walk up to a stranger and say "Hey Dummy, your kid is Anorexic".
She did point out a constellation of concerning observations (not just the kids size, but several behavioral things as well as the child's affect), suggesting that the woman may have a child with a serious condition that should be evaluated. She offered that she had seen similar things in her own child, and these turned out to be AN.
It's not wrong to offer unsolicited opinion or help if it's done respectfully, tactfully, and with the understanding that your advice/opinion might not be wanted. Such action as Harriet took, done the way she did, is perfectly within the bounds of polite civility. And if you happen to be on the recieving end, what that young girl's mother did "Yes, thank you, goodbye" is just fine. There's no need to take offense when someone offers help, so long as their actions and words convey that they were trying to help, not be nosy/bossy/emabarass you.