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Abandoned Beliefs
-Family and Friends-


A norexia not only destroys the life of its victims but of those who love and care for them as well. My husband felt helpless throughout my illness; my sister-in-law, who bravely confronted me on many occasions, was frustrated (I love 'ya, Jen!). I have experienced the power of anorexia's persuasion; I know its relentless contradictions to the caring voices of family and friends.
A norexia's hold on your loved one is a powerful obstacle. Equally as damaging, I feel, are the misconceptions as to the dynamics of this illness and those afflicted. I recently spoke to a therapist who had no idea anorexics experience hunger. I know a woman whose husband thinks she could stop if she really wanted to. Additionally, many people feel eating is recovery. It is not. Starvation is the symptom not the disease. My first therapist knew nothing of the voices I spoke of. Also, there are those who do not consider an individual anorexic unless she has lost 20% of her body weight. I feel anyone who abuses herself by denying herself food and is consumed with self-loathing needs attention regardless of weight lost. Losing 20% body weight makes only for a physical difference, not emotional. Criteria such as this is used by an anorexic to deny her illness. I measured myself against anorexic "mandates" and used any discrepancy to justify my position that there was nothing wrong with me.
M isconceptions can lead well-meaning family and friends to act in ways that hinder recovery. For example, prompted by the notion that eating and weight gain is recovery in and of itself, many people commented on my weight gain. Their remarks were innocent, but I panicked. Was I getting fat? How else would they notice? Believe it or not, I've had people tell me how lucky I was to be anorexic; they wished they could have anorexia for a little while to lose weight. If only they knew: One does not "have" anorexia--anorexia has you.
T he best defense for family and friends is to become educated about this disorder. I have searched the Web and found information I feel is relevant and reflects anorexia's true nature. Though the process of recovery is long, a measure of consolation is found in understanding the core issues your loved one is dealing with as well as the stages that he/she will progress through on the road to recovery. Lessening the mystery of anorexia will help put things in perspective and allow all involved to focus on dealing with the core issues instead of the behaviors resulting from them.
W hen a loved one has an illness, it is natural to want to offer support. When the illness is physical, it is easy to relate, for this illness could just as well be happening to you. It isn't difficult to imagine how you would feel going through the ordeal. Psychological illnesses, on the other hand, are puzzling. Anorexia, in particular, is not easy to relate to. It is often assumed the anorexic is responsible for bringing her illness into existence. This is part of the myths and misconceptions of this disorder. Anorexia is as much an intruder as any physical ailment. The anorexic is a victim. One must never lose sight of this notion. She is tortured and feels helpless to defend herself; she can not will anorexia out of her life any more than she could cancer or diabetes.
I have heard anorexics labeled willful, obstinate, manipulative, calculating, and selfish. How sad that one so pained is so misunderstood. Attaching such negative labels serves only to reinforce an anorexic's negative view of herself. What is perceived as stubbornness is an anorexics reaction to the terror she feels inside. Lack of cooperation is seen as willful determination to resist. Blaming an anorexic for "failing" to cooperate feeds into her own feelings of shame and guilt. To NOT view an anorexic as a victim is detrimental, for it is easy to hold her accountable for her illness.
T aking into account anorexia creates victims, the approach to dealing with a loved one or friend becomes apparent: gentleness, unconditional love, praise, and reassurance--courtesies that would readily be offered to one suffering from a physical ailment. Anorexics need an abundance of caring and patience regardless of how they may protest.
G iven the above, it is clear anorexics need to be surrounded by people who incorporate a respectful approach to recovery. This is why I believe it is imperative to know and understand the philosophy a therapist or recovery clinic embraces. You may want to ask:
I t is your right to ask as many questions as need be to satisfy yourself. Remember, just because an individual is a professional,does not assure quality care. You have a choice as to recovery programs, and, as long as you understand the dynamics of this illness, you can choose with confidence. Of course, if your loved one's condition warrants immediate hospitalization, you cannot wait. However, you can monitor the treatment your loved one receives at this crucial point. Physical needs will be tended to, surely, but in the administering of this care, are doctors and staff exhibiting respect and tolerance as well?
F amily and friends play an important part in recovery offering support and unconditional love. Although you may spend a great deal of time feeling helpless, frustrated, and panicked, there is hope through education. In learning of your loved one's illness, you gain insight as to how relate and react in a healthy, helpful way. Anorexia makes everyone feel out of control. In taking the initiative to acquire knowledge and skills, you may feel more self-directed. I sincerely hope the resources below can be of assistance to you in your search.


To begin with, I highly recommend a book entitled The Secret Language of Eating Disorders written by Peggy Claude-Pierre. I cannot say enough about the exactness of the information it contains. For anyone asking the question: What causes anorexia?, this book offers answers. Family and friends can gain great knowledge through the information in this book. Anorexics, too, benefit by its message. Peggy Claude-Pierre is a pioneer in the field of anorexic recovery. I have read several books, but this one, I find, addresses the core issues like no other. Never had I read of anorexia's voices, the negative mind or dual mindset; I had experienced them-fought them-but never read any material acknowledging them to the degree Ms. Claude-Pierre does. Her work is truly a revelation! The section on myths and misconceptions is particularly helpful. There is also a section that deals with how to find assistance.
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