-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.
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
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
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.
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:
- What do they believe are the core issues of anorexia?
- Do they acknowledge the voices of anorexia?
- What do they understand about the nature of anorexics?
- Do they view them as victims?
- Do they offer twenty-four hour support, unlimited praise,and encouragement?
- What type of food program do they support?
- Do they believe in force feeding? (not a wise treatment)
- Do they educate patients as to the nutritional needs of the body?
- Do they supply unconditional love and respect?
- How do they deal with a patient's resistance?
- Do they offer family counseling?
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
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.