February 16, 2013 at 8:02 PM
Everybody knows somebody, even if they don’t realise it. When we’re out and about in the world, sadly, many people’s eating disorders are obvious to us as we are shocked by their appearance. In my experience, the evidence can be just as apparent, but can be harder to notice in the people who are close to us. People can hide their symptoms to an extent but something about eating disorders themselves can “infect” our healthy friends who get fooled by the illness, colluding with it and believing the masks which cover it. When I was becoming ill I was working alongside insightful mental health professionals and was a capable health professional myself. It never occurred to colleagues that someone like me would have a problem and, as my weight dropped drastically, it was as though everyone around me became blind to the facts in front of them.
Anorexia can hold power over our friends and families, if they let it. It can seem so unthinkable that this terrible thing is happening to their loved one and if we don’t make conscious attempts to hide it, unconsciously we don’t always want the illness to be found so radiate a defensiveness that stops people confronting us or just convinces people that it’s not true.
After I told people that I had anorexia I learnt that many friends had expressed concern to the pastor of the church I attended. I was amazed because no one had mentioned it to me. But one friend explained that, when I wasn’t with her she was terribly concerned about my health but became confused when I was with her chatting as normal and insisting I was fine. She was drawn into the part of the illness that tells us all is well when, in fact it is killing us.
Be alert to the fact that you probably do know someone with an eating disorder. They may not be thin but look on the Beat website for the symptoms of various eating disorders. Then don’t be scared to broach the subject with the person you’re worried about. Maybe someone speaking to me would have made no difference, but maybe it would have stopped me reaching such a critical point. I don’t know, but I wish someone had had the courage to stand up to the illness and confront me.
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