Wednesday 19 January 2011

Anorexia parents, importance of good friends

The trouble with anorexia and other eating disorders is that many people just don't 'get it'. As a parent of an anorexia sufferer the learning curve is bad enough - I never studied as hard as this on my university degree! As a result you can feel terribly alone, as if you're living in a parallel world to everyone else.

Anorexia has meant that Ben and I have discovered who our real friends are - those wonderful, selfless, loving and supportive people who don't just care about what's happening, but who are willing to go through a massive learning curve in an attempt to understand it.

Along the line, other friends have moved out of the radar. Friends who avoid you for whatever reason. Maybe they can't understand it or simply don't want to understand it. Or because they have their own problems to deal with - or just don't want any negativity or hassle in their lives.

Also, I've found myself avoiding many people, mainly because anorexia has become such a huge part of my life that I find it difficult to talk about much else during bad times - and I don't want to 'inflict' myself on people.

Our social life has suffered because, initially, we couldn't make any plans. We never knew from one day to the next where Ben's mood would take us (usually to hell and back...) And during those hellish months when things were spiraling downwards I was in floods of tears most days. Not exactly the best frame of mind to spend a night on the town with girlfriends!

We still have problems accepting dinner party invitations or going out for meals. Any social event that features food is going to be a problem if Ben is invited too. Last summer, we were invited to an Indian birthday celebration where the most mouthwatering curries in the universe were served up. Ben miserably watched us eat while I miserably tucked in. Our hosts had no idea what was going on or why we left early.

But some people are more than willing to be 'in' on our 'secret'...

11 months ago I met Carol, one of the most amazing and selfless women I have ever met. Carol 'got it' it practically straight away and what she didn't understand, she was eager to learn. The thing with Carol is that she has her own problems. Millions of them. She's had a double mastectomy and suffers from secondary breast cancer which means that her lungs, liver, spine and various other parts of her body are plagued by tumors. Right now, she's on her umpteenth course of chemo and waiting for her hair to fall out (again).

Yet Carol has been my 'rock', week in, week out. Throughout our most frightening period with anorexia, Carol was there to offer a willing shoulder to cry on. She understands anorexia more than anyone else I know who isn't directly involved with this horrible illness. I hope I can do the same for her when she needs it.

Other 'rocks' have been the group of UK-based Mums on FEAST'S Around the Dinner Table Forum. Despite dealing with anorexia in their own families, they haven't hesitated to pick up the phone and call me if they felt I needed a bit of support.

Another 'rock' has been the school nurse who has gone over and beyond the call of duty to offer support, a sympathetic ear and a hot mug of coffee in the cosy little medical center.

In a similar way, anorexia has resulted in Ben sorting out the 'wheat from the chaff' in his own friendship group. New friends have come onto the scene, many of them girls because the boys seem to find it harder to deal with.

Anorexia is strange in that it's a horrendous experience for parents and teenagers to go through (understatement!) yet out of it comes a lot of good. It's made both of us stronger and better people - and it's enabled us to meet strong, supportive and fantastic people too. And that's something I don't want to lose, long after the anorexia has well and truly gone.


  1. i really wish my mother was a little more like you,you know..
    i found your blog by chance (well,not completely by chance, as i'm a sufferer myself) and read your posts and truly admire what you've been doing to help your son overcome anorexia and to support him through this hell.
    i'm 20 and was about your son's age when i fell ill with anorexia. my parents have been all but supportive during these years. or at least not in the right way. they just don't get it, as you say it. at the moment, i'm at a normal weight,even if lower than what i was before anorexia. and this is all that matters to them. if i'm not extremely underweight as i was last year, then in their opinion i'm fine. i'm just ill if i completely starve myself,fasting for days in a row. as long as i eat something (even just 500-900 cals a day) i'm fine. and sometimes i binge and purge or overexercise or even cut myself because i just can't stand it anymore, but they don't get it. don't get me wrong,i don't tell them all these things, i don't show them my pain, but they wouldn't see it anyway. i feel really lonely, actually i'm alone in this. and i can't see a way out. i'm seeing a therapist, which i'm paying by myself with some money i saved but i don't know how long i can go this way.
    i'm so sorry i let it all out here,on your private space..but i read your words and couldn't help but wish i had someone like you..

    your doing a great job and i'm sure your son is so glad to have you by his side.

    have a nice day,

  2. Hi Withoutexit, I am so sorry to hear about your own battle with anorexia - and thank you for your feedback. If you can, I would strongly recommend talking to your parents. If you find they're not listening or just don't "get it", perhaps write them a letter. Also, the chances are they have their own fears / worries about the situation which they're probably wondering how to get across to you. We've found that once everyone involved is "on the same page" and TALKING... REALLY TALKING... calmly without flying off the handle and getting mad... it makes a huge difference. All the best, BM

  3. Truly, no man is an island. Everyone needs support, love, care, understanding and everything that one can offer another. The need is even greater for people who are suffering from conditions that make them very vulnerable and frail. This post you have shared is really very inspiring. I do hope that several people will learn from this so that those individuals who are struggling with illnesses like an eating disorder will get all the love and support that they can get.