Dear Mom and Dad:
If you’re reading this, it means you want to help my recovery. Honestly, support is one of the most important parts of recovery, and parental support makes a huge difference. But you’ve had an eating disorder… There’s no nice way to say this – you suck at dealing with eating disorders.
And that’s okay! It’s easy to get it wrong. No matter the intentions, eating disorders are super, super easy to get wrong. So here are some things to keep in mind next.
1) It’s not a diet (and I know it’s not)
This seems to confuse everyone, but it’s not that hard. I know there’s something wrong with how I eat – if nothing else the word ‘disorder’ tipped me off. It’s not that I think that if I do this I will lose weight in a healthy way. Please stop treating me like I’m on a diet. Telling me that “you look like you’ve lost weight” is, surprisingly, not a motivator to fix my disorder.
Conversely, I already know that what I’m doing is bad, reminding me of what exactly I’m doing wrong doesn’t exactly help.
2) Putting extra stress on me at mealtimes is super unhelpful
I get it – having all of us around the dinner time is a great time to talk. We’re all here, we’re all listening, sounds awesome. Except it’s not. I’m already up to my eyeballs in stress from simply eating. Any kind of additional stress will mean exponentially more drama. I’m extra sensitive when I’m trying to eat. The dinner table is not exactly the most appropriate place to have an existential crisis, so please don’t trigger one.
3) “Safe foods” are safe for a reason
Secret time: I am a sucker for peanut butter. I know it has a lot of fat in it. That’s what makes it so delicious. Sometimes I eat peanut butter and bananas on crackers. Sometimes I don’t even feel guilty for it.
Making me feel bad about it does not help.
The whole concept of “safe foods” is not logical, most things about eating disorders aren’t. When I am able to eat I would rather not be told that there’s “too much fat” or “you’ve eaten too many carbs already” or “why aren’t you eating more proteins?”
So I’d like to eat what I can in peace.
(Oh, P.S. having safe foods in the house is super helpful)
4) I am probably not better
“You’re looking so healthy!” “You ate your whole meal!” “I’m glad you’re over your food issues!” I’ve heard things along these lines dozens of times. But, surprise, one meal does not mean wellness. Telling me I’m better when I’m having a good meal/day/week does not make me better. If you don’t have the training to identify and treat eating disorders, it’s impossible for you to determine where I am in “recovery”.
You can’t see an eating disorder. You can sometimes see the symptoms, but the lack of physical symptoms doesn’t mean I don’t have a disorder. Eating disorders are mental disorders for a reason.
Telling me I’m cured is up in the worst things you could say.
5) My eating disorder is not about you (click to tweet this)
When I struggle with my eating disorder, it’s not because I’m acting out against you. I’m not trying to cause you problems or getting angry at you. Seriously, I’m probably not even thinking about you when I do this. So cut me some slack and help me out, please.
Thank you for continuing to support me through this. I know you’re doing your best and so am I.