National Eating Disorders Association
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Eating Disorders Affect Families for the Bad and the Good

Adia Colar

“I’m so tired of this!!!” my mom screamed, then started sobbing uncontrollably. It’s the only time I’ve seen her do that, and it will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.

I was about sixteen years old. It was a weekend no different than any other, when my mom opened the fridge for an afternoon snack and yet again saw the result of my behaviors.

My mom had talked to me about this behavior, yelled, become pissed. But this time, she responded with a mixture of anger, frustration, helplessness and despair. This usually in control woman fell apart in front of my eyes. It’s the only time either before or since that I’ve seen or heard her do that, and her voice and demeanor tore at my heart.

My dad rushed downstairs, put his arms around her, gently said, “C’mon, let’s go sit down. It’s going to be okay.” He didn’t look at me. No need to. I’m sure had I seen his eyes, he would’ve looked angry, disgusted, and weary.

I slinked out of the room as quietly as possible, went upstairs to my room, and sat down, feeling like scum. I wanted to die. Wanted to stop my suffering, stop my parents’ suffering, and say goodbye to this eating disorder for good. I didn’t want to kill myself – I just wanted to go away forever.

Thing is, eating disorders have a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness. People with eating disorders are 23 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. The death rates resulting from bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, eating disorder not otherwise specified, etc. are astounding. Yet, often society views eating disorders as problems affecting starlets, people’s college roommates, or that one distant relative.

Nope. They’re prevalent, deadly, and affect not only the sufferer but that person’s loved ones as well. That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness about eating disorders and the hope of recovery.

I recently saw a video  about Suzi Heim, who was only able to afford partial hospitalization for her daughter, Emily. Her daughter, who struggled with bulimia and anorexia, eventually ended up committing suicide. Now Suzi has used this tragedy to spread the word about eating disorders and recovery , including helping to organize Kansas City's first NEDA Walk on June 15.

 

We don’t have to have more folks like Emily. We can continue to spread the word about the disease. We can advocate for broader insurance coverage of treatment facilities. We can participate in awareness walks. We can educate friends and family.

We can tell our stories. Although eating disorders are still somewhat taboo, it’s time for us to break that. With more than 30 million Americans struggling with an eating disorder in their lifetime, there are enough of us that the more we speak out, the more we can help lessen the shame so others share about their disorders and get treatment for them.

And as for my mom? That certainly wasn’t the last tear she shed. But with wonderful treatment programs, a lot of help, and hard work, I have been in recovery for years. My relationship with food has been healthy.

And my folks love it that way.