National Eating Disorders Association

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Lilac54
Supporting my Best Friend

Hi all,

My best friend and roommate has been suffering from bulimia for a number of years. We have honest and open discussions about it and she's currently in counselling and going to ED specific group therapy.

My question is, outside of encouraging her to continue with therapy, how can I be as supportive as possible? I don't know if I should be pointing out things like bruising on her legs or how I rarely ever see her eat a meal. I'm one of the only friends she feels comfortable with talking candidly about her ED and I don't want to say the wrong thing or accidentally push her away. I try to encourage/remind her to eat and I make sure to never make comments about my own body in front of her. I honestly just feel scared that I'm going to say something wrong and do more damage than good. I want more than anything for her to love herself and regain some control over her eating.

Any help is appreciated <3

iwanttolive
Lilac54

Hi and welcome to the forum. I am glad to hear you are supporting your friend. It can be very scary to see someone you love and care about suffer and not know what to do. My best suggestion is to ask your friend how she wants you to be a support to her. Making sure she is eating and encouraging her to eat may or may not be the most helpful thing for her. She knows she needs to eat. I would share with her your concerns that you don't want to say the wrong thing and are afraid of pushing her away. I would be honest about your concerns and then leave it up to her to tell you what she feels she wants and needs from you. Sometimes just listening and her knowing that you are there for her means a lot. If it seems that she is in danger or there is an emergency, I would tell her that you are concerned and that you need to let someone in authority at the campus know or if you are not living on campus, then you may need to call 911. She may be angry but if it is an emergency, it is more important to help her this way and deal with the anger at a later time. But for now, you are doing a great job at caring for her and being there for her. I know it can be difficult. Again, ask her what she needs and wants. Let her know of your fears of saying the wrong thing and pushing her away. That way you aren't so worried all the time and be stressed yourself while you need to be focused on your studies and other things as well. I hope this helps. Take care and post anytime.

iwanttolive

BobJ48
Lilac

It can be hard to know what to say that's going to sound caring, but here's one way to think about it. If you see signs of her not eating, or become aware that she might be purging, rather than commenting on what she may or may not be doing, ask her how she is feeling instead.

Because having someone to share her fears and feelings with, that's going to be what feels most helpful to her. Rather than us inquiring about the person's ED behaviors.

Also, people in her situation can often find themselves full of self-doubt and self-hate. That really can be one of the worst mental aspects of eating disorders, and you may have already heard her make comments about herself like that. So one other practical thing you can do, is when you see an opportunity, point out the goodness you see in her. Not just generalities like "Oh, I know you to be a good person" but be specific. Has she made caring comments about others, or about how things should be better in the world ? People who actually are hateful would never think to care about things like that. So comments like : "It shows what a good-heated person you are, that you would care about that." are things that can help her gain a less hateful perspective on herself.

idk_how
I love my best friend, but i dont know what to do

I love my friend so much and I feel so ignorant not realizing that she has been having problems with food up until recently, and I really want to make her feel better but I don't know how. shes average weight but she's been eating a lot less in the last few months because she feels really insecure, but after eating some small yogurt or something along those lines she feels absolutely terrible for eating and feels so much guilt and I just want her to get better but I don't know how.
She understands what she's doing isn't healthy but she cant stop herself.

BobJ48
idk_how

Dear idk,

First off, I hope you won't be too hard on yourself for not being more aware of her eating issues. EDs are secretive things, and what may seem like obvious signs now, may have seemed like just normal concerns to begin with.

It's easy to think that if we reassure the person that it's OK to eat, or try and use logic to talk them out of their habits. than that's the way to go about things. But it sounds like you may have already figured out how well that works. Generally not very well at all, unfortunately.

The thing to keep in mind is that usually EDs are "about" things other than food or weight. Stressful episodes in the person's life, unreasonable negative self-judgments, worries about never being good enough, feeling as though they don't have control over important aspects of their life, difficulties in relationships and in home life - These are common triggers for eating disorders, and may be things you can help her talk about. Things that really don't have a lot to do directly with food or eating you know ?

I'm not sure if she is getting professional help or not, but if she isn't, that might be a decision you could help her to make. Not so much "you should do this" or "you should do that", but more letting her know that you understand how deciding to get help can be a difficult decision.

EDs are tough things, so be prepared for things not always going in the sorts of directions you might hope they would go. That often comes with the territory too. The main thing is staying a sympathetic friend, and someone she'll feel safe talking to.

In any case, just some thoughts. Keep writing, if it seems to help ?