National Eating Disorders Association

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Kat.y
Encouraging friend to get help

I’m the only one who knows my friend is having issues with an eating disorder (restricting herself to extremely limited calories and purging). I am trying to get her to go see a professional, but she is understandably scared to take the first step and won’t move forward. She says that she feels like it’s getting worse and I’m just worried that she is going to get to an unhealthy weight and begin getting bad side effects. Again, I’m the only one who knows about her struggles and she doesn’t feel like she can talk to anyone else about them.

I know this isn’t about me, but I’m freaking out. It’s the number one thing on my mind everyday, and I just don’t know what to do. If anyone has any advice of how I can support her, I would be so grateful. I know I can’t fix her but I want to make sure I’m doing the most I can. I’m really worried about her health and I just don’t know what else to do. Thank you so much.

iwanttolive
Kat.y

Hi. I am sorry to hear about your friend, but am thankful for your concern. I would first of all suggest that you contact NEDA and ask them for help and support. They would be able to help you figure out what to do to help your friend. I know when I was in school, my friend told my therapist about something life threatening that I did. I was not angry with her and when she told me she told my therapist we both went together to talk with her and I did wind up going to a hospital.

If you are this concerned about your friend, is it possible to tell her how concerned you are? Do you know her parents? Are they involved in her life? Being that I don't know you and we are really not allowed to offer advice, but share experiences and offer support, I will do that. I also want to make sure you are okay and that you don't feel responsible for your friends choices. It is difficult I know, but she needs professional help. Maybe the two of you can contact NEDA together and get help and or referrals for a therapist for your friend. That way you aren't going behind her back and at the same time can get help for yourself. On the web site for NEDA there are tool kits for family and friends to help you know what to do and or say. That might be helpful for you. It is a difficult place to be when you care about someone a lot as you do, but to not get in over your head. You can not stop your friend from using any type of behavior but you can be there to support her. Again, I am concerned for you as she is responsible for herself and you are responsible for you. That may seem harsh but if you take on her responsibility you are going to not be able to help your friend. It is similar to when someone is drowning. The friend wants to help the person drowning, so they go out to rescue the person who is drowning, but what happens is the person drowning brings down the rescuer and both wind up drowning. If the other person is equipped and knows how to save someone, then a rescue can take place.
This may sound terrible, but it is true. In order to help your friend, you need to be in a place where you are equipped. Calling NEDA may help you with that and they can further assist you in what to do next.
I am sorry I was unable to offer anything better than this. Eating disorders are life threatening and serious. If your friend is as bad off as you are saying, please let someone know who can help her get help. Thank you for caring about your friend. I do not say all of this to discourage you but to say that while it is good that you are supporting your friend, she may need more than what you can give her.
Please, let us know how the both of you are doing. You are both important. I say all I did with care and concern, not to frighten you away.

iwanttolive

Kat.y
thank you SO MUCH for your

thank you SO MUCH for your incredibly thoughtful response. this is way more than i ever expected!
First of all, I really really appreciate that you're looking out for me. Everything you said makes total sense. I am working on trying to take better care of myself through all of this. I am planning on talking to my own therapist next week.
As for my friend, she keeps emphasizing that she is very scared to tell someone, because she's worried about what people will think, but also is nervous to give all of this up. Her relationship with her parents is not in a place where she feels like she can talk to them about it. I feel like my biggest role is to help her get help and just be there, I just want to make sure I'm doing the most I can.
I wish I could give more specifics, but the last thing I want to do is have my friend's identity be traceable in anyway. But if it helps, we are both in college.
Again, I am SO grateful that you took time out of your day to respond. You are a saint. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and I hope for an amazing 2020 for you, you deserve it!

iwanttolive
Kat.y

Hi! I am glad you found my post helpful and I enjoy being able to help others navigate this illness as best I can. You said you are both in college. Most college campuses have counseling departments and many have therapists who understand eating disorders. Some may even have a support group available free of charge. Maybe if you haven't you can look into this.

I am glad to hear you are looking out for yourself.

As far as your friend not wanting to worry or bother or being worried about what other people may think, if she is using behaviors others may know even if they aren't saying anything. They may not. I don't know. Disclosure is always a very personal and difficult decision and one of the things NEDA is trying to do is help remove the stigma that comes with having an eating disorder and others in the mental health field are working on destigmatizing any and all forms of mental illness. It is a big job and a lot of work still needs to be done in this area. Many people do not understand eating disorders or depression and the others, and say, just eat, or just stop after on slice, or snap out of it....and ignorance is not bliss to those affected by it and the family members that don't understand and blame the sufferer. So it is so difficult.

I am very glad your friend has you to support her. I hope the holidays weren't to difficult as they tend to be for many with mental health issues. I hope you were okay as well.

Please feel free to post anytime even to say how you are coping and dealing with helping your friend.
Take care.

iwanttolive

Kat.y
Hello again!

Hello again!
I just wanted to update/maybe get some more advice if possible. My friend is still suffering a lot and doesn’t want to go to counseling because her family doesn’t believe in it. I totally get that, but I really think she needs professional help so I’m really not sure what to do. What is the best way of approaching this?
On the other hand, I’m still the only one who knows and I’m really really struggling in carrying all of this all by myself. I want to be there for my friend and the last thing I want is for her to feel like I can’t be there for her. (I haven’t expressed to her how hard it is for me) It’s just been a lot for me to carry on my own and I don’t really know what to do about that. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle all of this?? My friend’s well being is my top priority, because I know that she I suffering a lot more than I am, but I’m just struggling a lot.
Thank you so much!!

iwanttolive
iwanttolive

Hi Kat.y. I am sorry to hear that your friend is still not doing well. I haven't been posting but check in to see how people are doing, but I feel it is important that I respond to your post. Something you said concerns me, " my highest priority is my friends well being as she is suffering a lot more than me" or close to that. I understand your heart. But you can not save your friend. Take the drowning swimmer analogy. You need to be strong and the other person has to have gotten to the point where they are no longer fighting and resisting help or both of you will drown. It is the same situation here. You ARE AS IMPORTANT as your friend. YOU MATTER as much as your friend and it isn't helpful to quantify the degree of suffering. Each person's pain is real and equally important and deserving of being helped. You can not save your friend. She needs professional help. Loving someone sometimes means being willing to risk losing their friendship by getting them help. It sounds to me like you are in over your head and you need help as well. Please call NEDA as they can help direct you and help advise you how to best help your friend and take care of yourself.

I am dealing with a very sick sister and it is so difficult. I want her to do things that I think would be good for her but I have learned I can not make her or anyone for that matter do anything. I on a good day am doing what is best for me. This is not saying not to help others or to be self absorbed but to learn how to be healthy when someone we love is sick.

I know I just said lot. I encourage you to go with your heart regarding your friend. I don't want you to live with regret if someone happens to her. You love her. I know. I hope you are able to let someone know she needs help. Again, the NEDA helpline can help you further. Take care of yourself.

iwanttolive

Kat.y
Iwanttolive-

Iwanttolive-
Again thank you SO MUCH for your thoughtful response. I promise I’m working on taking caring of myself as well, I think I’m just overwhelmed. Your post definitely is helping me understand that I really need to take care of myself if I want to take care of my friend. Thank you for your care for others- it does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I hope the best for you and your loved ones. I appreciate you so much!

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