Have you ever watched a friend experience an eating disorder? If so, please send in your stories of how you felt, how you coped and what was helpful to both of you.
What it is like knowing someone with an eating disorder...
'It's really hard to know what to do. At the beginning you have a clear sense that something is wrong; you can see the person change physically and you can see that they're struggling with something internally, despite their maintaining their life and daily routine, seemingly very successful. You really want to ask straight out if they're ok and if they do have an eating disorder and what you can do to help, but you are aware that as with many other mental health issues it's a delicate balance: if they have accpeted and come to terms with their illness and are getting help for it they might be open to hearing this; but if they're in denial or haven't confronted it what if you alienate them further in what is already an isolating, lonely and scary illness? What if they don't want to be around you because you've seen and have addressed the one thing they are trying to escape?
With my friend I never asked her directly about the problem until she started talking about it herself (years later.) This was really hard and I agonised over whether I should have or not. I felt it was the safe option so I didn't risk pushing her away and that there were probably 'closer' friends or family better placed to address it. I made excuses: we lived in different parts of the country; what could I do anyway? I didn't see her on a regular basis so what if my intuition was wrong? So instead of trying to address it directly I just tried to just be there, to think of her, do thoughtful things.
I still feel really guilty about this as I feel like I took the safe option and don't feel I did all I could. In hindsight I wish I had talked to those people I assumed were closer to her or knew her better; it's so hard though knowing whether you're overstepping the mark. Or talked to her directly and risked the consequences. As time has passed and she has sought help for her eating disorder(s) it's much easier because you know you can ask her about it, how she is getting on, how the therapies are going. The tension or worrying whether not to mention 'it' and what reaction you might get has gone.
Above all knowing with someone with an eating disorder I would always accept that person, never judge them or get angry with them, and always be there and willing to
listen. My friend is probably one of the strongest, bravest, intelligent and beautiful people I know and I am immensely proud of what she has achieved and how she is coping. I probably don't tell her
that enough though. And I will always wonder if there had been anything I could have done in the early days that could have reduced her suffering or lonliness.'