A loved one finds they have had enough of their wife/husband/son/daughter’s eating disorder (ED) behavior. It’s just too damn much to monitor their meals, sit through the tantrums, tirades, and tears, and manage the home and other responsibilities on top of it all. Out comes the threat that they’ll leave or send their loved one to a hospital or residential center. This isn’t the first time it’s happened in my office.
I have to tell you, this is understandable in many ways. Helping someone recover while they’re living at home is beyond tough. You’ve heard it said that eating disorder recovery is a marathon, right? Well, it’s a marathon run in the winter through mud and slush. It sucks beyond words. And during the course of helping your loved one recover, you feel like all you get in return is more grief, resentment, guilt, and worse. It’s easy to want to throw in the towel. I really do get it.
But that’s not an excuse. I don’t buy the statement, “It’s too hard for me.” It’s that much harder for the person with the eating disorder, I guarantee it. And I say that from direct experience. I’m a father of a child who didn’t learn how to eat until he was 6 years old due to medical issues. I’m the son of a woman who struggled with body image shame, binge eating, anorexia, depression, and weight cycling behaviors. I’m a man who has dealt with anorexia, exercise bulimia, binge eating, depression, anxiety, and suicidality. And I’m a man who has helped hundreds of clients and their families work through this disorder.
Not once, not ever, was it easy no matter what role I played. But you do it because it’s the job that has to be done. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. You do it because there is nothing more rewarding than overcoming a demon like ED to bond a family or couple together. You do it because you love them.
Hang in there. Get the help and support you need too. If your loved one is simply too sick or your life is too unmanageable to help them recover at home, by all means go seek that higher level of care in a hospital or residential program.
But remember, it’s not their choice to have an eating disorder. It’s their choice to recover. It’s your choice to help them. Make it.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 443-602-6515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.