Relationships with friends and family influence and are influenced by eating disorder issues. Topics relate to individual perspectives, questions, stories and support for adults in various stages of recovery and for the people who love them. Extricating yourself from negative relationships and building positive relationships are discussed.  Communication, boundaries, love, self-esteem, emotional turbulence, abuse, ways to help and accept help are explored.

How to Help Your Friend or Sister Who Has an Eating Disorder

This heartbreaking question comes in often: "How can I help someone I love, my sister, my friend, recover from an eating disorder?  

Some suggestions:

Parents Challenge in Facing the Reality of Their Daughter's Eating Disorder

I spoke with a father this week who told me his daughter, 35 years old, no longer threw up but still had compulsive thought patterns and feelings of shame.  He said the first he and his wife knew their daughter had a problem was when a friend of her confided to them that their daughter, then 20 years old, was suicidal.  I was so moved by this man's story, especially when he thanked me, with tears in his eyes, because it was the first time he spoke about his feelings about his daughter's trials.

The question that comes up is, why would a loving parent who saw his child every day not notice

What are you looking for in your eating disorder world?

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*pix Where do you go when you go into your eating disorder? What are you looking for?

What you show the world

When you have an eating disorder you skate on the surface of being present with others. “How are you?” a friend asks. You answer, “Fine.” Yet you live in a deeper, darker world your friend knows nothing about. It’s full of pain where you use private intense ongoing strategies to bring you to peace and security, and to an encompassing love you crave but haven’t yet discovered.

Your secret world

Suffering from an eating disorder is a lonely business.  You have to pretend to be happy, competent and fine without letting the people around you know your desperation. When you come right down to it, just about every action that stems from an eating disorder is an act of desperation.  The binge, restriction, denial, purge, starvation, exercise, and controlling behaviors - these are all unhappy and desperate activities that you try to keep secret.  When you have so many secrets your loneliness increases to the level of despair.

It's difficult to turn away from that secret life and the hope of finding your happiness through your eating disorder. Friends, family, therapists, doctors don't know the importance of your hidden life. Yet, when you know your path has been attempted before you can begin to understand your need for your secret life. Then, perhaps, you can make your turn and move toward what can bring you satisfaction and freedom in a world of people, of friends and of love and satisfaction.

Others choose retreat for safety

I read some lines from **Leslie Marmon Silko's "Interior and Exterior Landscapes."  She was writing about how her father and his brother lived in the hills, within the juniper forests, with a gun and a dog, to be removed from the racial prejudice that hurt them so badly in the towns.  She said:

Out in the hills they were not lonely because they had all the living creatures of the hills around them, and whatever the ambiguities of racial heritage, my father and my uncle understood what the old folks had taught them: the earth loves all of us regardless, because we are her children.

Going into your eating disorder world is very much like going "out into the hills."  You want to leave the world you find so painful. You want privacy and safety where you can find your own version of beauty and love.

But while your eating disorder promises these things, it doesn't deliver. And you can't give it up to enter a world that you don't trust, full of people you don't trust. You don't even trust yourself without your eating disorder.

Change your retreat

Before you are ready to trust another person and move through your walls of loneliness to healing and loving relationships, you can bring yourself to nature and beauty in whatever way that is right for you.  You don't have to drop your life and go live in the hills.  But you can stroll through gardens and art galleries. You can create a small garden on your patio or in your kitchen. You can take up a form of art making that appeals to you.

Can you find your way to bring yourself closer to the earth? Can you find your way to let your creativity flow?

Give the world an opportunity to show you that the earth loves you and that your creativity is as wonderful as you are, secrets and all.  Let yourself feel the complete love the earth and all its creative energy give you because you are her child and carry the same creative energy of the world within you.

When you can let yourself feel this love you are also learning to love yourself. You are then ready to take on your eating disorder recovery work because the most loving act you can do for yourself is to be well, whole and happy.

 *pix Bandelier National Monument

 **Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today by by Leslie Marmon Silko

 Laguna Woman Wonderful article about the life and art of Leslie Marmon Silko

Joanna Poppink, Los Angeles eating disorder recovery psychotherapist

Help for Gifted Young Woman with Anorexia

Recently "I" wrote me about her friend "C".  "C" is in her twenties and a brilliant athlete.  But "C" suffered from anorexia so severely that she required several hospitalizations.  She can't perform or even coach because it triggers her anorexia.  She has no family support. Quite the contrary. Her family rejected her because of her sexual orientation.

Once in a while she does perform, leaving the audience dazzled at the beauty and grace of her excellence. But her actions, despite their beauty, trigger her and she falls into emotional devastation.  What, asks, "I," as her friend, can I do or say?

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