Teenager wants to help her anorexic and bulimic friend Part I: The Request
- Category: Psychotherapy and Recovery Work
This heartbreaking request for help comes often and in many forms. A teenage girl finds out her best friend is bulimic and anorexic and wants to help her. I’ll make up some names for clarity.
The Story The story is always a variation on a theme. The girl with the eating disorder, Lily, makes an emotional confession about her binges, her purges, her dangerous restricting and various devices she uses to stop eating and keep losing weight. She extracts a promise from her friend, Maggie, that the secret will be kept, no matter what. Lily says, “Don’t tell my parents. They would never let me go away to college if they knew.” Maggie promises not to tell anyone. She’s staggered by the enormity of her promise and her friend’s terrible secret. Maggie heads straight for the Internet and is horrified to discover all the symptoms of eating disorders are present in her friend.
Friend's Emotional Agony
Maggie is wracked with anxiety and worry about Lily and frightened by the growing weight of the promise. Maggie, young, bright and conscientious, has no appreciation for promises that cannot be kept.
Standard and Passionate Rationalizations Maggie tries to convince Lily to go into treatment. Lily comes up with standard eating disorder responses Maggie has never heard before.
“I’ve got it under control.”
- “No way am I going into treatment. They'll only want to make me fat.”
- “This is not a disease. It has nothing to do with my mind. I just need to be smaller.”
- “My parents are impossible to deal with. I don’t want them to know anything.”
- “I’m fine. I don’t need help.”
- “Once I’m out of town at college, everything will be fixed and okay.”
- "You promised not to tell my parents. If they knew they might not let me go away to school.”
Maggie is desperate to find a way to help her friend. She is suffering and wants to know what she should do to get Lily to a treatment place. Maggie wants to know how to convince Lily to get outside help.
Maggie pleas with me for an answer that will help. She, like so many young girls in this position, doesn’t ask for help for herself. She believes that all will be well if she can find a way for Lily to be well. My next post is my response to Maggie and all the Maggies out there.
How would you respond to Maggie's request? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section of this post