Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Life With An Eating Disorder: The Challenge To Stay

Last week we heard personal testimonies. Yesterday kicked off family member and friend testimonies and Sara shared her perspective via a letter written to her sister.

I had to rearrange a little this week as a few who were scheduled to guest post decided to pull out, due to concerns with confidentiality and privacy for their loved one. I completely understand and support their decision. In the spirit of our series I decided to write a little something for today. I know what you all are thinking, "You are the one with the ED history, and this week is about hearing from family and friends." True. Very true. But I thought long and hard over the last few days and I think, despite this little discrepancy, I can share from my heart and shed some light on how to stay connected with a loved one, or a friend who is struggling with an eating disorder, when the easier option would be to walk away. Because several people did this for me. I am eternally grateful.

. . .

The Challenge To Stay  

Staying connected to a friend or family member who has an ED is hard. Eating Disorders have a way of pulling the person farther and farther away from their world. Thus, the more the eating disorder sets in, the harder it is to stay rooted to your friend or loved one. This is so challenging on many levels. As one who cares and feels genuine concern, the last thing you want to do is pull away out of frustration. But how do you stay connected when (it feels like) you're the only one willing to do the work?

I want to give you three words. These three words were monumental to me in my walk and ultimately, in my progress. I am not a licensed therapist of any sort, yet I can say with boldness that these three concepts below, made a difference in those few people who journeyed with me through it all. Those few people who actively said "I am choosing to stay vs. walk away."

Be patient. If I have learned anything over the last few years it has been that patience is key. It is hard watching someone you love beat up their body and fall into the same trap over and over again. Yet try to meet them where they are, and don't expect a miracle overnight. When they cancel last minute dinner plans because the thought of going out to eat is just too hard, be patient. When they cannot muster up enough energy to make it to that girls weekend (that has been planned for months), be patient. When they fall into the trap and the (so it seems) never ending cycle of self harm, be patient. Giving the gift of patience will serve you, and your friend, far better in the long run. Eating disorders take a lot of time and energy to work through. And when you have just about had it, just take a second and reflect on how God showers you with patience each and every day. He has no perfect children after all.

Be persistent. You will probably be the only one making effort to keep the friendship alive, at least for a while. You might ask your ED struggling friend to coffee fifteen times, only to be rejected all fifteen. This is where persistence kicks in. Ask a sixteenth. Be persistent. Eventually (and yes I mean eventually) your friend will say yes. What a shame if the yes was coming after invitation 16, but you had decided to give up instead after 15. Persistence communicates love in so many ways. Keep it up.

Be prayerful. Prayer is so vitally important when you are feeling the tug between choosing to stay and walking away. Pray about everything, big and small. Pray that God will open your eyes and that He will grace you with wisdom of what to do, what to say, when to speak, and when to listen. Pray for those little milestones that one walking with an ED must reach. Pray for their family. Pray for their therapist. Pray boldly and specifically. Pray that they can drink that 2% milk without having a panic attack (Yes, I'm speaking from experience here). I cannot underestimate the power of prayer. It was so encouraging to me just knowing that others were lifting me up (especially when I did not have the courage to pray myself), and celebrating answers and victories along the way. And don't forget to pray for your ability to show patience and persistence as you walk this road.

So that is my encouragement to all of you friends and family members of one with an eating disorder.

Patience, persistence and prayer.

Is it challenging to stay? Yes.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.


  1. Great advice - thanks for sharing!

  2. This is really good advice. I definitely fail at the persistence part...something to work towards!!

  3. So true in every avenue of life, even non-ED-related areas. Patience, persistence, and prayer are the best tools to have and work towards! Very well said, as usual :)

  4. Great post, and helpful to remember when trying to support anyone going through a struggle (like Amy said)- thanks for sharing!

  5. My struggles became the worst in college, and in looking back, the relationships that I let fall apart during that season of life are one of my biggest regrets. I had some amazing girlfriends that just couldn't walk through it all with me. Granted, I was not fun or easy to be around. I know this. I would just like to be able to tell the people that I hurt that I am sorry. Maybe I will work on that. I had a few people besides family that hung on and walked with me, but mostly my circle of friendships changed after recovery. I couldn't undo what had already been done. So, like Amy, I love your advice no matter the issue one is walking through! I know what I needed out of a friendship at that time, and I can strive to be for others what I wished some had strived to be for me.

  6. You give some really good advice and I will definitely look back to this as a reference in the future. Thanks for being so open and honest with your struggles. It's so powerful to hear.


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