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Monday, November 12, 2012

What to Do When You Suspect Anorexia

Dear bro Jo,

I have reason to believe that my friend is becoming anorexic.

Here's a little back story;

Me and her ("Ruth") switched phones to text each other’s crushes, and I was going to type a note in her notes to her telling her how much I love her when I saw a note that said "don't eat it unless its salad, work out, become anorexic".

Then I showed my friend ("Naomi"). Naomi said that she wouldn't doubt it because every time she and Ruth have eaten together, Ruth barely eats anything and if she does its only lettuce.

Naomi also said that Ruth (she wants to go into modeling) always calls herself fat and stuff, and she is really petite.

Then later me and Naomi were talking and teasing Ruth that we had seen something inappropriate on her phone (there wasn't anything) and she got all defensive and said "you didn't look in my notes did you?!" and I didn't know what to say and then the bell rang.

I don't know what to do! and I don't want to ask her flat out!

What should I do??


Name Withheld

Dear NW,

I think you need some backup.

I think you need to talk to your parents and let them know about your concerns. In these super-touchy situations it's very valuable to have a trusted adult in your corner. Because, here's the thing, when you do talk to your friend (and I think someone needs to talk to her very soon), even if you're very careful to express your love and concern for her, she's likely to rebel against you.

Anorexia is an addiction, but it works on a much deeper level than just the physical-chemical stuff, because it's also very psychological. If she is suffering from anorexia (and remember, it's always possible that she's not) then there's going to be some deep emotional issues that neither you nor I are going to be able to fix.

But a conversation does need to happen.

When I was not too much older than you are now I got a call from a friend who asked me to come over and chat. I was pretty excited because she and I had dated once or twice and I'd hoped it would turn into a little something more. But rather than telling me that she agreed with my premise that friends make the best boyfriends she instead told me of her anorexia and bulimia problems. She wanted to change, and I promised to help. But the thing is, NW, I was very young, had no experience in this sort of thing, and the reason she wanted my help is because she wanted to overcome these issues without involving her parents or a doctor or anyone else.

So, what happened is that she gave me all of her "stuff" (meaning the things she used to help her not eat or to throw up when she did eat) and promised to call me in moments of weakness. As you might guess, I quickly became the enemy. In moments of weakness she saw me as an obstacle rather than a help. When she was really struggling she'd avoid me altogether, and if I clued into what was going on she'd get defensive and hostile. Not only did our relationship never grow into the 'something more" I was hoping it would, but she stopped talking to me altogether.

We ceased being friends.

A couple years later she ended up in the hospital; starving your body of nutrition catches up with you eventually, in very bad ways. She was lucky to live, and her brush with death revealed her addictions and put her back on the right path. Of course I didn't know about the hospital visit until a while later, once she was healthy and dating one of my friends, when she came to me and apologized for the way she'd treated me during all of that.

I'm grateful she's healthy now, but she was very lucky because not everyone overcomes as she did.

So, the bottom line is that, even if you're wrong, someone needs to talk to your friend. And given my personal experience, I think it's best if it comes from the Trusted Adult. If not one of your parents, then perhaps a YW leader.

Help your friend, but don't try to do it on your own.

Keep me posted,

- Bro Jo

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In a search for perfection and to look attractive some girls begin hurting themselves. One of my friends in high school became anorexic. I went to the public health office and got all the information I could get and I talked to her openly about the problem. She never got mad at me but she never really addressed the real issues under the surface of the problem eg. abuse. My best friend became bulemic with another friend. They hid their behavior for a long time and I never had to talk about it with them. The throwing up thing seemed to be a phase they needed to try. You can know from Heavenly Father what to do in order to help your friend. It may be a serious problem or a phase. Perhaps a bishop needs to know so counselling can be offered as a solution.