So, the song goes, “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl,” because some dude is lusting after his friend’s woman.
This post isn’t so much about that. In my head that song is more like other girls singing, “I wish that I was Jesse’s Girl” because let me tell you, my man is the good stuff. And, he’s HOTTER than Rick Springfield.
The best way to get support is to ask for it.
Trust me, I know this is hard. When you’re in the throes of an eating disorder, secrecy is king. I get it. The LAST THING you want to do is tell someone, especially loved ones, who you don’t want to hurt or disappoint. Far worse, they may actually try to stop you and, even if you know something is wrong, you don’t want to give up the security and comfort of your eating disorder.
I’m much older than the stereotypical age for having anorexia. In my case, it’s not parents who are my support, but rather, my spouse. One thing quite scary about this is that the marriage relationship feels much more fragile than the parental relationship. Like, chances are my parents aren’t going to abandon me if I get anorexia. But a partner sticking with me? Alas, there we were…on Family Day in residential, JJ and a bunch of 18-24 year olds’ parents. Cool.
JJ and I have been together since 2008 and married since 2012. Last year, he was completely flabbergasted when I told him I needed help for an eating disorder. An ED that I’d had for 20 years.
It was late January 2018. I had been losing baby weight for about ten months, and was down about 35 pounds. I had been eating 600 calories a day or less for a month. His response was:
Like, truly had no clue what I was talking about.
A lot of families don’t notice when their loved one is struggling with an eating disorder. Maybe the weight changes and/or behaviors have been too gradual to notice. Maybe they ignore it because they don’t want to face it. Maybe they feel bad for not noticing.
JJ, a stereotypical 30-something male (yes, I’m a cougar – move it along) and intuitive eater, was baffled. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the beginning of this journey with him:
- You’re smart. Just choose to eat.
- I can’t eat any more spaghetti squash. I need noodles.
There was a day that we were driving around town, and JJ wanted to get something to eat. For the past several months, I had only been willing to go to MOD Pizza (where I could get a build your own salad) or Subway (when I was willing to get a turkey sandwich). I decided I needed to let him have some other choice so I bravely told him to pick. He went to the KFC drive-thru and ordered, then looked at me.
Are you getting anything?
No. What the hell can I get here?
He ate, while I looked out the window with tears in my eyes.
Here’s where JJ starts to be a superstar.
Since I wasn’t able to explain what I was going through and why I couldn’t make different choices, he came to a therapy session with me. The therapist educated JJ on anorexia, and he was all in to support me from that moment on.
- Logistics: He adjusted to a 75% work schedule and became sole caregiver for LK. He did not complain ONCE. (Shout out to my awesome MIL who provided a lot of extra childcare also.)
- Physical support: He brought LK to visit me several times a week, typically after long days at work.
- Dealing with all my crazy – I don’t say that lightly. I literally was diagnosed and am now on some very helpful meds. Eating disorders rarely ride solo; they bring their depression, anxiety, and OCD friends along. Y’all, a person deep in anorexia is not herself. I was irrational, highly volatile, and TERRIFIED he would leave me if I gained weight but also TERRIFIED he would leave me if I didn’t recover
- Therapy – He participated in my therapy any time I wanted; in person, phone appointments from work, you name it.
- Emotional support – JJ has said a lot of really supportive stuff to me during this journey, but my favorite is a voicemail from July 10th, 2018 that I have saved: “Peggy, you are so much more than your weight on the scale. I love you.”
Bottom line: Get some support or be a support.
Get some support…
- Honesty – You HAVE to be willing to start telling the truth. You may just find that the truth is something they relate to more than you would ever know. You may find that the love someone has for you is unconditional.
- Courage – It requires a seemingly impossible kind of bravery to ask for support. You just need one, in the beginning. One person. Find them and ask for support.
- Be in for the long haul – This is not going to change overnight. The average time for recovery is 5-7 YEARS. YEARS. Recovery is not linear and will likely be the hardest thing you do. You will make some progress, screw up and want to quit. A lot. KEEP GOING.
Be a support…
- Honesty: BAR NONE, this is the big one. Remember, secrecy is king for a person with an eating disorder. You HAVE to be someone who doesn’t freak out when they tell you the truth. They will tell you things you have never thought of and can’t possibly understand. They are telling you things they think will be the end of your relationship or love for them. BELIEVE them and honor their honesty with you.
- Courage – If someone tells you they have an ED, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. BRING IT UP AGAIN. I worked up the courage to tell close friends, and every time, I did not hear from them again until I brought it up. This was so incredibly painful. To come up with that kind of courage TWICE, felt like I was on the brink of the end. “I know I already told you this, but could you please care about me?”
- Be in for the long haul – This is a long, years-long process. They are not better when they are weight restored. They are not better when they don’t talk about it. They are not better when they seem to eat normally in front of you. Keep checking in. Also, you may need your own support for this long journey. Find your person, too.
Do you need support or want to support someone?
Leave me a comment. Look at the other pages on mommystrongtx for resources and ideas. Just do it.