Although an extremely difficult condition to deal with as a parent, it must be understood that it is so much harder for the person with the eating disorder. With this in mind, support, encouragement, unconditional love, and a non-judgemental approach has a more beneficial effect. I would suggest avoiding statements which tend to isolate, intimidate, or in any way bring shame and feelings of failure, such as: ‘It’s nice to see you are eating today’, ‘Come on, all you have to do is put it in your mouth’, ‘Just think of all the starving children in Africa’. So much more could be achieved by statements such as: ‘I can see you are struggling, can I do anything to help?’, ‘You are a special person and highly valued’. I firmly believe that everyone needs to know that he/she is valued and important, especially to the parent.
Keeping your household from being controlled by Anorexia is a huge challenge distressing. It’s hard to fathom that someone who says they love you, can also be perceived as readily sacrificing that love for Anorexia. Lies, cheating, deceit, manipulation, and selfishness all seem to become dominant characteristics influencing your household as the one you love pursues their destructive lifestyle at all costs and their “former self” seems to disappear before your eyes.
Having the capacity to hold on to love in the face of this negative barrage is a huge ask of you and your family. Making your family, marriage, and other children or relationships a priority and not becoming emotionally and socially Anorexic yourselves is critical to surviving and winning. The tendency of your daughter or son to consume and destroy any and all family time and relationship makes it so very important to fight for the time you need to be “normal”. Finding ways to work, rest, and play together where the Anorexia isn’t the all consuming focus can be challenging. Having friends around who are able to support you and help normalise things is great, and taking time out to refresh (whatever that means for you) is critical.
It’s important to remember that even though your world is falling apart and it seems that your words and actions fall on deaf ears, in the end Anorexia can possibly be overcome with time and love. The question always remains: how much time do you have and how long can you stand in love? I hope you find all that you need of both.