I struggle to understand exactly what it is like to have an eating disorder and still never know the right thing to say, or what to do to make it better. It was difficult seeing the harm it was doing to my wife, such as her fainting, having many trips to A&E and slowly deteriorating – but it was especially frustrating when it seemed like anything I did never helped and it always got worse.
Initially friends and family were not aware that she was suffering with an eating disorder. I respected the fact that she didn’t want everyone to know, but it meant that we would avoid seeing friends if it would involve food.
Our local eating disorder service was very good and alongside the treatment for my wife they also offered an ‘empowering families’ workshop, which offered me the opportunity to learn and understand the disorder, its traits and the process of recovery.
It seems like very few people, unless they have experienced it themselves, understand eating disorders. So many people said she should ‘just eat’ – and I have been guilty of thinking that myself. On the other side, so many people saw my wife’s extreme exercising and dieting and would even praise her for it. She would often come home from work saying how she had been complimented by colleagues.
It is difficult to understand eating disorders and it is important to remember that behind the disorder your loved one is still there. What they do is not necessarily their choice but is because of the illness they have.
As I have discovered, there is no magic wand to make it better, but it is possible to recover from an eating disorder. Supporting someone with an eating disorder is not easy, but you just have to remember to be there for them when they need you and gently nudge them in the right direction.
Having an eating disorder is difficult and it is essential that people suffering from a disorder get the help they need, but it also has a massive effect on those around them and can put a strain on families and relationships. Support for carers helps to make them more aware by understand eating disorders but also helps them to know what they can do when their loved one is affected.
The right support and information helps family and loved ones understand, so they can provide the love and care needed for everyone.
I feel very lucky to have found a support group – but it would have been wonderful if this had been available more locally.
On 8 July 2019, the Victoria Derbyshire show discussed the state of eating disorder treatment and the importance of family empowerment. One parent whose daughter has been ill with anorexia for eight years shares her experience.