Living with my sister’s anorexia
I am 13 years old and for the past five years my sister’s anorexia has dominated my life. I have spent years trying to understand it, but I still constantly ask myself questions such as ‘Why did she become so ill?’ or ‘Will she ever recover completely?’ This has led to me having my own struggles with my mental health and I want to share my experience because I feel like while there is obviously a lot of support for the eating disorder sufferer and the parents, siblings are all too often the forgotten victims of eating disorders.
My sister is four years older than me and she has always been there for me; we have a very close relationship. Although when she was in the depths of her eating disorder I felt as though I had lost her. My parents were obviously very worried about her and I got a lot less attention than I had previously. I struggled with this as I was only eight and although I knew something was wrong I was very confused and didn’t really understand it.
When my sister went into hospital I missed her a lot and I expected her to be there for a week or so, but she was there for six months, which was one of the hardest times in my life, although I did feel some sense of relief, as meal times with my sister had become very difficult; she would shout, scream and throw things as my parents tried to get her to eat. This wasn’t the sort of person she was, and I had completely lost her to anorexia. It was like a bereavement. My friendships and school work were also affected – I often couldn’t concentrate in class and my friends would ask me how my sister got so thin and think it ‘cool’.
Over time I have felt a wide range of emotions about my situation. When I was younger I felt very confused and angry, but didn’t show it because I didn’t want to bother my parents. This led to it building up inside of me, which then caused me to become depressed and turning to self- harm to help me cope. I also would compare myself to my sister, and although I don’t have an eating disorder, I spend much more time thinking about my weight and what to eat now. Something that often upsets me is when people just throw the word “anorexia” around lightly. Such as at school I often here people talk about it like a joke or using the word “anorexic” as an adjective when it’s a serious mental illness.
I have so much respect for my sister and although I do feel anger towards her eating disorder I just want to say how amazing she is for still being here today. I also want to thank my parents for everything they do to support both me and her, such as getting us therapy and always just being there for us.
To other siblings
The first thing I want to get across is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I often felt very alone because I didn’t talk to anyone for a long time. Talk to your parents, teachers or anyone else you trust about your situation. You may get shut down at first if they don’t fully understand or are busy. But keep bringing it up and find a time when they are free. So that you can really talk about it. You might feel angry and resentful towards your sibling, although these feelings are completely understandable. These feelings are yours and you have a right to feel them. I often felt as though I just had to stay strong for everyone else around me although this isn’t the case. Do something you enjoy, I like to draw and listen to music which helps me to express my feeling as well. But please, please talk to someone if you are going through this. It will get easier and I promise you that things will work out eventually.
Contributed by Alice
Does your sibling have an eating disorder? Beat runs an online support group every week for you and other siblings of people with eating disorders to talk about what you're going through or take a break with others who understand. Find out more about the Robin support group.