Okay, so in Part 1 you established that your loved one has an eating disorder.
You’re probably panicking a little bit right now. What do I do? What do I say? How do we find help?
Step 1 – Hug your loved one. They’ve likely just told you one of the biggest, scariest secrets they’re holding right now. Don’t yell (tempting though it may be), and don’t threaten. Let them know how you feel: that you’re scared, but you’re there for them.
Step 2 – Make a plan. Ask your loved one what they want to do. If you were asking me, early on, my answer would likely have been a sullen “nothing”, or maybe something angrier and less PG. Don’t take it personally. Your loved one will likely run the gamut from denial, to ready to change, to thinking about it, to denial again. Talk about what they reasonably think they can do right now.
Step 3 – Build a team. At the very least, your loved one is going to need therapy to get through this. He or she didn’t develop an eating disorder as a hobby, and therapy will help them get to the root of the issue. You may think talking it out together will be enough, but it’s important to have an outsider on the team. Things get messy in recovery, and it’s important that your loved one has someone to talk through all the scary, shameful, angry feelings that may come up.
A nutritionist is also important. As with the therapist, you’re going to want someone who specializes in eating disorders on your side. Treating someone with an eating disorder is delicate work, and a therapist or nutritionist who doesn’t understand can often do more harm than good.
You’ll also need an MD to medically monitor your loved one, and make sure everything is going well.
Step 4 – Do your research. Your loved one may be able to recover with the aforementioned team in place. They may also need more support than that. Look into a variety of treatment centres and hospital programs. Most of them have really LONG lists of criteria for admission (surprisingly, if your weight drops too LOW, you’re disqualified from most treatment centres) and really LONG wait lists (some are up to 2 years long). Whether you think your loved one will need it or not, get them on the waiting lists NOW.
It’s overwhelming, I know. It’s really overwhelming for your loved one, too. If you find you need support during this time, I urge you to get it. Make sure your oxygen mask is securely in place before assisting others.
Click here for Part 3!
If you need help finding eating disorder specialists to work with, check out the National Eating Disorders Association or the National Eating Disorder Information Centre in Canada. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, feel free to contact me at kelly[@]kellyboaz[.]com for my recommendations.