Monte Nido & Affiliates Education Training Manger Jacquie Rangel shares a heartfelt series for anyone supporting a loved-one with an eating disorder. Jacquie shares some advice of how to best be there for your loved one from her personal experience.
To all who are supporting a loved-one with an eating disorder:
If there were one thing I wish I could tell the people who cared about me when I had an eating disorder, I would express how incredibly lonely I felt. I don’t mean this to say that you aren’t enough for your loved one. This issue is not speaking to scarcity or quality of people but rather the reality that it is not possible to feel truly connected to anyone without a clear sense of self. The eating disorder is made up of a system of beliefs that are reinforced by behavior to match it, so it becomes easy for the person living in it to take this on as an identity. In reality, the eating disorder is a mask that a person creates to alienate themselves from their true, healthy-self. Whether it’s insecurity, distortion, trauma or a combination of all of the above that drives a person to reject who they truly are, the eating disorder serves to disconnect a person from their senses and over time leads them to believe that anything their intuitive nature tells them is wrong. This level of deprivation from the true-self is why you might feel your support is “never enough” to your loved one. So what’s a well-intentioned supporter like yourself to do? I have one word for you: Connect.
Connect. What is it like for you to live in your body? Having someone close to you experience an eating disorder will get you quickly educated about the reality of this illness. Contrary to what you might have once believed, this isn’t a joke, a diet or a problem with vanity. An eating disorder is a life-threatening condition and in reality, the majority of the population will go their life without living in one. However, years of advocacy, open conversation and a lot of observation makes me feel comfortable asserting that nearly everyone knows what it feels like to feel uncomfortable in their body. We associate success and happiness with a set physical features we’ve been primed to believe are superior to the rest. When we don’t have the flat belly or proportional curves or clear skin we’ve placed on a pedestal we automatically believe we cannot experience success or feel happiness. Start a vulnerable conversation about how this has played out in your own life. Have you ever felt shamed by a person or popular culture directly or otherwise for your physical appearance? These conversations can really level the playing field, especially in the early phases of recovery when your loved one is fascinated with observing the way the people they believe to be “normal” experience the world.