So I have been thinking about writing this post for a while now it is a list of things that throughout TB’s eating disorder people have said to me, i am sure that they believed that they were being useful or just expressing emotions that they needed to at the time. I want to make it clear that i hold nothing against anyone who said any of these comments, merely that despite their best intentions they were not useful, and often still are not.
Some people may relate to some of these, or perhaps your looking for information on how to speak to your son/daughter, partner of either, from my experience try if you can to avoid some of these phrases. So while this may seem like a rant on my part (it kind of is!) i will also try and explain what would have been a more useful thing to say.
(these are in no particular order-just the order in which i remember them!)
‘I just want you to be happy’, (ok so this one isn’t that bad, its more the frequency with which it can be said that gets to me) of course you want me to be happy! i’d be upset if you wanted me to be unhappy, plus i am happy, i may not be for this conversation, but you are presuming that i am always unhappy and that its just because of TB’s eating disorder. Perhaps you could say, apart from this are you happy, or let me know if you get really down or something that gives the impression that you know other things are going on in my life which may make me as equally happy or unhappy.
‘he’s so skinny to hug i can feel all his bones, its not nice’. This one REALLY gets to me, i don’t hug someones boyfriend and ever comment on their weight, they could be slim, they could be large, but i wouldn’t dream of saying ‘he’s so chubby to hug, its horrible’. Don’t people realise that they are talking about your partner, the person you have chosen to be with, someone who you very much love and basically insulting you both?! Plus is that really all you can think to say about someone. I love him very much and if hugging him when he’s on the lower end of his weight doesn’t bother me, then it definitely shouldn’t bother you. I think its entirely ok to say ‘he looks a little pale, how is his health’ ‘or i’ve really noticed a drop in his size recently, is he having a particularly though time at the moment’ talk to me about his health, don’t give me your opinion unless its constructive, and please show some empathy.
‘do you still find him attractive, i mean he’s lost so much weight, don’t you ever feel big when your with him’. Now i’m pretty sure that unless i welcomed you in to a conversation on this chances are i probably haven’t chosen to talk to you about it for a reason, a) its kind of personal and b) are you suggesting that i’m overweight, because last time i checked i wasn’t, and no i don’t feel big-but should i do?! i mean i’m pretty secure in myself, but are other people thinking i now look big compared to him?! I know people care and just want to look out for me, but again phrase it in a way that shows me you have confidence in me ‘it must be tough being around this all the time, you know if it ever makes you doubt anything about yourself i’m always here to chat’ is a much nicer way to open up the conversation. Don’t get me wrong, this is a big worry and if you do feel that way you should open up to someone who loves you and you trust.
‘your a young couple, you should be having fun and doing good stuff’. If anyone knows this its me, I pretty much used to feel this on a daily basis and i didn’t need people reminding me of it, no one is more aware than i am/was of what we were missing out on!!!! That said, sometimes its nice to have a good rant to someone i love and trust about just how rubbish it is and how much it sucks and how i wished things were different, but that conversation is usually initiated by me. I don’t want to dwell on what we can and cant/do and don’t do- please stop reminding me, just celebrate with me when things change.
‘it just seems like your always supporting him’ this is kind of a ‘duh’ comment, he has an illness what else am i supposed to do to the person i love? ‘sorry TB, today i cannot support you as it is my day to be supported’ yes, our balance is a bit off at the minute and i am often more supportive, but i am so grateful that there isn’t anything going on my life which means i need as equal support-can you imagine how much more mental space that would take up for TB?! There have been times when i’ve felt that i needed more support than i have got, but i’ve leaned on my support network during these times, and its important to note that its just as tough for TB to know that at times he hasn’t been the person who i have needed. There is no telling where our lives will take us, and no telling at which point the balance will switch and i need TB more than he needs me, the important thing is that there have been a few times where i’ve really needed the support and he has stepped up and that is enough for me for now.
‘i just think its very selfish’ Brilliant, you have hit the nail on the head it IS selfish, but not in the same way as someone who is selfish by not sharing, or spending money on themselves, this is an illness, not a life choice, which leads quite nicely in to…
‘does he know how much this affects you/puts pressure on you’ There are two things to this, yes and no. Yes i am sure he knows it affects me, no i am not sure he knows the full extent, but either way it probably won’t make much of a difference, knowing how much it upsets and puts pressure on me just serves to make him feel more guilty a lot of the time, does he know how much i love and support him and no matter how much pressure i feel i will always be there for him? yes, i personally feel thats more important on the road to recovery than continually reminding him of myself (isn’t that just as selfish?!) and making him feel guilty about it? My usual response to this was, on a day to day basis no-but when it all got too much and really counted-yes. There has to be a balance in there somewhere.
‘I’m not saying you shouldn’t be together’ Well i jolly well hope your not….please don’t ever say this, we need your support, not your judgement.
‘Does he realise just how bad it is?’ gahhhh how this question got on my nerves-at the beginning, clearly not or else he would have accepted it, a couple of years in, still clearly not or else he would be getting treatment, will he ever know? i don’t know. Its as though you are suggesting i am not doing enough to let him know how bad it is and i just feel bad now. A better thing to say would be ‘is there anything you need help working out how to get across to him’, ‘is there anything i can do to help him see how bad its getting’-its nice to know that you want to help, your prepared to get involved, and don’t see this as an alien thing happening to us/him-we need support.
‘I’m sorry i just don’t know how much more i can help’ The times that i have heard this have generally been when someone else is at their wits end and isn’t sure what to do, the problem is it comes across angry. Please remember that (in my case) i’m often not asking for you to ‘do’ anything, except have a listening ear, a cup of tea, a box of tissues and a whole host of fun things to do to take my mind off it.
So that’s all i can think of off the top of my head, but i will add more if i remember or someone says something new! Just to note though, please don’t get too cross at people, they love you and care about you and sometimes you need them to say things to push you in to action, read my support networks-parents post, i know that sometimes someone has to be the one to ask the difficult questions.
Thank you for reading