Round and round I have been rolling the answers around in my head to this question I was asked to write about:
How do you help your sibling who has an eating disorder?
Your sister or your brother?
Well, I am not sure there is pat answer here, more of one that works for you and your family.
From my own experience, my sister was living thousands of miles away and up to her eyeballs in corporate world. It was so hard for to understand and she was trying to hold her own life together. Her way of coping was to just call and write saying how much she loved me.
My brother on the other hand was there in therapy with me, let me live with him, and tried everything from getting me to “just eat”, crying out of fear, and yelling at me.
Which one worked?
Both of my siblings helped me. They both supported me in the way they felt was right and what they both did was helpful.
So how would I recommend someone help a sibling?
The most important thing in my opinion is to not let ED become the main focus of the relationship. Continue to love them, continue to do fun things with them, ask them about things other than their eating disorder. If all you ever talk about is the eating disorder, than the rest of the relationship fails to grow. Don't ignore the eating disorder, but do what you can to help and then continue to grow the relationship with them.
I also recommend you read anything you can to educate yourself on ED! The more you read up on it, the more you will understand! If your brother or sister had cancer or diabetes you would read up on it ...right? And remember, it isn't your job to fix them. Let the treatment team do that. Your job is to support, encourage, and try to understand.
But the best way I believe a sibling can help is to ask the sufferer…what can I do that would best help you?
Ask them to tell YOU what would help! Then when you are following through with it ask them…is this helping you?
We tend to love others like we want to be loved. For years I would send cards and flowers to my husband. Until I realized, that is not what makes him feel loved. That is what makes me feel loved. He is auditory and just needs to hear the words, “I love you, I support you, I am here for you.” But me, I need cards and flowers and nice gifts.
So ask your sibling how they would feel most supported, my guess if
you haven’t asked…you are supporting them like YOU would want to be
supported…and you might be missing it! At the same time, they see it
even when you do it wrong and appreciate it. They really do. But, to be
most effective…have the conversation with them.
1. Ask them, how can I help? Tell me how to help? Then do it.
2. Make sure you spend time talking to them about other things than just the ED too!
3. Read read read. Gurze sells oodles of helpful books and resources! READ UP!
4. Finally - continue to support and love them!
Hope this helps!