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TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

Hi everyone,

 

I just thought I would share what's going on in my life at the moment in the hopes it might help others who are going through a similar situation. My little sister recently told me she has an eating disorder. She has been dealing with it for about a year now, which my family and I had no idea about. 

 

When she first told me, I felt really guilty. I thought "Why didn't I realise this? I should have known". Then I went into "fixing mode". I researched everything under the sun: support groups, books, info sheets, helplines. I tried to get my sister to speak about it with me, more than she was comfortable with. I then realised I actually was in shock. I needed to go to my own psychologist (who I have an amazing relationship with and who definitely "gets" me and my patterns of thinking and behaviour).

 

I was able to talk through how I was feeling. My psych was able to get me to remember the phrase "What do you want to do about it?" when I'm speaking to my sister about her ED and related issues. Instead of swooping in and trying to fix my sister, which is impossible, I now ask her what she would like to do about her problems. Sometimes it's hard to understand her decisions, especially when it is not the way I would handle the situation. I still sometimes say judgemental or harsh things before I catch myself and apologise. And my parents don't really understand much about EDs but they're learning and that's all they can do. 

 

I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that I can support my sister, and I can help her when she asks me to. I can't control her choices, I can't fix things for her and I can't force her to do anything. Her behaviours are often frustrating, but I also try and combat this frustration by remembering and telling my sister how much I love and respect her. She's doing a bit better now, and is seeing a psychologist who she thinks is helping. I'm still worried about her but I also am trying to stay positive and hope that things will get better.

 

The thing I'm struggling with the most is the fact she doesn't talk to me about things unless she's in a crisis. I really want her to feel comfortable to open up to me, but she can be very secretive and closed off. Does anyone have any advice on how I can approach conversations about this?

____________________________________________________
“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

Hi @MisoBear! I'm really sorry about you and your sister. That sounds like such a difficult thing for you and your family. Smiley Sad

 

I have gone through similar things with my family members with mental health issues and am still dealing with them now. While I know that this is not true of everyone, I wanted to remind you that hope is out there for your sister's recovery. One of my family members had an eating disorder as a teenager, but they ended up overcoming their disorder and they have now been free of it for decades. Anyone can get an eating disorder at any age, but I've heard that most young people recover from an eating disorder.

 

I think that it's amazing that your sister chose to confide in you. You sound like a great sibling! Heart

 

I can relate to having those kinds of thoughts and also wanting to research everything about my family members' conditions. I think that we can all 'miss the signs', no matter what our education and experience lies in. I didn't realise a lot of my sister's issues until she told me about her feelings. It can make us feel really guilty, but it's important to remember that we are not mind readers and we can't predict or know how someone is feeling. People can also be really good at hiding an eating disorder or how they're really feeling. It's hard to support your family member if you're unable to move on from feelings of guilt and blaming yourself. I've also found that sometimes it can help to research a family member's condition, and sometimes, it can be unhelpful, such as when a family member becomes too focused on finding a 'cure' and tries to constantly will or pressure the ill person to get better. I get what you're saying about wanting to 'fix' her. This kind of thinking is associated with the belief that it is up to the ill person to get better, so it might be helpful to think of their illness and health as being out of their hands. Another thing that could be helpful is being optimistic that your sister will get better eventually.

 

I think it's really great that you were able to talk about this with your psychologist! I think that's a really good strategy. I can understand your frustration about your sister's decisions. My sister has FND, CRPS and mental health issues and sometimes I just want to say to her, 'Come on and improve!' and think about how much of an impact it's having on my life, even though I know it's a long process and she is not going to get better overnight. One of my family members also says things to her like, 'You're not trying hard enough to get better'. It can be really hard having to watch a family member going through a disorder and feeling helpless and powerless to do anything about it. I'm glad she thinks that the psychologist is helping though! Smiley Happy

 

I think it's really tricky when a family member doesn't feel as though they can talk to you. We can't force people to talk to us or tell us everything. They could have a lot of reasons for not doing so. One strategy could be just to tell her that she can talk to you about anything and that you will try not to judge her. You could let her know that you want to support her. Another thing you could try is to schedule time to hang out with her or do a hobby or activity together. Are you able to do something nice to show your support? You could draw a picture, write a supportive card or poem, make a scrapbook or craft something for her. None of these strategies can guarantee that she'll end up opening up to you, but at least she can know that you care for her.

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

@WheresMySquishy thanks for your response. I'll try out some of those strategies.
____________________________________________________
“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down
Highlighted

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

@Jardin I just wanted to tag you here in case you wanted to take a look at my thread. 

____________________________________________________
“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

Thanks so much @MisoBear Smiley Happy 

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

hey @MisoBear
how are you going?
**NEVER be afraid to ask for help because you're WORTH it!**