What do I say, or not say, to an anorexic acquaintance?

(12 Posts)
Nusername Thu 28-Jul-16 22:55:11

This isn't really an AIBU but really would appreciate this forum's input.
I was previously anorexic and then bullimic. I never reached a stage of needing hospitalsation but at one point I was very thin
I saw a person I work with once every six months or so in a gym that I've just joined this morning. This isn't a hysterical use of the term anorexic. I have never, ever in real life seen such an emaciated person. She is less than 6 stone but over 5'9". She is literally skin, sinew and bone. I got a shock because even though I knew her as being very thin she was much more so than when we last met. And also seeing her unclothed showed just the extent of how things were.
It's not my business, I have no reason to get involved but this is heartbreaking. She's a lovely, lovely girl but she is killing herself.
I just can't over emphasise how terribly bad this is.
I think she pretended she didn't see me this morning. And if she did I will respect that.
If not, should I do something? Say something? Maybe because of where I was I can? Maybe I shouldn't? I've no idea.

TheUnsullied Thu 28-Jul-16 23:01:12

Say absolutely nothing! How well do you think it would have gone if you were doing something that links directly to your illness and an acquaintance who knows you so little that avoiding them was an option came over and gave you their thoughts on your weight and their take on your issues? You mean well but you can do no good here.

travellinghopefully12 Thu 28-Jul-16 23:02:03

Oh Nuser, that sounds awful, but it's good that she has someone like you who has the experience. Can you approach her for coffee or something and not raise the anorexia issue at first? Perhaps she has some other condition causing her weightloss? Just let her know you are there and can offer support.

WorraLiberty Thu 28-Jul-16 23:05:56

How do you know she's anorexic?

manicinsomniac Thu 28-Jul-16 23:12:09

I would say absolutely nothing. She's just an acquaintance and you know nothing about her support network or possible medical treatment.

I'm also anorexic, and , in the nicest possible way, I have to ask if there isn't an element of fascination and interest in your desire to be involved and talk to her? Obviously you care, who wouldn't, and I apologise if I'm way off beam but I find I have a sort of automatic pull towards anyone I see or meet who looks like they have an eating disorder. I find I want to know them, find out about their lives and their illness and somehow, I don't know, let them know that I'm the same and that we should therefore talk/be friends? It's weird and I don't know if it's a competitive thing, an empathy thing, a need to be around people who 'get it' or what.

I know you say you're not ill now but I've also seen this tendency in recovered people - some people want a link to the illness that, while they know was bad, they feel they have 'lost' in a way? Others have a saviour complex. Others have not recovered mentally, even if they are physically healthy.

Realistically, you can't help her. And imagine how awkward it would have been if someone you barely knew had approached you when you were ill and tried to help you.

Yes, it's possible that she is all alone and desperate for someone to talk to. But I suspect it's unlikely. In her physical condition her illness is unlikely to be a secret.

I would definitely leave well alone (though I would be so tempted to try and engineer contact and conversation I would consider it the wrong thing to do).

PurpleDaisies Thu 28-Jul-16 23:12:10

If you've been anorexic can you think back and think about what you would have wanted someone you hardly know to say to you? I suspect it would be nothing at all...

lostoldlogin2 Thu 28-Jul-16 23:14:18

first - she might not be anorexic. she might have a thyroid problem, she might have another illness - anything really.

second - even if she is - she won't thank a stranger for approaching her. At one of my lowest weights a well-meaning colleague put a recommendation for iron supplements on my desk with a not about how emaciated I looked. It wasn't helpful.

ApocalypseSlough Thu 28-Jul-16 23:16:17

Not the same, or maybe it is but I'm an alcoholic, 6 years in recovery, and if someone who had been an active alcoholic and then stopped had approached me I'd have fallen on them like a drowning man. But my alcoholism was very hidden and I guess her disease isn't. sad

VioletBam Thu 28-Jul-16 23:17:19

My friend looks anorexic but she has terrible IBS and another stomach disorder.

manicinsomniac Thu 28-Jul-16 23:43:08

While it's true that she could easily have another illness, I think it's fairly easy for someone with experience to spot someone else with a severe eating disorder - vagueness in the eyes, self consciousness, if been at the gym looking overly drained or shaky. I suppose all those could be other things too so I'm probably talking nonsense but, I don't know, I think there's a 'radar' . Sometimes I've noticed someone look at me very sharply/suddenly and I've looked and just 'known', 'oh yes, you too'. It's weird.

Nusername Thu 28-Jul-16 23:44:20

Thanks everyone. You make a lot of sense

I woudnt ever have thought of the things you set out maniac insomniac but you could be right.

Suffice it to say I will say nothing.

And thanks Worra for the useful contribution

Liiinoo Thu 28-Jul-16 23:56:30

My only experience of anorexia is my DD suffering from it at uni. From a selfish point of view I wouldn't want her to approach someone she thought was suffering from the same illness in case she fell back into the very competitive mindset `(I'm can eat less than you, my BMI was lower than yours etc) that was part of her illness.

Nusername - you sound like a very caring person, but for the sake of your own mental health and continued recovery you might be better keeping your distance.

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