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My friend - eating disorder related(19 Posts)
I went on a weekend away with my friend to another friends house and we had a very social weekend. I feel utterly drained by the whole experience and confused as to why.
The friend I went with has some issues around food and weight which she has somewhat explained but not fully. She can't really eat in any conventional set up because she will not touch any fat, sugar or carbohydrate and even gets upset if there is semi skimmed milk in tea. Yet she continues to go to places with the expectation that people will jump to perfectly meet her needs without her having to explain why or what they are.
Because I am closest to her of everyone, she has told me the most, but seems to have also made me the most responsible for her wellbeing. I appreciate that I am the one feeling the responsibility so therefore I am playing a part in it too and possibly enabling her.
So this weekend there were obviously lots of scenarios where food was put in front of her that she did not want to eat. Instead of just saying she didn't want to eat it, she shoots me lots of panicked looks, texts me under the table asking me to take her food away, or eat it myself, on top of my own portion, disappears off to the toilet expecting me to follow her, eventually leaves it on the plate and doesn't eat it and people light heartedly ask her if everything's okay or if she wants anything else, which is the point at which she takes great offence and feels attention is being drawn to her unfairly, that she is being bullied/intimidated. Every. Single. Meal.
I have told her to just tell people that she has allergies/intolerances or to bring her own food, or to say in advance what she does or doesn't like, or to simply tell the truth and say I won't eat that but i will eat this, and then just bloody relax. But she won't. How she feels after is the worst bit, as she decides that she is being deliberately victimised/bullied by others, especially women, who are trying to "make her eat and get fat." I tell her this is absolutely not true. That if she sits down to a social
dinner at someone's house, it is normal to not know what you are going to get and to be asked if you like it or if you want seconds. It is not a big plan to make her fat.
Experiences that should be fun are unpicked in angry detail afterwards with the feeling always being that she has "spent her life being bullied" and will not stand for it anymore and I have to help her "stand up for herself" in social situations. But I don't see how I can possibly help unless I am checking the food in restaurant and home kitchens before it's placed in front of her and telling people what to serve her or removing food that's placed in front of her - which is almost what I feel she wants me to do.
She gets a bit like this about other things as well. Exercise is obsessive for her and if she doesn't have a means or time to do it (I watched my friend tell her there was no pool or gym nearby and she got panicky again) it causes her to become silent and very morose. Basically, the joy is stripped from everything for her (and for me because I'm with her and she's always dissatisfied.)
Other things like being placed on the end of a table where there are fewer people to talk to she finds deliberate and bullying. She needs a lot of time to get ready for straightforward things like going for a walk. She'll wear full make up and Impractical, dressy clothes and take about two hours to get ready, but if we call to her and say hey are you coming we have to leave soon! She gets offended and upset again and feels we are making a spectacle of her.
This very obvious obsession with her appearance and weight makes her a prime source of bitching for other women who meet her for the first time because those feelings and desperation to diet and look good are so much on the surface. She doesn't seem to have developed any short cuts or strategies to deal with her insecurities in public. So it makes me protective of her as well and justifies to her (to some extent) this idea that she is always bullied and made a spectacle of.
I find myself getting very annoyed with her and wish that she could just "own" some of her issues. Like maybe accept she has an eating disorder, be honest about it to trusted people and then communicate what she wants and doesn't want. But she doesn't want to do this. She seems to prefer that I take responsibility for explaining her to the world.
I think what I am basically asking is - is this quite a typical mindset of someone with an eating disorder or is it something else?
Some bits sound fairly typical (I have a long term eating disorder which is pretty manageable these days) - in my younger days I would have panicked massively at the thought of going anywhere where I couldn't tell how many calories, is any oil used etc. I recall my father saying that I was no pleasure to take out for a meal. However - I would keep my issues as hidden and secret as possible; definitely wouldn't have made anything obvious - I would either blame allergies or claim that I had eaten a huge breakfast or something - in fact most of my friends still don't realise there was an issue.
It all sounds an incredibly stressful situation for you and she definitely needs help. How old is she? Her GP is a good starting point. There is also www.b-eat.co.uk/ which has a wealth of information, and reading some links privately on-line may enable her to relate to others in similar situations. If she is putting so many expectations on you, you have every right to point her in these directions.
People with eating disorders often use them both as a mechanism of control but are often emotionally very immature, which definitely sounds like the case with her.
I can sympathise with her to some degree but you mustn't let her rule your life to this extent.
Sounds like she has what's increasingly being referred to as "orthorexia".
It's not in the DSM-5 but would fall under ED-NOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified.)
Have you ever told her flat out that she needs to seek treatment for her issues? If she won't seek help, it's not your responsibility as her friend to enable her illness - and in fact it's counter-productive as her anxiety will feed on any sacrifices to it.
I think she's just got a straight eating disorder. I recognise all this as a friend of mine had an ED when we were younger. I remember the dramas in restaurants and the taking against random foods and food groups.
It's very hard on you OP that she's not dealing with it and she's not diagnosed.
You have to have strong boundaries. I know you want to help her but atm she's drowning and will potentially try pull you down with her. She's trying to make you responsible for her rather than taking responsibility for herself.
You need the courage to say to her that you want to support her, but her problems are serious and far beyond your capacity to be able to help her. She needs professional help.
By accommodating her eating disorder, you inadvertently become part of the maintenance of the problem
She'll require professional help
She may not want / be ready for that yet
However, don't let the eating disorder ruin your social life, as its doing to her
I'd talk to her about the impact this has on you and get her to open up about the impact her issues has on her
If she can acknowledge she has a problem as opposed to everyone else has a problem she can use that insight for the next step - getting professional help
Thank you for all your responses and the links.
She has sought help from a therapist , but not an eating disorder specialist. I also don't think she has made the food issue a part of her therapy. She has again, put the responsibility on to others during therapy by portraying herself as a victim of people's responses to her.
E.g - she is very attractive, but the therapy seems to be skewed towards how she should deal with other women's jealousy towards her attractiveness and how she should "stand up for herself" in situations where people bully her, seemingly out of the blue.
As her genuine friend, and someone objective, I can see that 75% of the time she creates the negativity in the room by expecting things from other people that are not realistic. The 25% spontaneous negative reactions she gets from others are a result of her pre-prepared defensiveness and hostility because she expects to be attacked.
Well you're a great friend. But beware she will drive you nuts. I speak from experience.
I drew the line when my friend turned up at my house scarily thin with bulging eyes, armed with an army water filter because no other water was safe.
I can't remember who it was who said 'this is anorexia' it wasn't me, or how she got help. But she spent 3 months in the Priory and she came out a lot saner the other side.
I think she definitely needs professional help, and she is definitely using you to enable her which isn't helping either of you. I think she will benefit from your patience and support, if you are able to continue to give it, but not from you enabling her to continue her dysfunctional relationship with food. Good luck.
I agree with you all about enabling. I'm not sure how much more I can take.
The sad thing is I will get labelled as one of those women who is jealous if I disagree with her version of things regarding this.
omg, what a self-centred drama queen.
As someone who had an ED & spend hundreds of hours in meetings with people trying and at best only half-succeeding to not have our ED run our lives, she is not typical. I rarely met anyone close to being like that about food & the rest of those behaviours, or at least if they were minded like that, they could laugh about their insanity, maybe even as it was happening. Her ED may be real enough. It's still drama llama and beyond the mind games any of us would do... we were usually too paranoid about hiding our problem. I couldn't be a sainted friend about someone behaving like that.
You might want to look up codependency, OP.
You will. And that's her problem and part of her illness.
There's absolutely no way I'd put up with this. It sounds like you excuse a lot of her behaviour because she's got an eating disorder. Really it doesn't matter if she's got an eating disorder , a physical disability or anything else. None of these things justify her acting like a bitch and making you responsible for her. Maybe she was a bitch before she developed an eating disorder.
Do you really want a friend like this ? She sounds nasty about your other friends and you don't feel you can say anything or you'll be accused of being jealous. Personally I'd rethink the idea that she confides in you because your the closest. I suspect she confides in you because you've got weak boundrys and you don't call her out on her bad behaviour.
I too have an ED and my therapy has not been about the food, only about the event that set it off.
I make no excuses for my behaviour and don't make others responsible for it either. I'm afraid that if anyone did that to me I'd tell them I wasn't playing.
I would recommend you take some advice from an eating disorder charity for yourself, about how to be supportive but not enabling. At the moment, as has been commented on above, you are actually part of the problem. Your behaviour actually encourages, justifies and perpetuates her anxiety.
Everyone needs support, but you need to be honest about it. Being a support worker is not the same as being a friend, and at the moment you are in the former category rather than the latter. Dependency is not a friendship. Friends can be supportive, but if a 'friend' wants to depend on you it needs to be with a concious decision on your part to be that friend. This does not sound like your current relationship and it feels quite unhealthy for you as well as perpetuating difficulties in your friend.
She sounds utterly exhausting and really unfair to place her burden on you. Do not enable her. You encouraged her to say she had food intolerances but she chose to go the drama route. She sounds extremely negative as well. If I were you I would slowly stop encouraging this Behavior. Ignore the panicked looks and texts, just stop allowing her to make this your responsibility.
I went on a hen weekend with a very vain, very thin woman who always criticised the food. After the main meal of the weekend, she was vomiting in the bath. She tried to say this was because something was wrong with the food, but I think it was something wrong with her. Not sure if it was real bulimia though, as I would have expected a bulimic to hide it more, even throwing up outside rather than in the bathroom.
Shes massively anxious isnt she, but its absolutely not fair for her to try and give you responsibility, and you arent doing her any favours by enabling it and colluding either.
I dont think she is typical at all. At the height of my eating disorder I would have been panicky about food, and probably gone to the bathroom to purge after everything I ate, but I wouldnt have been so obvious about it
I dont find your friend attractive, by your description
I have friends who have food intolerances and eating issues
We just treat each other normally and no dramas
We provide food we know we can eat together and if necessary we let people know in advance what we eat eg vegetarian, gluten free or bring our own
It seems she is creating the drama
Try ignoring her issues around food
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