The common answers I was given when asking my loved ones how they felt when I was struggling with an eating disorder. The scary thing… I have been on the other side. Where I’ve watched first-hand someone battle this disease. The feedback I received was consistent in the way I felt when I tried helping someone I loved.
I tried to do everything to help. I was willing to do anything. To open their eyes, and yell at them to, “Snap out of it!” I wrote letters, sent emails, called incessantly, begged them to change, pleaded for them to take steps forward, and basically jumped in front of their face screaming, “I’m here. I’m right in front of you. Let me help!!” But, nothing. It was as if they heard me, but stared at me with that same blank face–emotionless and numb.
I went through it. Trust me. I knew the feeling of being trapped inside your own head. I knew the feeling of fear, and the obsessive thoughts that you were experiencing. I knew the battle you were having not being able to think about anything else–other than your addiction.
Watching someone I loved suffer was mentally exhausting. It was emotionally draining to attempt every different strategy to get them to come back. To return to their old self, who smiled, laughed, told jokes, and looked healthy. It hurt me terribly to witness them feel pain and suffer–especially because I had been through it. And I understood every measure one would take to feel accomplished, successful, and in control. I knew I was being lied to–because I did the same. And, it hurt.
Shouldn’t the love I had for someone create a sense of trust…support…and safety? I reminded them everyday of how much happier they would be. That life was too short. And, to get the professional help needed. Clearly, the support we provided as loved ones wasn’t enough.
The worst part of seeing a loved one suffer from a disease, addiction, or mental illness was knowing something tragic could happen… any minute. But, hoping it wouldn’t. I survived my car accident at my absolute worst… and lowest weight. Easily, the result could have been much different. As a loved one, I prayed that tragedy wouldn’t be the reason to stop… or end the battle.
It was very heart wrenching and difficult to see someone I loved suffer; as I know it was for my family and friends when I was anorexic. But, unfortunately, it’s reality. We all suffer at some point. What I am able to confidently say is that when you experience hardship and pain with someone, the bond you create is that much more special. As hard as it was for my loved ones to feel helplessness and sadness during my most painful time, it brought me exceptionally closer to all who supported me, stood by me, and never gave up–even when it seemed like I would never get better. And, I can say the same about my relationship with my loved one I tried saving.
Bottom line. It is so hard to watch someone we love experience pain. But, the only thing we can do is be there for them, let them to know that, and never stop. Because even though it seems as every word you say goes through one ear and out the other, it doesn’t. And, eventually, those words that are repeatedly said will help someone fight. We all hope and pray to see a perfect ending. But, this is life. And, it’s not always the case. What we can do is just love, love, and love… and hope for the best.