If I had a nickel for every time someone would suggest that I just tell her to eat, I’d be a billionaire by now. Yup, people actually said that to me and thought they were being helpful. If you are one of those “helpful” people, please stop. All it does is serve to remind us that feeding our kids has become a monumental task that no mere mortal should ever have to undertake. It’s one thing to make a toddler eat, but try doing that with a 16 or 17 year old and sitting at the table for hours over having one bite of that potato.
I think some people think that it’s just a behavioural thing and that kids are being rebellious. Oh I wish it were just that, I really do. For those unfamiliar, eating disorders are one of the most complex mental and physical disorders you can ever face. Simple medication doesn’t fix it, re-feeding doesn’t fix it – it requires all of these things and more, including an iron will of their caregivers to hold boundaries that seem impossible to hold. The only example I can give to someone who hasn’t been through it is to imagine trying to feed a wild lion a grape. Really, it sounds absurd but that’s about the size of it. I wish people only knew the times I tried so hard to feed her, the tears I cried while watching her suffer and become sicker and sicker.
The first time someone told me to just make her eat, I was immediately taken back to the time I miscarried and someone said, “it’s okay, you’ll have another”. I mean, really how does that solve anything? Don’t you think that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last 6 months on my own because the treatment waiting list is so long? Or maybe they thought I just didn’t try and it was my fault anyway for raising a rebellious teen. I digress and I guess you can sense my frustration with this one.
Perhaps if people understood that caregivers are doing their best and that feeding their children has become a full time job? Maybe that would make a difference. Maybe if they knew that we have given up our whole lives to ensure our child lives, despite it being the highest mortality mental illness? I guess we will never know but I encourage parents going through it that there are those who understand, will never tell you such absurd comments. And if you’re someone who knows a family struggling with an eating disorder, perhaps a hug or a coffee might be a better gesture. Just sayin’. I take a double double. 🙂