A Family Matter: An Eating Disorder’s Effect On Loved Ones

By Sophie Balisky, Silver Linings volunteer

Once there was a time when I lived under the weight of a heavy shadow. This shadow was the darkness of an eating disorder and it followed me wherever I went. Although it started off quietly, this shadow quickly developed a loud and cruel voice that convinced me to hurt and abandon myself. I felt isolated by my illness. But I now know that I was not the only one hurt by my eating disorder’s cruel words. Now that the constant chatter has subsided, I can see all the ways in which my eating disorder deeply affected not only me but my family as well…

I’m sorry Mom. I’m sorry that you had to watch your daughter, a piece of your own heart, hate and hurt herself the way that I did. Over and over again, you said, did and gave EVERYTHING you could. I’m sorry that you lost a friend in me for that time period. You always listened, even when I called you from miles away sounding like a broken record. You felt my pain along with me and my burden was your burden.

I’m sorry Dad. I’m sorry that there was nothing you could say or do. You always had the smartest, most logical solutions to my illogical illness. I’m sorry that I got upset at you the time that you made me dinner after I returned home from a long day of work. You’ve always wanted nothing less than for me to be happy. I can’t imagine how frustrating and sad it was for you when I believed I was unworthy of happiness.

I’m sorry Sister. I’m sorry that I was not always fun and easy-going. I’m sad about all of the summers that we didn’t laugh together on the beach. The eating disorder caused me to be emotionally demanding. You were growing up and facing challenges as well and I’m sorry if you ever felt overlooked due to my troubles. I’m sorry that you once stood outside of the locked bathroom door pleading with me to stop hurting myself. That’s not the big sister you needed.

I’m sorry Brother. I’m sorry that our friendship changed and that I said some unkind things to you. I felt so much hatred and anger towards myself when I was sick. Any lack of compassion I showed towards you came from my lack of self-compassion. Whenever I criticized you I was judging myself ten times as harshly. It was unfair that you had to face the side effects of my internal warfare. You didn’t deserve to have the negativity of the eating disorder projected onto you.

I’m thankful Family. I’m thankful that you never gave up on me even when what was hurting me hurt you too. It’s because of you that I didn’t give up on myself.

P.S.: If someone you love and care for is struggling with an eating disorder, you are not alone. Silver Linings offers professionally- facilitated Parent & Loved One Support Groups that provide practical skills for supporting your loved one and yourself. The next group starts on May 13. Learn more or register today.