Well meaning friends

THIS should never happen:

"My dd only told one trusted friend about her AN while she was ill, her oldest friend who lives down the street, a very empathetic girl, the perfect choice. At first it was great, because I could call this friend and ask her to come up and hang out--she was lovely distraction while d was suicidal. I also told the parents so I could answer any questions/misconceptions they had about the situation. When my d hissed how much she hated me, the friend wrote me a sweet supportive note about what a great mom I've been.

As d's rages kicked in, she would flee to friend's house and weep to the parents about my 'abuse'. After sooo much time went by, especially after d was w/r and looking 'fine', they began to believe everything she said. That I was abusing her. They were ready to take her in and call CPS on me. When I tried to explain, they said it was a 'he said/she said' situation and they had to protect the child. They didn't see any evidence of mental illness. D was eating normally. They wondered about me--I seemed delusional. I can't even tell you how degrading and demoralizing and downright scary this conversation was. For one thing,getting CPS involved would have been a nightmare. But more, it just really really hurt. This couple has known me for 20+ years; I was their d's Girl Scout leader; we've spent many many pleasant hours together. They trusted me with their own d. I thought they knew me. I thought they were my friends.

D is still friends. I haven't spoken to the parents since and don't even walk down their street. I really don't expect people to understand this illness so I have been very forgiving of the dumb things people say, unsupportive attitudes, avoidance, etc. This is the only case where I have actively ended a friendship."

This is our fault, people. All of us. For allowing families to have to face this illness alone. For there being no authoritative source out there to explain that eating disorders cause anosognosia and that parents who face that down are HEROES and need and deserve support, not suspicion. That friends can play a positive role if they don't become allies of ED, unknowingly.

When parents do the RIGHT thing they still face being seen as wrong and that isn't fair and isn't necessary and it is cruel. I've heard too many stories of families who were referred to social services - even had children temporarily removed from the home for doing the right thing. Parents shouldn't have to be going against conventional wisdom: we need to change conventional wisdom.

Today, the eating disorder field, in general, will not back us up. Most mental health services, legalities, custom, schools, and our friends are not likely to understand or help us, either.

This has to change. This should not happen and believe me, I hear it in different forms all the time.


  1. No, the eating disorder field in general will not back us up but at least it is debating the matter. In my experience the general mental health field is years behind in its view of eating disorders and much of the general medical profession joins it. Therefore it is vital that work like the AED guidelines gets out to the people who are most likely to have need to understand what is really going on.

  2. The stigma of mental health illness is a very difficult one live with. I think there is a great deal of fear and lack of knowledge and inderstanding.
    I think often, people like to distance themselves from others who are struggling with painful unhappy or difficult family situations in a way that makes them feel like you must have done something wrong. This thinking fees them of their own fears and worries, like my family is healthy and that is totally in my power. We all know that's not true but human nature is much about avoiding painful experiences and thoughts. I believe the more we open up and share our experiences, the stronger we can become there are many, many people who see themselves in us. When Laura and Harriet shared their experiences in their books, it empowered me. They are bright, caring committed parents whose children are ill. They are NOT mentally ill, destructive people causing their own situations and suffering. The sad truth is that those people so afraid of lifes difficult painful experiences are doomed to endure them alone, falsely believing they are responsible.

  3. Good news ... the American Psychiatric Association has also endorsed the AED Guide to Medical Management!

  4. Now, THAT is good news we can USE!

    We need to print it off, and the endorsements, and deliver it to all the neighbors, friends, coaches, guidance counselors who need to know this information!

  5. Thank you for addressing this important topic Laura. We are still living with the sad results of therapists believing the tales our d told them about us.

    It is beyond my belief that a therapist can ethically work with someone with an ed without knowing the concept of distorted thinking. I have asked therapists far and wide what they learned about the distorted thinking and mis-perceptions that the brain will do during an ed. Most of them say they never were taught about this.

    It is my quest to enlighten schools that are training people to work as therapists on this very important piece so that they are not looking at the parents as monsters or the reason for the ed.

    Thank you for bringing this community of parents together to support one another and change the way things are done.

    Becky Henry
    Hope Network, LLC


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