Community Magazine

Acting So out of Character – Who is This Person

By Survivingana @survivingana

extreme behavior of eating disordersIn the home environment none of us like confrontation, verbal abuse, violence etc. But this becomes a reality when an eating disorder decides to move in. Normal family relationships become confrontational or violent.

All of us parents/carers will come into contact with this side of an eating disorder. Mostly this abusive side only appears after first treatment is done or serious intervention is tried. Your son or daughter will shout, swear, push, shove, lie blatantly, be secretive, throw things, run away, scream – you name it, it happens. And they sound so real about what they are saying or doing. They look and sound like they mean every single word. The look and emotion that goes into telling you what they think of you is very hurtful and shocking. The other side is they tell you they want to starve to death or they “want to die and you’ll be sorry”. It can be a verbal tidal wave of illogical and dark emotional thoughts. Pretty hurtful stuff when you are the parent of the much loved child.

You wonder as a parent, what the hell you ever did wrong. After all you are the one trying to save them, feeding them, caring for them, taking them to appointments, finding out information and resources. It’s not like you are against them and trying to harm them. And it hurts deep down and you wonder if the relationship between you will ever be the same.

Eating disorders take over the person. It’s uncanningly like having two people living in the same body, but the second person (the real one) never gets to talk or act. The primary person (the ED) takes over everything whilst using the body, mannerisms and emotions of the other. Very surreal and hard to decifer who is saying what. It really does look like your child hates you.

The reason for this intense rage and very out of character behavior is the ED fighting for it’s corner. Cornered things fight back. It does not want to leave. It’s ability to change and adapt to whatever it needs to is remarkable. Whilst it has the intense control of your child, it changes them. Personality, behaviour, character all changes. The child you once had totally disappears for some time. They don’t have control over this behavior. They hide, lie, swear, isolate, push you away, get aggressive. It’s all part of the eating disorder illness. IT.IS.NOT.YOUR.CHILD. Take that point on and do not let yourself move away from that. As awful as it can get, your son or daughter cannot control or stop this behavior whilst the eating disorder is in residence.

Sophie was all of this. She ran away, I chased her in the car to find her. She pushed, hit and shoved. I stared her down. She called me everything she could think of. I heard and hurt. But let me tell you, it took every ounce of my self control to keep calm and firm.

What to do

Learn to separate as early as you can the ED behavior and your child. From the moment Sophie came home from hospital the first time, we were told to talk to the anorexia as a separate person. I would say “That’s Ana talking, I am not talking to her. I want to talk to Sophie.” and so on. It does work but it takes time for the message to sink in for both of you.

It’s not like your child is using the ED as an excuse to get away with shocking behavior. And neither are you using the ED as an excuse to be more accepting of this behavior.  Never trust the ED, it manipulates situations extremely well. Sophie did do this, but she was so far along into stronger recovery she could be told bluntly to not use the ED to gain points for herself.

Brush off the javelins thrown at you. Learn to let it slide. This is not normal behavior and its not personal. In time, when later recovery stages are happening, you can call the rude behavior and treat it more like normal teenage stuff. Consequences in other words.

Find vent time for yourself away from your child. Don’t vent at them as it only heightens the scene.

Talk to the support/medical team. Let them know everything that is happening. They can use this in therapy to highlight the ED behavior and emotions.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog