As time has passed, I’ve thought about it more and more. At one point, I considered for the first time that maybe she has or is developing an eating disorder. I found myself, for a very split second, thinking ‘but she’s definitely not even close to skinny so I must be wrong’. It took less than a second to realise what had just crossed my mind, and to reverse my thought process. How could I, after everything that has happened, be so naive?
I don’t know her well enough yet to make a good judgement, and I don’t know what has been her lifelong norm. I’m also very aware that this could be just our own obliviousness with regards to what she is eating, or she could have one of several other physical health conditions. What concerns me about my thoughts is not that I considered the possibility that she may have an eating disorder, but the way with which my mind discarded the idea so quickly.
For some readers, that thought process may seem perfectly reasonable; for me, it is shocking. For months now, I’ve been working to try and get people to understand the eating habits of my best friend. People have written off my concerns with comments ranging from ‘I only ever bump into her in the supermarket buying food’, to ‘she’ll be fine now her mum knows’, to ‘she eats at home’. There is also the one comment that disheartened, shocked, and angered me more than any other: ‘she’s too fat to have an eating disorder’ and ‘she’s not skinny enough to need to worry yet.’ How could people have such an unrealistic understanding? Why could nobody see what I could see, and why wouldn’t they listen to me? Didn’t they know that it’s not the weight that matters?! It’s been a massive frustration of mine for a long time.
But now, I think I can understand how easy it is to stereotype a person who has an eating disorder. If I, after watching everything that I have over the past few years, can still occasionally think that, then what chance does anybody else stand? It’s so easy to presume, and often it can be difficult to remember that it doesn’t always work like that. At the time same time that it still angers me that all the people I’ve tried to tell, who I prayed would provide comfort and hope, won’t change their mindset after several conversations, I can now sympathise with their initial moment of confusion.
Initially, it can be so easy to fall into the trap, regardless of how well you think you understand. For me, it was a split second and very shocking mistake, and a mistake that I hope to never make again. Perhaps if like me you’ve just met someone, then don’t jump to conclusions either way. Never presume something that you haven’t been told, because it is not based on fact. In my case, the subconscious mind from a distance past jumped to conclusions, and I feel very guilty. In the cases of many, it’s definitely the conscious mind that comes to such a conclusion
What I think is important however, is that you’re prepared to adapt your views. This is the side of stereotypes that I really know about, because I’ve been screaming out for help for my friend for months now. Nobody listens, and slowly, it’s killing us both. Perhaps it’s not those initial considerations that really make a difference, but the later ones that matter. Listen to the people that are crying out to you, and if someone is screaming for help, please listen, try to understand, and trust them, regardless of how the situation might seem at first glance. If someone has come to tell you that there’s a problem, that probably took a lot of courage and they’re unlikely to be lying. Initial thoughts based on your own interpretations are one thing, but if you’re told there’s a problem, and THEN you decide that there can’t be because someone is ‘too fat’ or similar, your mindset is the real problem. The difference may be subtle, but that’s the mindset that angers me. That’s what ruins lives.
You can’t see an eating disorder, and please, if someone is crying for help then I’m begging you, to try your very hardest to never ever slip into that mindset. It has the potential to be the most fatal mistake that a friend, or anyone else for that matter, could ever make. It takes away hope, and it rips away the sunshine.
Living. Laughing. Loving.