There are a multitude of aspects, behaviours and attitudes that are helpful to adopt when supporting someone through either living with, or recovering from an eating disorder, however, there is also one vital factor to not forget – and that is to try and live your life as normally and fully as you can with the person you are supporting be they a spouse, child or friend. In addition to valuing their needs as a sufferer and their disorder, it is also of paramount importance to factor in an awareness of your own needs, and being able to fulfil them as best you can in the given circumstances.
Perhaps, if your spouse is suffering you will crave more touch and intimacy as this may, understandably so, be difficult for the sufferer with the eating disorder to endure: however, maybe you can find other ways in which to enjoy each others’ company and closeness. If they are OK with hugs and cuddles, a stroke of the hand or their head then trying to savour this touch might help – as many people suffering from eating disorders due to various reasons struggle with being naked or sexual contact.
It may me plausible that through your loved one suffering from an eating disorder you have lost a vital emotional crutch and support as you feel unable to confide your difficulties to them. Chances are, they still want to be there for you so don’t feel like you can’t talk to or confide at all in your loved one. Maybe it might be an idea to seek additional support from charity organisations one services in your area such as those provided by Carers Services and B-eat.
Then there is the matter of having fun. Although an eating disorder is a struggle, the person suffering, and you – their support, are still allowed to have fun. Despite everything going on you are still allowed to try and do enjoyable activities even if this means forcing yourself in the knowledge that you may well most likely feel better afterwards. Go out, see galleries, go fishing or camping, or watch a film. Whatever it was that you enjoyed doing before, with the person you care for, then do it.
I think this is especially important in helping the sufferer to maintain a sense of their true identity and personality aside from their eating disorder. All too often they become “the bulimic” or “the anorexic” – and the ill mindset doesn’t mind, but it does make recovery that much more difficult if someone feels that they are nothing much more than there disorder. How can they let go of their disorder eventually if they feel there is nothing left of them without it? If they feel they are no-one without it? Therefore it is important to emphasise this person’s interests, positive traits and engage in real life activities with them.
It may also be important for you to go out on your own, or pursue an interest of your own so that you too don’t lose your identity to the disorder and become known as nothing more than “the carer”. So go on, play scrabble, or watch comedies, or simply run around the house messing around being silly.