|ouch. harsh pic from here|
I had a conversation the other day with the mother of a girl recovering from anorexia. Her daughter is doing really well, but has a friend from hospital who is not doing well and keeps sending her text messages all about how there's no point and how she's never going to eat again. My friend's daughter finds this not only distressing but also very triggering and is thinking about cutting ties with the girl in order to protect herself. She is also, not to put to fine a point on it, sick of this girl's drama.
My first advice was of course that her daughter needs to protect herself and her recovery above all else - that her responsibility is only to her own well being. But I also put in my two cents as to why the other girl is acting the way she is. My friend found this a very helpful perspective, so I thought I might share it with you here.
From how I know I have acted, and the way I have seen others acting (especially on social media) I have four theories why people suffering from an eating disorder engage in what appears from the outside to be 'attention seeking' behaviour:
1. Catharsis - sometimes the pain is just so great that if you don't shout it out you're not always sure what you'll end up doing. It's always better to shout about how much you hurt inside than turn to self harm. You don't really want anyone to respond or fix anything, you're just getting it off your chest.
2. Conversation - sometimes it's about wanting to start a conversation about something that's bothering you, but not really knowing how to do that. You might say "it's all too hard, I'm not going to eat today" but you might mean "what do you do when you feel like this?" You might just being looking for someone with a shared experience to let you know that you are not alone and give you some strategies.
3. Validation - when you are feeling really low, and don't have the emotional resilience or self esteem to find that little spark inside yourself to keep on going, sometimes you just want someone to let you know that you are worth a kind word. That you are loved and appreciated. That you are worth the effort it takes for someone to say "it'll be ok".
4. Sabotage - eating disorders love to isolate. And yes, sometimes the constant badgering is targeted at wearing you down for the specific purpose of eliciting the "go away, I've had enough" response. Then your eating disorder gets the honor of yelling "see, I told you your friends would turn on you in the end. They never really cared about you".
Nothing is ever straight forward with eating disorders, and communication is definitely very high up on that list of complicated issues. But I hope these ramblings are helpful to you. And I hope it helps you to see 'attention seeking' behavior with new understanding and tolerance.
For those of you who know me too well, you will know how much a list with only 4 points on it is bugging me. So if you have a 5th to add please leave it for me in the comments :)