Helping a Sister Out

Dear Stephanie,

My sorority sister is bulimic. She came back to school this year and lost tons of weight over the summer.  Everyone is like “yeah you look great” but I think that the compliments just make her more bulimic. I don’t think she throws up every single time she eats, but definitely most of the time. Sometimes she does it when I’m in her dorm room, and she uses the in-suite restroom. She knows I can hear her. One time I tried to say something but she was just like “yeah, I have issues”, and the conversation ended there.

Honestly, I feel like she’s a really dramatic person in general and she’s always seeking some kind of attention. That might make me a bad person, I don’t know, but she clearly has an issue. Also, her boyfriend is Satan, so maybe that has something to do with it? Anyway, it’s not like we are best friends. So I don’t know if I am the best person to help her. I would if I had a solid solution but I don’t. What should I do?

Sincerely,

A Worried Sister

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Dear   Worried ,

Thank you for sending me your question. I am really sorry to hear about the different struggles that you and your sorority sister are facing. Please keep in mind I am not an expert on eating disorders, but I have done some research to make sure I am giving you the best advice that I can.

That being said, the only person who could come up with a “solid solution”  and strategy for her recovery is a medical professional. In nearly everything I read,  for a person in your position it is best that you continue to be a supportive and understanding friend. As you may know, bulimia, like other eating disorders, is some sort a coping mechanism to feel some type of control over oneself and their lives. There is something bigger going on in their life that they are trying to control through disordered eating. Since, you mention her boyfriend and that he is awful, that could be one of the reasons she is turning to this destructive behavior. His presence in her life may just exacerbate what’s already there. You might not be the first person she would turn to for comfort and advice, but let her know you are there for her if she wants to talk and continue to remind her how great she is without making any mention of her physical appearance.

When the time is right to confront her again, you could again be met with that cavalier attitude, but you also have a chance to plant a seed for recovery. Maybe, check and see if your school has eating disorder support groups? Print the info for her. Let her know what resources exist. I think that time will come sooner rather than later. I feel that she is loudly crying for help. The attention seeking that you mention and the fact that she purges with you in such close quarters, tells me she wants someone to do something with her or for her—or perhaps even confront her and ask if she wants help. When and if you confront her, do it without judgment and criticism and let her know she is not alone.

As for your peers who keep complimenting her appearance, I am sure not everyone thinks she looks amazing. More might agree with you than you think, but it also won’t help your sorority sister if you’re going around trying to rally troops of people who think she looks awful and is ill. That will do way more damage than good. As I said before, keep being a supportive and kind friend and when people are raving about her appearance, you continue to focus on what is inside. Eventually other people, with less tact, will speak up and it will be known most people think she needs help. She will need a friend in that time more than ever.

The advice that I am giving is certainly much easier said than done and would take a lot of patience and kindness to not blurt out that she should get help now, but like I said and according to the professionals’ advice,  this is the best thing you can do for her right now. Last but not least in the event of a medical emergency (if she faints, for example) call 9-1-1 right away and don’t keep any secrets about your sorority sister that could impede her treatment and recovery.

So, I hope this is helpful for you and in turn your sorority sister. If anyone else has a suggestion on how to help both of these girls even further, please leave a comment below.

With Love,

Stephanie

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