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Walking on Eggshells

Catering to every whim of an eating disorder will only perpetuate the disease.

I excelled when it came to walking on eggshells. 

. He taught me to cater to his every need, to meet his every demand just to avoid his drama, tantrums and abuse.

Continue walking on those eggshells and the eating disorder, not-so-affectionately known as “Ed," will not leave. Why should he? He has quite a comfortable place to live. He has his own personal butler. 

I never intended to become a butler. The transformation took many months and I was pretty good at what I did. Ed made me work nonstop. There were no vacations and certainly no benefits. He interrupted my sleep and my days were not my own. 

He called the shots.

My thought process at that time was aimed only at keeping peace in the household. I didn’t challenge Ed. If he wanted to become a vegetarian, then, by all means, the entire family became vegetarians. If he wanted graham crackers at 11 at night, then off I went to the store to get those graham crackers. 

I would do anything to keep Ed happy. I didn’t have the energy to argue. I didn’t have the backbone to challenge Ed. I was afraid of Ed.

I didn’t realize that by letting Ed call the shots, my daughter never would move toward recovery. I helped Ed keep her in the disease. 

Ed was a dictator and I allowed him to take control of our household. He held that office for many years. No term limits exist for an eating disorder. Ed won’t leave after a specified period of time. As long as he’s comfortable, he won’t go anywhere. 

When a loved one is diagnosed with an eating disorder, our first inclination is to be supportive and love them as they struggle with this sometimes fatal disease. 

However, we need to be careful of who we are listening to – our loved one or Ed? 

Because Ed will make unreasonable demands. Ed will look over your shoulder while you are making a meal and ask questions as to what you are putting into that meal. If it doesn’t meet his expectations – forget it – he just won’t eat. 

I cannot begin to count the number of times I modified recipes, changed meal plans, changed what I ate and did not keep certain foods in the house just to keep peace with Ed. 

I thought I was helping. I didn’t know how wrong I was until the time came when I became fearful of speaking up in my own home. Fearful of the repercussions from Ed, fearful of what Ed might do, fearful of my daughter not eating, fearful of not having just the right food in the house and fearful that our relationship with food never would be normal.  

The fear was numbing, the control profound.

Ed also will make threats that are emotional blackmail. If you don’t do this for me, I will not eat dinner. I will hurt myself. You make me feel bad about myself. 

Ed will make a point of telling you all the reasons that your loved one has an eating disorder and they all will be your fault. 

What needed to happen was simple. I needed to stop listening to Ed and to submit my resignation as his personal butler.

I needed to stop walking on eggshells. 

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s not. Ed doesn’t like to be challenged. This is why it is so important for parents or other family members to get help. 

Gather the tools necessary to help your loved one move past their eating disorder. Learn how to recognize when Ed is doing the talking. Learn to stop giving in and catering to his demands.   

If you continue to let Ed call the shots, they will not get better. 

As a side note, I would welcome questions from readers about the experience my family had with an eating disorder and address those questions in this column.  

Thank you.

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