Returning to school can be traumatic to the sufferers and they may find it difficult to adjust back into school life.
Your life carries on: new friendships develop and new things happen whilst their life has been on hold. They have been isolated, receiving treatment, perhaps in a unit or a hospital. They wont know what is happening with school work. The will struggle as they slowly make their way back into the school environment. They will facing the pressures of needing to be accepted and not feel isolated and lonely. Remember, just because they are back at school does not necessarily mean they are fully better, everyday will be a struggle and that’s where you can make a big difference.
What was it about your friend that you liked. What was it that attracted you to them? What did you enjoy about being around that person?
That person is still there. They are still Jo or Mary or Tom but they have been ill, and they have an eating disorder.
Don’t isolate them because you are frightened or if you say the wrong thing.
Don’t expect to get it right all the time. Your friend will thank you for trying.
Ask your friend if there is anything you can do to help them. Offer to support them while trying to catch up with school work. Make sure they are included in discussion, if you see them alone invite them over to join you.
If you get it wrong, don't be frightened to admit it say ...“Do you know, I am so sorry if I got that wrong, can you help me to understand so that I can get it right next time?”
Communication is a wonderful thing—check in with your friend.
“Is there anything you need?”
“Are you ok?”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
Don’t comment on their weight. Instead compliment on the colour of their jumper, their new hair style perhaps or
simply say how nice they look today! Compliment each other in general—and embrace that compliment. Everyone likes to feel good about themselves and this is guaranteed to lift everyone’s spirits.
Talk about your love interests, fashion and music. Talk about the things you would usually talk about with your friends!
Why not invite them to join you next time you go out —if they say they are not ready yet, reassure them that they are welcome to come along next time!
They will feel supported and one day they will join in but be patient and don't give up on them.
Give them a ring out of school hours, just to say hi!
Send them a card to say you are thinking about them
Make them feel accepted and part of the group!
Mealtimes are a nightmare! They will feel they are being watched and that will just make them more anxious.
Make lunchtimes fun, chat and talk about anything other than food, weight or stick thin celebrities.
Try not to treat them differently, although for a while their needs will be different to others. As time goes by they will gradually become stronger in body and in mind!
Remember they still might still be struggling physically and will tire more easily. Often sufferers only attend school part-time until they are physically stronger.
It's important to note that not all of your school peers will be compassionate or practise any understanding about the situation. Don’t allow sarcastic remarks from insensitive people to go unchecked. If left unchallenged those comments will only upset your friend and they will struggle with the eating disorder even more. Remember their self esteem may already be very low!
Try and make the conversation positive. Whenever your friend shares something they are finding difficult. Ask them “What do you think you need to do?”
Listen to what they are saying don't just hear it! Ask if there is anything you can do to help! However, don’t take control away from them, this will only challenge the anorexic thoughts and feelings.
Allow the friend to take responsibility for their well-being.
Encourage them to seek support if you think they are struggling again. This should not be seen as a weakness but as a positive that they do not want to slip back to a dangerous level.
Don’t Try ‘Too’ Hard! But…do try to get the balance right!
When someone is low in weight, one of the side affects is that concentrations levels are low and they are unable to focus for long periods of time. The brain is a muscle that shrinks when starvation has been prolonged. Tiredness and fatigue is common in people suffering from an eating disorder.
If they are given a little longer than others to complete a piece of work or sit and exam this is why.
Try and understand and see this from their point of view. How would you feel if this was happening to you?