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HOw to love someone with an eating disorder

Krystina Franks
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"A Mask"

Emma Huyten

STEP ONE: Master the art of holding them.

You must generate enough body heat for the both of you. Your skin will turn into the heating pad they desperately crave. Your chest, which is now their personal headrest, must remind them of what being alive feels like. They will count the number of beats your heart makes in a minute, watch them as they compare it to their own, which is weak and tired, just like the rest of them.

STEP TWO: Learn what to and what not to say.

Everything that they are feeling, is valid. Remind them of this, constantly.

Remind them at breakfast, when they are fighting the calculator in their head for a piece of toast. Remind them at 2’oclock, when they stare at your bowl of popcorn with fear in their eyes.

Remind them at dinner, when they run their fingers over the countless bruises that tint their skin instead of eating the dinner you had prepared for them.

Remind them at midnight, when they have to beg their stomach to be quiet just long enough for them to say goodnight.

Do. Not. Get. Upset.

Do. Not. Get. Upset.

Do. Not. Get. Upset.


a. Count the number of ribs peeking out from their pale, beautiful skin.
b. Run your ring finger along the chin bone of your beloved
c. Play gently with their hair, but do not be alarmed if some breaks off into your soft, gentle hands.

It’s going to be okay!! It’s going to be okay! It’s going to be okay. It’s going… to be okay?

STEP THREE: Figure out how to be gentle.

Remember that all they have left is weakened bones. Bones that are begging to break, being whole is exhausting.

Frequently asked question: How do you hold bones?

The same way you would hold skin. Except, these bones are not soft. They are chipped and bruised and hopeless. You will be uncomfortable, it may feel like you are protecting knives, but that does not matter. These bones are looking for a reason to crack, do not give them one. Hold them like you’re holding a dying child.

Because you are.

STEP FOUR: Don’t ask questions.

Even if they go to “fix their makeup” for the sixth time that night, do not ask why. Smile and forgive them. When they return compliment how white their teeth are as they pick apart their breadstick. It is not their fault they are sick, though it might seem like it. Some questions are okay… Like if they want to make flower crowns or watch the stars but
avoid asking them things such as:

Are you hungry?

Why don’t you just eat?

Do you want to die?

STEP FIVE: Don’t believe them.

They have mastered the art of lying. Not because they want to hurt you, but because they want you to stop worrying. Remember-

Roughly 41% of survivors relapse within the first 18 months

STEP SIX: Practice pretending.

You are not allowed to be sad. Tears will only be fuel to the fire that is depression. Did you know that the rate of suicide among anorexic women is 57 times the rate of girls who do not have a phobia of being full?

You must master smiling through heartbreak, because their heart is actually dying. They didn’t realize this the first time they decided they weren’t hungry for lasagna but a side effect of starving yourself is heart disease.

STEP SEVEN: Keep the memories.

You will plan on being in love for forever. However, their forever is shorter than yours so do not let go of their hand, even if their fingers cut into yours. These scars will turn into your keepsake of them. You will have no idea what tomorrow will be your last, so live for today. Stop counting seconds, and start counting the random bursts of laughter, butterflies you see outside the bay window, the number of times they smile while looking at you. Do not pull away, hold them until their last breath.

If you love them, saying goodbye will be the easiest and hardest thing you’ve ever done. But, maybe by the time their heart waves goodbye… you’ll be used to it.

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