What do you say?
Updated and graciously re-posted from Gürze Publications: Katie, a blog reader, wrote me with some excellent questions. She asked in part, “… When you see an obviously anorexic young woman at the market, do you say anything? How do you feel about this? The feeling I get is helplessness.”
These are thought provoking queries and I thank Katie for taking the time to write. Although I have learned a tremendous amount about eating disorders, I certainly do not have all the answers. In fact, I have far more questions than answers. That said…
I have seen people in public who look to me like they may be suffering with an eating disorder. What I also know is that when I was undergoing chemotherapy, I, too, looked like I might have an eating disorder (when I wore my wig it camouflaged my baldness extremely well). I cannot know, just by looks, whether or not someone is suffering with an eating disorder. I also refuse to comment on weight, and given that the person in question is a complete stranger to me, there is nothing else I can comment on. Instead, I will hold this person in light, in my thoughts and in my prayers.
I have a friend who recently told me that she fears for the well-being of the woman who always runs on the treadmill beside hers at the gym (yes, I’ve had many conversations with my friend about the overall atmosphere at her gym—she cannot yet hear me). I’ve encouraged her to share her concerns with the woman saying something like, “I don’t know you. My name is “Sue”—we workout side-by-side often. Over the last few weeks I’ve become worried about the intensity and length of your workouts—there’s an energy around the exercise that makes me concerned for your well-being.” I have no idea how someone would respond to these words. They might make the person curious about what it is we’ve noticed. If so, we can offer a list of resources (with numerous hotline numbers for all sorts of issues and the name of a local physician and therapist or treatment center) Or our concerns may be dismissed or reacted to with anger. We need to be prepared for whatever comes and respond with compassion and kindness. If we feel this person is at serious risk, and our statements of concern are disregarded, we need to let the manager of the gym know of our concern for one of their patrons. After that we can, again, hold this person in light and prayer.
I understand completely Katie’s feelings of helplessness. I feel that way often. When that happens I try to remember to focus on what I can do. Honoring even the smallest efforts on my part: I can refuse to engage in body bashing of either mine or someone else’s body. The helplessness is difficult, but our efforts, no matter how small, do count.
Until next time,