I met Cassie almost a year ago at the gym. We worked out together regularly and as our friendship progressed, she opened up about her body dysmorphia during one of our gym sessions. As we spoke more, she confessed to me about her binge eating and calorie counting habits and her unhealthy relationship with food. She would overexert herself with physical activities – sometimes cycling, playing a sport and lifting weights all on the same day in an attempt to burn calories.
As I had never supported someone with an eating disorder before, initially I felt lost and worried. There were times where I was afraid of eating in front of her, for fear of triggering her. I found out that her family members often make negative comments about her body and appearance, and that she was not able to open up to her peers.
I made the decision to support her despite the little knowledge I had. I attended CAL’s Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) Eating Disorder Programme to learn about how to better support her as a friend. I became her caregiver. The programme included scenarios and role play sessions that taught us how to respond when a crisis occurs. We also learnt the importance of separating the mental health condition from the person, to see them for who they are, and not define them by their condition.
Letting your loved ones take charge of their recovery journey is vital – I’ve learnt to be direct in asking what she needs instead of trying to guess. I’ve also assured her that I’ll be here for her through every step of her recovery journey.
We check in on each other from time to time to ensure that we’re taking care of our own mental health. It could be something as simple as taking a walk together. Our relationship has deepened because of us working through her eating disorder together, and I consider myself fortunate to be her caregiver.