There is a girl at my husbands work who is very, very unhealthy. She is one of the few that I have met that there is absolutely no question that she has an eating disorder. Her arms are so bony, her skin is pale and unhealthy and her hair is brittle and falling out. The first time I saw her, I asked hubby about her. He didn't really know much about her yet. Every time I would go to his work I would specifically look for her. Every time I was mildly afraid she wouldn't be there because she collapsed or went into treatment.
I ache for this young girl. I ache for the struggle she is going through. I ache because I understand. I wonder if her family judges her. I wonder if she even tries to have friends anymore. I wonder who emotionally supports her. How long has she been sick? How long have her bones been sticking out of her skin? How long has her hair looked like it should be shaved off and start over again? How long have her eyes been hollow? How long has she been hurting? What was her life like before ED ravaged her body?
In the time since she started, my hubby has now finally told me her name. He has agreed that she is definitely sick. He also is only barely acquainted with her. I long to support her, to tell her she is not alone, to remind her that she really is beautiful. But she doesn't know me. Here is what I do know about ED. We feel invisible and when those around us don't know what to say, we are convinced that we are indeed invisible. We long to be visible and yet are terrified of being noticed. We can't see the disease in the mirror, because the stupid mirror lies, and so we are certain that those around us can't see the disease either. No one knows our little lie. No one can see the problem and therefore it isn't really a problem. It doesn't become real until you are passing out from malnutrition. It doesn't become real until every bone in your body aches so badly that you want to die. It doesn't become real until your husband informs you that things have changed sexually and it isn't as enjoyable when you are afraid you will break your wife in half if you are intimate. It doesn't become real until you long to run your car off the road so that your family doesn't have to watch you slowly die.
So what do I do? Do I introduce myself? And if so then what? Do I continue to let her think that no one knows she is hurting? Do I tell her that I understand? I am struck by the comment Holly made on my "what's her story?" post. In a college setting where eating disorders are said to be prevalent there is little evidence that others share her battle. Sure, 1 in 5 struggle with it, but how many hide it well? So do I continue to let this girl think it is impossible to see her disease and that she is invisible or do I let her know I see her? I question things like this. I question because I think I would be furious if a stranger came up to me and accused me of being anorexic (despite how true it may be).
How do you handle seeing an eating disorder that is really not your place to intervene in?