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Auntie SparkNotes: I Told Someone About My Friend's Eating Disorder and Now She Won't Speak to Me

Auntie SparkNotes: I Told Someone About My Friend's Eating Disorder and Now She Won't Speak to Me

Kat Rosenfield

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, you can visit the National Eating Disorder site for help and support. You can also call their helpline at (800) 931-2237, click here to live-chat, or text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at the Crisis Text Line. 

Dear Auntie,

I did something to help my friend, "Bailey," but I think I did more harm to her than good. Bailey and I are both 16, and before this past summer, I noticed that she had been getting very skinny. Her eyes became sunken in, and she wouldn't bring food when we ate lunch together. When she fainted in one of our classes, I got more worried. Then she started bringing food to lunch again, but then I discovered her in the bathroom twice vomiting up her lunch. She begged me not to tell anyone, but when her hair started falling out, I had enough and went to one of my teachers about it.

The good news was that Bailey started seeing the nurse and counselor, and I started seeing a little more color return to her face. The bad news is that she hates me. She knows that I'm one of the few people who noticed her disorder, and she got angry at me for ratting her out. She said that her mother grounded her for the summer, going so far as to make her quit her part-time job. She told me that her mom smashed her phone with a hammer and confiscated her laptop until school started again this past September.

I felt so shocked about her mom's reaction, but then again, a bunch of strange memories of her mom are coming back. Like this other time when I was alone with Bailey's mom in the car, and she asked me if Bailey was wearing her makeup that day. Or how Bailey's mom would make her send a selfie of herself every hour. Or this one time before a formal dance where I told Bailey how pretty her dress was, and her mom replied in front of her, "She'd look even prettier if she lost five pounds." I thought these occurrences were just kinda weird and never thought more about them, but I think I should've.

Over the summer, Bailey was nowhere to be seen, and when I visited her house once just to check on her, her mom answered and told me that I was a bad influence on her. After this school year started, Bailey ignores me every time we're near each other, including in class. I really just wanted to make sure that Bailey was okay, but she never would've gotten in trouble if I kept my mouth shut. Is this all my fault, Auntie? Did I make Bailey's life worse? What should I have done instead?

Well, that depends, sweet pea: are you a wizard, by any chance?

Because if so, then obviously you committed an egregious error in failing to use magic to solve all your friends problems singlehandedly—and you're just going to have to enroll yourself in Professor Wumpsnuffle's Remedial School for Magical Dumb-Dumbs until your skill set is up to snuff.

But if you're actually a 16-year-old human girl, then you already made the best, hardest, and bravest choice you could have in a totally unenviable, awful situation.

It's just that sometimes, doing the right thing only gets you so far when someone else involved is intent on doing all the wrong ones. Which is why, if Auntie SparkNotes had her way, I'd be handing you a cupcake, a fuzzy blanket, and a quiet place to take a well-deserved restorative nap… and then I'd invite Bailey's mom over for a nice hot cup of punishment salmon to the face.

Because at the risk of stating the obvious, that woman is a freakin' monster. Maybe not congenitally, but certainly situationally—and assuming that her comments are representative of how she treats her kid on a whole, your friend's apparent eating disorder is no surprise at all. A household like that is a breeding ground for serious emotional issues. And for Bailey, I'm sure it was an awful place to be stuck when the truth came out.

But Sparkler, that is not your fault. It's not. Not even a little. Even if you could have predicted without the benefit of hindsight that Bailey's mom would react the way she did (and since we've already established that you're not a wizard, that would clearly have been impossible), that doesn't change the fact that your friend was in immediate, dire need of help. A teenage girl whose hair is falling out from lack of nutrition has a life-threatening problem that needs to be addressed, full stop. You did the right thing by telling someone.

It's just unfortunate that your friend doesn't seem to grasp that, at least not yet. Instead, she's scapegoating you as the cause of her current unhappiness—probably because it's easier to superficially blame you for "getting her in trouble" than it is to confront the deep, dark, thorny complexities of her very serious problems. Which is awful, of course, and really deeply unfair to you. (Even if it's not especially surprising that a vulnerable, emotionally fragile 16-year-old with the Wicked Witch of the West for a mom isn't thinking a whole lot about other people's feelings right now.) You should realize, though, that you did a remarkable thing—you were willing to risk losing Bailey's friendship in order to see that she got help. And if she's too raw and troubled to appreciate that now, she may nevertheless come to appreciate it someday.

In the meantime, though, if this was your last act as her friend, then you should take comfort in knowing that it was an act of love. You did what you could, and what you did was courageous, and selfless, and right. Please remember that, and be proud of yourself. I sure am.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, you can visit the National Eating Disorder site for help and support. You can also call their helpline at (800) 931-2237, click here to live-chat, or text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at the Crisis Text Line. 

Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at advice@sparknotes.com.
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Topics: Life
Tags: auntie sparknotes, eating disorders, advice, anorexia, bulimia, controlling parents, friend breakups, bullying parents, tough topics, helping a friend with an eating disorder

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About the Author
kat_rosenfield

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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