I'm So Angry... Am I Allowed? - Allowing Yourself To Have Feelings Around Your Loved One's Mental Health Issues

As a friend/caregiver of someone with an eating disorder, can you relate to this thought process?:

"What happened to my kid/friend? He/she was so kind, patient, respectful... I don't recognize him/her anymore. I used to be able to talk to him/her and have dialogue. Now, I just get the evil eye and attitude. That's on a good day, otherwise, he/she is so withdrawn and is in his/her room. I'm so angry. What kind of person gets mad at a sick person. I'm just so tired of walking on egg shells, not knowing who I'm going to get. I just want my son/daughter/friend back. I want my family/friendship back... I want my life back."

I want to say, right off the bat, that whatever feelings you have regarding your situation is ok. Feelings are feelings and you are allowed to have them. You're not a bad person for having feelings of anger, frustration, annoyance, etc. Who wouldn't? It's like this thing has taken over your child/loved one, completely changing how you knew how to relate to, talk with and love them. Here are a few pointers to help manage and deal with your feelings:

1) Know Who You're Angry With - Are you really angry at your loved one or at the disorder? There's a difference! Are you mad at the eating disorder that displays itself through increased irritation or did he/she throw eggs at your car because you didn't let him/her stay out passed crew few?  Just because your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder doesn't mean there are no consequences for behaviour. At the same time, knowing your loved one is responding the way she is is linked to the eating disorder may help you have more compassion, tolerance, understanding, etc. 

2) Voice It - It's ok to let your loved one know that you are angry at the eating disorder and not him/her. This doesn't mean you are screaming at her in an effort to reach the eating disorder, as it is acknowledging that you love him/her and see the two as different entities. It's the same thing as when you catch him/her egging your car. You still love him/her, and are angry at the behaviour that resulted you having yolk on your windshield. Pretending that you aren't angry isn't helpful, as I'm sure he/she is picking up on that. 

3) Talk to a Professional/Support Group - I've written about this point before. It is important to not attempt going through this journey alone. Just like your loved one needs support and a treatment team, so do you. You need a safe space to be candid with those who understand and can support you. Keeping it in will only drain your resources.  You'll loved one may tell you not to, which can be a great opportunity to model to them how it is okay to get help. Having a conversation with your loved one around who is safe to talk with can be helpful. 

4) Self-Care - Taking the time to self-care is critical. Just like you would take a step back during a heated argument, enabling you to return to the conversation more level headed, so it is when you follow through with your plans to go on a date night or get a massage. Taking time for yourself helps puts some energy back in the tank and models to your loved one that it's ok that take care of yourself!

5) Validate Feelings - Logic and rational will not work when trying to communicate to your loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder, which can lead you to feeling frustrated, annoyed and angry. Try a different approach by validating the emotion behind what your loved one is communicating. When he/she says, "I hate that you won't let me exercise", respond by validating the angry, "it sounds like you are angry that you can't exercise right now".  Validating emotions communicates that you truly hear him/her. It allows you to get to the root of what is going on in that moment.