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Posted 04/28/2022 in Free Topic by Dr. Jo L

How to Be a Good Sister

How to Be a Good Sister

The most beautiful moment for me this year was also the most painful. Visiting my older sister in California in January, I was devastated to see how emaciated she was, immediately recognizing from her body size and her behaviors that she was struggling with anorexia, an eating disorder which I had dealt with most of my life and have only recently recovered from.

 As a psychologist and survivor of anorexia, my immediate response was to confront her and insist that she get help. She was, of course, extremely defensive and angry, suggesting that I was jealous and obsessed with finding something "wrong" with her. 

I became angry myself, and continued to ruminate about her well-being, strategizing with my other sister, my parents, and my husband about how to shatter her denial and get her help. I called my best friend to tell her I couldn't stand being around my sister seeing how sick she was. My friend said to me, "Jo, you're seeing your old self when you look at your sister. Have mercy for her, and for yourself. Your sister is simply not ready to hear it. You can see her illness but she can't and you're pushing her away. Be her sister for now, not her rescuer." 

Oh. oh. She just wanted my company, love, my compassion. She wanted a sister, not a savior. Not someone analyzing and judging her. Putting a label on her.

I stopped watching what she ate, looking at her tiny body, worrying about her. I let go of attachment to her anorexia, attachment to my own history of anorexia. I saw her as my beautiful, sweet, intelligent, funny, charming, compassionate sister and friend. 

We ended up bonding and connecting in a magical way, the way we used to be when we were kids and teenagers hanging out together all the time. 

I still worry, but I wait for her to come to me for help. She knows I am here waiting with open arms.


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Dr. Jo L

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