the day i broke my brother’s heart (how eating disorders affect siblings)

he was born in africa, a premature baby and we did everything together like sitting in buckets of water in the sun and hunting for lizards and playing in our cardboard-box change table

and when we returned from the mission field, to canada and its snow, we made forts in the white and sand castles in the summer and he let me dress him in hand-made costumes and parade him about town on halloween

but then i began to wear Exclamation perfume and Northern Reflections clothing and weigh myself after every meal, and i stopped playing and started sitting on my bed and planning my meals, and i didn’t think about him most of the time except when he said things to make me angry, things about the way i looked and i didn’t understand but now i do, that the little boy inside of him was crying out to understand why

and he spent most of his time in his bedroom playing Legos and one day he drew a picture with crayons, a picture i never saw, a picture he told me about later, and in it, i was a wrecking ball, rolling across the family, flattening them to the ground

and i didn’t know, didn’t see, until the day i was in the hospital and mum gave me a mug that said “i love you beary much” and i didn’t want the mug and i told her that in a very angry voice, and he was standing, listening outside the door, this little nine-year-old boy, hands shoved into his pockets, and i didn’t know–

he’d been the one to buy it for me. if i had only known, oh, i would take it back a thousand times–but nothing can erase the way i broke my brother’s heart that day.

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10 thoughts on “the day i broke my brother’s heart (how eating disorders affect siblings)

  1. I’m experiencing some of this today. But not really at all. It’s not my little brother. It’s my husband. But something in this article struck home with me and evoked what I’ve been trying to deny. And rethinking words I’ve said. Words that were truth and love and needed said (that’s how it doesn’t fit with your article), but words I still wish I could take back. Words that hurt because those who love you most look in the mirror to see what and how their actions have impacted them.

    And I want to be honest. I want things to change because ts unhealthy. And yet by saying this was something that contributed to my stress, this words to the ones we love, and who love us, HURT. Because they never meant to hurt us. They are human, and trying but falling short just as we all do.

    So I say the words that I need to say, things that need changed. Because if i don’t I will be unhealthy and let my eating disorder reign over me. Yet wen I say those words, no matter how tenderly, and I see the devastation in his eyes, I long to take them back. To keep it to myself than hurt those I cherish most. Bur this isolates me even more. Swallowing my emotions and numbingly moving forward is what brought me to this brokenness, to cope in such a terrible way.

    So I speak those words and hope they were tender enough, won’t break him, and that he is strong enough to bear this weight with me.

    Honor myself and honoring him. So hard. Doing what’s right is so hard.

    • One more thing. Trying to get him to understand that, yes, he caused stress with some things, but ultimately it was MY decision to respond te inappropriate way I did. My choice.

      • oh friend. i love how you’re battling through these issues. and i know, i’ve wounded my husband so many times–if only we could take those words back. doing what’s right is so, so hard. but we serve a God of redemption, and he knew, he knew, what we would go through before we went through it, and he put these men in our lives for a reason. go gently, sister, and show grace to yourself … love to you. e.

  2. those memories. the ones we wish we hadn’t made loom. cast a pall. and forgiving ourselves doesn’t come easy, does it? raw, emotional, honest piece, em. love. and….happy birthday!

  3. This is beautifully written. Having lived with anorexia and bulimia for over 10 years, I know firsthand how much the disorder impacts friends, family, and community–and you’ve done a wonderful job capturing that. I’m so happy to hear you’ve gotten past the grip of the disorder, and I wish you the best of luck with your writing!

  4. I have this question and I don’t know where to post it so I figured it may fall under this category. I am struggling. My good days are good but my bad days are terrible. I lose sight of what I’ve accomplished and I don’t feel like I’ll ever be able to dig myself out of this hole. I’ve said some pretty mean things and I’m unsure of where “I” end and “it” begins. I’m not sure if the person everyone seems to love is a cover because the real me is the person that says all of those nasty things that I have to apologize later for. I sift through every thought to see if it’s truth or a lie, and I’m exhausted trying to get better. I just don’t know if I have enough fight left in me. Feeling this way and having FEW people understand it makes me feel isolated and angry, which seems to fuel/breed all the other issues.

    Any input would be great.

  5. hello dear jaime… i love your heart. it is so beautiful. and i love that you try so hard. but i’m going to encourage you to stop trying so hard, and to start accepting yourself where you’re at. just work on loving yourself, and showing grace on those bad days. grace to yourself. and i want to encourage you to borrow this book from the library or buy it from the bookstore: “one thousand gifts” by ann voskamp. i think it will really help. please let me know your thoughts on it. love you.

  6. You’re the second person to tell me to love myself where I’m at. Guess it’s confirmation. I struggle. I can’t seem to love myself where I’m at because loving myself where I’m at feels like not doing the things I know I’m supposed to be doing. It feels like stealing grace. It also feels like I would never see the need to be better and do better. And my children will see me as a hypocrite and want nothing to do with God. 

    And now I feel like I’m a blubbering idiot lol sorry. Ion just desperate to have these chains gone.

    Thank you for the compliments. I love that you respond so quickly. Thanks also for the book recommendation. I will check it out.

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