Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador presents “Eating Disorders and its Effects on Siblings.”
Eating Disorder Awareness Week is approaching, and people struggling with eating disorders are not the only ones affected.
On Feb. 6, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., there will be a public information session on eating disorders and their effects on siblings. It will take place at 13 Pippy Place in St John’s.
“Sometimes siblings are overlooked,” said Abigail Chippett, whose sister is currently struggling with anorexia. “You feel helpless, you feel hopeless and you feel like you need to do whatever you can to take it all away, but you can’t.”
Chippett said that for a long time she wasn’t sure what her sister was going through – and sometimes Abigail would take her frustration out on the people she loved.
“I had all these emotions, and I really didn’t know what to do with them,” said Chippett.
Since being introduced to the Siblings of Hope, a service the Eating Disorder Foundation provides, Chippett said it feels good to know she isn’t alone.
Patricia Nash, a counsellor at the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, said she will be co-facilitating a small but powerful sibling group. At the Feb. 6 meeting, there will be a guest speaker who will talk about how having a sibling with an eating disorder has impacted her and what she did to cope.
“It’s a life-threatening illness,” said Nash, “but there are resources available when you know where to turn.”
Siblings of Hope
Stephanie Lee, the guest speaker, was someone who didn’t know where to turn. Lee is the older sibling of a girl who has been fighting an eating disorder for the better part of her life. She grew up unsure of where she belonged when it came to getting help.
Lee said a sibling experience is unlike any other when it comes to coping with someone’s eating disorder.
“As an older sibling, you have this great sense of guilt,” said Lee. “It’s that feeling of being a big sister who should have seen the signs, should have known better and should have protected her.”
Lee exhausted every program available for friends and families of people with eating disorders, but she still felt no one understood what she was going through.
“There was nowhere for me to go to talk as a sibling,” Lee said.
Lee then suggested there be a peer support group for siblings, and ever since the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador has been offering a monthly support group called Siblings of Hope. This is a place where siblings are encouraged to be open and share their experiences.
Being involved in this support group, Lee is very familiar with sharing her story. She is often asked to speak at events particular to eating disorders and their effects on siblings, so she is excited to share her knowledge and offer sibling support to those in need.
“In my mind, there’s always been a stigma (surrounding) mental health and I was told not to talk about it, but I recognized early on that I needed someone to talk to.”