I’m a 18-year-old girl who, after a very abusive relationship, has suffered with depression, eating disorders and very low self-esteem.
My ex-boyfriend spent our whole relationship calling me awful things and he forced me to start starving myself. After a horrible year with him, I managed to leave and was under the care of an eating disorder unit until being discharged a few months ago.
Recently, my family and I were having a quiet night in for my mother’s birthday when my 13-year-old sister came into the room in a very short dress and ridiculously high heels that she couldn’t walk in and, to top it off, she was caked in make-up. After questioning her about her outfit, she became very defensive and said: “Just because you’re jealous that all your nice dresses don’t fit your fat body any more.”
I locked myself in the bathroom and cried for a good two hours. My mum told her off, but after that it was forgotten.
But not by me.
I haven’t spoken to her since, as she hasn’t given me a sincere apology. And now my parents are having a go at me! They don’t see how badly it has upset me and how hurt I am that my own sister has made this comment.
Am I in the wrong for not forgiving her straight away? Am I overreacting?
First of all, well done on leaving your abusive ex – that must have taken a lot of strength and courage.
Now don’t let this set you back. Your sister was probably embarrassed that you made her feel silly in her outfit and, being only 13, doesn’t have the maturity to handle it. So she’s picked on your Achilles heel – your weight – because she knew that would hurt you more than anything else. I remember when my sons were younger, Shane Jnr would embarrass Jake about something and Jake would come back at him by saying something like, “at least I’m not spotty”, which would enrage Shane because he was self-conscious about his skin at the time.
I know you had a serious eating disorder, but at 13 your sister is still a child and has so much to learn. She won’t realise how serious your problem was and that it is still an ongoing battle for you. Thankfully it’s a battle you’re winning, so don’t let the silly, ill-judged words of a 13-year-old ruin all that progress.
The way to start talking to her is not to argue, but to say: “You know what? That comment hurt me a lot. I don’t want us to fall out, but you need to understand that comments around my weight are crossing the line and aren’t easy for me to get over.”
You should also emphasise to your parents that you are still sensitive and it’s not easy to just brush off a comment like that. Take control like you have done in other areas of your life so successfully, and be the grown-up here. I think you’ll feel stronger for it.
* More of our agony aunt Coleen Nolan’s advice on your sex, family, health and relationship problems