Letting others in when you are struggling with an eating disorder can be extremely difficult. It means practicing vulnerability even when shame tries to get in the way of such openness. It takes immense courage to let the guard down and talk about the eating disorder with loved ones and other support people. My firm belief is that it must be done. Fighting an eating disorder is hard to do alone.
Why is talking about the eating disorder with supportive people such a crucial part of recovery? Eating disorders thrive in secrecy, but they can’t survive out in the open. Part of the work that I have done with people with eating disorders is to help them identify their primary support group, and to encourage them to reach out to at least one of these people daily. This gives them an opportunity to “tell on” their eating disorder. Rather than having to keep the thoughts and urges to themselves and try to battle them on their own, they have people to reach out to. It makes it much easier to challenge sneaky, eating disorder thoughts if you can have the support of someone else.
The first step to identifying a primary support group is to explore what makes someone a “safe person”. This may look different for each person, but ultimately, this is someone that you feel you can be vulnerable with. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, take some time to explore who the people are in your life that you feel safe talking with. Make a list of these people and the “safe” qualities that they embody. The more you are able to push yourself to reach out to your support people, the easier it will get, and ultimately, the more support you will get in your recovery.
I’ve encountered many people that are hesitant to talk about their eating disorder with someone other than their providers. As I mentioned above, it takes immense courage to be vulnerable, but I believe that with the right people (safe people) the rewards of being vulnerable greatly outweigh the costs. Vulnerability will open the door to deeper connection with loved ones, and will make it easier to challenge eating disorder thoughts.