How I Learned I Needed to Feel Understood, Not Just Heard in Eating Disorder Recovery


During my eating disorder recovery, I began becoming irate at the idea of not being understood by anyone. I had a thousand people who would listen, and that was great until I felt the need to have someone able to understand, too. I didn’t just want someone to be an ear to listen to my complaints, breakdowns and stories, I wanted someone to show me their emotional scars and say, “Hey, I get it. I’ve been through it, too. Here are some things I did that may help you.” It wasn’t enough for me to be heard, I needed to be understood.

Don’t get me wrong though, I 100 percent appreciate all the people in my life who have just sat there and listened for hours on hours. I appreciate being heard and getting to share myself with people who are more than willing to listen and be there for me. I know how powerful it is to even have someone be there as a dumpster for you to dump all your emotions into. But I came to a point when I needed to share with someone who could not only listen, but understand. Some of my friends just weren’t able to understand my thought process, why I did what I did, why I think this way, etc. It was sometimes frustrating to feel like I constantly had to explain my thoughts, feelings and actions.

Finally, I decided to reach out to a recovery mentor who had first hand experience of what it’s like to struggle with an eating disorder. It was liberating to feel not just heard, but understood. To have someone say, “I understand, I know exactly what that feels like. I know how you came to that conclusion and why you did what you did.” It felt nice, almost as if there was a connection. In a sense, I felt a greater connection to someone who was able to understand my hardships over someone who was just there to listen.

This is what led me to becoming a recovery mentor myself. I wanted someone to know “Hey, I get it. I know what that’s like, and I’m here to understand you, too.” I know behind the need to share is also the need to be understood.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Natasha-R-Graham

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