The Important Thing No One Tells You About Eating Disorder Recovery
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
“We’re here for you.”
“You’re never alone.”
“I’ll always be here to help you.”
These are the oh-so-supportive phrases I have heard many times in my five years recovering from both my eating disorder and depression. The kind words from my family members, my friends, my therapists. I guess I’ve been lucky to live in such a supportive environment; I’ve always had people around me to help me whenever it was necessary. Still, throughout all these years, I’ve felt alone — every month, every week, sometimes every day. I’ve felt like people were lying to me. Everyone keeps telling me I’m not alone, but how come they seem to be never there when I need them? How come they don’t seem to understand?
And I feel like that’s a misconception about recovering from any mental illness. You’ve got these lovely people around you, supporting you at all times. They try to motivate you when they can; they can be there if you need a hug. They’re trying. Oh, I promise you — they’re trying, no matter what you think. The issue, however, is you’ve got to do it all for yourself in the end. It sounds logical, but I feel like we all forget it sometimes.
We forget people around us can’t always understand our illnesses. No one around you will ever be able to perfectly understand it — not your closest friend, not your dearest family member, not your therapist. Not anyone who has been in a similar situation to yours. Hell, you might even never be able to comprehend fully what goes on in your mind. The people around you can’t read your mind, and no matter how great you are with words or storytelling, it isn’t possible to explain your thoughts perfectly. Even if you could, it would be impossible for others to see things through your eyes and know exactly what to do at all times.
I’ve had days where I’ve wanted to scream at my boyfriend. He’s been incredible to me the past two years — always supportive, always wishing to help. Listening to my thoughts, my rambles, my rants, motivating me when necessary. But his sweet words of support, “You’re not alone, I’m here with you,” had gotten me stuck so many times. When I had to face a challenge with food he wouldn’t always know it; he couldn’t always comfort me and assure me I did well. When I was having a bad day, he couldn’t always tell and I was afraid to say, leaving me afraid he didn’t care. He couldn’t know words like “You look better now!” and “I’m proud of you for eating that all!” would leave me upset for days on end, on the verge of another relapse. He couldn’t know, cause he can’t read my mind, and he can’t understand. But you know what? It is not his job to do so, and he doesn’t deserve to do so. Even someone who’s been through something similar to you will not understand – every illness will always be different.
And that’s what we need to remember. In your battle against your mental illness, you will always be alone. As harsh as it sounds, it is the truth. Don’t be afraid; there are people around you. There are ears who want to listen and shoulders you can lean on. But in the end, you have to do it on your own. Even if no one in this world understands your thoughts fully, the person who comes closest will always be you. You know what you need, what you want, what you wish for. You’re going to have to do this because, in the end, you are fighting for yourself.
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 Grandfailure