Eating disorder recovery requires bravery. It requires someone to show up for themselves, every day, and communicate their needs to loved ones and professionals around them.
Throughout August, we are bringing you our #BeingBrave series, which will explore aspects of recovery that demonstrate and require bravery in the process. This blog looks at the strength it takes to communicate our needs.
The summer months can be challenging for people living with eating disorders. Calendars can get busier, and the hot weather may bring about body image concerns as trips outside or to the beach require summer clothing and potentially more ‘exposure’.
It is during these times that leaning into a support network is vital for help with sustaining recovery. It is also where communicating your needs is so important.
Continuing to choose recovery despite how difficult things may be, is an act of bravery. Deciding to do something that you ‘need’ to do, as opposed to what you ‘want’ to do to get better, is a courageous commitment. And it’s a necessary one if you want to move through recovery and live the life that you deserve.
So, what does ‘being brave’ mean when it comes to communicating your needs?
Communication and being honest in recovery can at times feel incredibly daunting and overwhelming. An eating disorder can distance us so far from ‘ourselves’ that it can be hard to even know what we need – let alone communicate it.
Here are some reminders when it comes to communicating your needs in recovery…
Saying ‘no’ when you need to
“Boundaries are what we set so that we don’t reach our limit.”
Saying ‘no’ – particularly if we have people pleasing or perfectionist traits as part of our eating disorder – can be incredibly hard. But setting boundaries like this is vital for supporting our wellbeing and energy for tough terrain in recovery.
With healthy boundaries, you don’t compromise your values for others: you are aware of what’s important to you and can identify when your values are being tested and respond in a direct way to protect yourself.
Boundaries are what we create in order to ensure that our limits aren’t crossed – they’re what we enforce before we feel ‘invaded’ by others and out of control of the situation.
So, if you have been invited to a few too many social events for your comfort this summer, know that you can say ‘no’. It is absolutely ok to assert your boundaries and communicate your needs.
To self-reflect on what your limits and boundaries are, it may help to do the following practise:
- Give yourself permission to tune into your feelings within different settings in your life
- Practice self-awareness and consider your past and present experiences and how they may dictate your decisions in the now
- Name your limits by starting small and being direct – assertion takes practice
- Reach out for support and guidance from specialist therapists
Asking for help
You are not alone with your eating disorder. There are many people on a similar journey to you who are willing to offer their support as well as many professionals who are available to help. If and when things get challenging, know that it is ok to reach out.
Reaching out and communicating with friends, professionals and loved ones during difficult times can be extremely daunting as you cannot control their response – sometimes it feels easier not to communicate. However, you deserve to be heard and for your experience and pain to be witnessed by others and held, with support and understanding. You do not need to ‘do’ recovery alone. Communicating is so important.
To help you with this, ask yourself the following:
- What do I want to communicate today? What do I want heard?
- What are my expectations from the conversation?
- How much can I expect them to understand/not understand?
- After the conversation, how do I want to suggest communicating going forwards?
- What do I do if the conversation doesn’t quite go to plan?
Eating disorder recovery is all about developing self-care practices that reflect your sense of self-worth and self-love. Part of looking after yourself is by knowing that it’s ok to lean on others when times get tough and to ask for help. Eating disorders thrive in shame and isolation – be brave and don’t let them!
Appreciate your courage
Recognise that in recovery, every day you are trying your hardest, even if that doesn’t always feel like it’s translating into progress. The moments when you’re feeling the most challenged and the most conflicted – those are the moments when you are fighting your hardest. That is victorious. That, is bravery.
We know eating disorder recovery can be a long journey, made up of continuous small steps, and some days are tougher than others. Take this moment with us to appreciate your courage and bravery and all the steps that have brought you here, right now.
Every courageous act you make in recovery deserves recognition. For some, this could look like having a shower or getting out of bed when these seem impossible; it could be picking up the phone to enquire for eating disorder treatment; or, it could be by communicating with a loved one that today you are struggling.
However you resonate, hold that vision in mind of where you want to be – as your recovered self – and allow victories along the way to be celebrated (by yourself and by others too).
Are you a parent or carer?
If you are reading this as a friend, a loved one, a partner, or a family member of someone with an eating disorder, we want to acknowledge the journey you have been on alongside them.
You may have witnessed their tears, their struggles and their pain, all manifested by the eating disorder, but all the while, bearing witness to your own process.
Recognising that your loved one is struggling takes bravery. It is even braver to communicate your concerns to them or to a professional who can help. You may find the below blogs helpful:
If you are concerned for a friend and wish to speak to someone, you can complete our form below or call our Admissions team today.
We understand that there’s no ‘right time’ to do recovery. However, summer is a perfect time to prioritise treatment – aka, prioritise ‘you’. This could be the summer you need to reset so you can enjoy future summers or autumn plans doing what feels right for you.
Ultimately, you deserve to live a life, recovered from an eating disorder. We can support and make this your reality.
Find out more about Orri’s Outpatient programme here. There is no waiting list for this programme, nor our day treatment.