How letting people in has helped my recovery
Today I wanted to talk about how letting people help me with my ED recovery has been beneficial, and why it's important to remember that whilst recovery is our responsibility, we don't have to do it alone. It goes without saying that everyone's situation is different, and so I can recognise my privilege that I have parents, a girlfriend, and friends who have supported me throughout my illness, and enabled me to seek professional help. I can't imagine how much I would struggle without them as they are the best support system ever, and along with the help of my therapist, they are keeping me motivated to recover, and cheering me on every step of the way.
In this post I want to outline the ways the people around me have best supported me so that if you are considering whether reaching out is the right choice for you (and I mean YOU, not your ED), then you can asses the potential benefits. Our ED's want to isolate us and they do! We become secretive, deceitful and self obsessed - we slip away into a tiny little bubble and are disconnected from the real world and unable to experience life beyond the restraints of our illness. Therefore, it can be incredibly difficult to break out of this and accept help if we need it. This is because, even if we can see we are suffering and want to put an end to it, our ED's fight against the urge to let anyone in, as they fear it will threaten their control. With that in mind, it was personally a really significant first step in my recovery to reach out to someone and let them know what was going on.
For me, something that has been really key to my recovery is having my parents and my girlfriend know my meal plan so that they can hold me accountable to it. Some people may disagree with this, as perhaps I should be able to do it alone, but on days when my ED voice is really loud, I think it's okay to admit that I struggle to do so. Yes, I need to be able to fight this illness myself in order to fully recover, but as a matter of relapse prevention, having others there to push me forward when my ED is trying to drag me back has been really effective. That said, I have also found the app "Recovery Records" useful for this same purpose as it sends me reminders at meal and snack times, and so there are always different options available.
In addition to this, especially in the first few weeks of my recovery, and still now, handing over control of my meals to my mum was really good for me. This is because it took away the element of choice surrounding food so that I didn't have the chance to make ED friendly versions of meals, or make any sneaky little restrictions as I just ate what I was given. It also massively aided my ability to stop calorie counting, as I didn't know what ingredients were being used, or how my food was being cooked. This disabled me from being able to obsessively calculate, but meant I was still abiding by my weight gain meal plan.
On top of this, I feel that having others with me on my recovery journey has increased my ability to separate my ED voice from my rational one. This is because I have had the people who know me best there to point out when I'm not thinking like the real Mais. On top of this, they have been there to laugh with me at my old ED behaviours which has enabled me to let go of my ED identity that little bit easier. For example, me and my girlfriend have been laughing about the fact that once lockdown's over and we can go out for date night again, I'm finally going to order something other than a salad! Things like this help motivate and maintain my recovery, as they remind me of the life I want to live, and the values I want to honour.
Looking more towards the impact of professional help, going to the GP and being assigned a therapist is something I have definitely benefited from in my recovery. I am lucky in that I have access to this for free via the NHS, and that I got support quickly. I know this is not as readily available an option for a lot of people, due to high costs or poor quality of care, and I am deeply sorry for this. That said, if it is something you can access, then whilst you may wish to recover alone, it is definitely worthwhile considering it. Professional help can provide you with resources that will help your journey as well as helping to keep you safe. It is daunting I know, and it goes against everything your ED is telling you to do, but it it's only your ED that's stopping you, then that's even more reason for you to seek it.
A final source I wanted to look at is the use of social media platforms in recovery. The ED community is one I want to explore in more detail in a future post, because as I'm sure you're aware, there is a lot of toxicity amongst the support. For the purpose of this post therefore, I want to suggest MegsyRecovery and What Mia Did Next, as two great influencers to follow. I have had a complicated relationship with the likes of 'recovery' Instagram, as quite often our ED's will seek out the content on there that is less helpful. For me there was definitely the compulsion to look at others 'Full days of eating' and compare my intake, or to look at triggering posts on exercise, or view 'before and after' photos. Considering this, I think the key for me was to only follow people who were already recovered or who were far along in their recovery journey and had a recovery positive mindset. Doing this was a real game changer in my recovery, as especially Megsy's videos, showed me why I didn't want to spend the rest of my life trapped in this illness, and what I could do to break free. Therefore, regardless of whether you are able to get support from the people in your life or from professional services, there are lots of positive spaces online that prove you never have to be truly alone.
Whilst all the points I've made are relevant to my experience of recovery, and whilst I have found letting people in and asking for support to be the most effective method for me, it's not to say this will definitely be the case for everyone. I have recently read Tabitha Farrar's post on "Recovering Alone" (https://tabithafarrar.com/2020/04/recovering-alone/), in which she discusses how she did not feel confiding in others would help her, and how she managed to recover by herself. This is equally valid to my own choice, and it is completely down to you which path you take, I simply wanted to illustrate how getting support from others has strengthened my ability to recover.
Let me know your thoughts or other things that have helped you in recovery - maybe some other influencers worth checking out!
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3