Something that has been on my mind lately is telling my friends about my eating disorder/depression. I was lucky in some ways that I never had to officially tell my parents about my struggles because they figured it out on their own. However, my peers who don’t spend as much time with me don’t know exactly how much I’ve been struggling these past few years with different kinds of eating disorders. I’m sure they have noticed my changes in weight, the way I sometimes avoided food, and that some days I seemed to be very quiet and tired and cold.
From experience, I have realized two things… Number one being that most people aren’t very informed about mental illness and they couldn’t identify one especially if they don’t spend most of their time with somebody with disordered behaviors (for example, family members are most likely to notice because they live with you). Secondly, I have learned that people are honestly focused on themselves more than others. Everybody has their own battle and oftentimes, that makes it harder to identify the problems of others. I find some comfort in knowing this, because at the end of the day, you’re going to beat yourself up more than anyone else will.
Besides my immediate family, there are three peers who know of my eating disorder. One of them found my Instagram account, and the other two I told (in fact one of them, Christina, I told last night… We are pictured on the right). That doesn’t seem like a lot, but for me it is, considering that for the past three years, I have hidden my eating disorder from people for fear of judgement. However, something that surprised me about all three of my peers especially was how sweet and accepting they were about the whole thing. It makes me feel great that they treat me just the same and aren’t condescending or doubtful at all, and instead are kind and considerate. That’s great and all but I want to tell you all how to tell loved ones about your eating disorder and reach out to get help.
I think the thing I was most worried about and am even still worried about as I continue to tell people is the reaction of my friends and family. I think that as long as you go with your gut (you feel as though that person will be respectful and kind to you), tell this person privately, and tell them you just want either their help or support it will go better that you ever will have imagined. Sometimes it’s as simple as just suggesting signs they may have seen and then entering into the subject that way, or even just coming out and saying “I have an eating disorder.”
I think that people see eating disorders a lot differently when they are on a piece of paper or linked with some person whom they don’t know. It’s only when they put the face of a loved one to the term “eating disorder” when things change a little bit. Eating disorders don’t define a person, though many don’t realize that, both those with eating disorders and those without. To me, if I were to know that a loved one had any kind of struggle or mental illness, I would do my best to be there, wouldn’t you? People are generally good, they are your friends for a reason and telling them a secret won’t change that.
It’s truly an amazing feeling to know that you are supported and loved. This is one of the first steps in truly recovering from your eating disorder. Getting help will be something that you are grateful for in the future.