This was my biggest fear when I had an eating disorder. I was so scared of talking about it that I had a hard time even admitting that I needed eating disorder treatment to myself. There were a few times where I was confronted about possibly having an eating disorder, and I would go through great lengths to lie about it. I was afraid that if I told people about my eating disorder:
- I wouldn’t be able to engage in my sneaky food stuff anymore (like restriction)
- People would be mad at me (primarily my parents)
- I would be embarrassed and ashamed of all my strange food thoughts and behaviors
The first time I opened up and said that I had been struggling with an eating disorder was really hard. It was emotional, I was crying, and my hands were shaking from anxiety the entire time. But it also felt so good to talk to someone else about it, that the anxiety and the crying was worth it. I immediately felt like I had a ten-pound weight lifted. Since then, I’ve now shared many times about my eating disorder history, even down to the nitty gritty details that I never thought I would share with anyone.
And guess what? Those original three things that I was worried about were not an issue
- Yes, when people were aware of my eating disorder, then there was less opportunity for me to engage in my behaviors, but there was also a part of me that didn’t want to hide anymore.
- No one was mad at me, in fact there was a relief in finally getting some answers on what had been affecting my mental health and moods so much.
- Initially I was embarrassed, but that faded very quickly once I started talking about it.
I know this process can seem really overwhelming, so I’m going to break down step-by-step to make it easy.
1. Practice what you're going to say
Think about what you want people to know. Do you want to share your story? Ask for help? Talk about your fears? Take some time to say it out loud to yourself first. It will make the sharing part easier.
2. Pick someone who feels "safe" to you
You might want to start with someone who is “woke” around mental health and isn’t going to dismiss your concerns. Is what’s holding you back the fear that someone will make you change your behaviors? Then talk share online or on a
3. Let the other person know you have something serious you want to talk about
If you’re already feeling anxious about bringing an eating disorder up, it can be tempting to try and pepper this kind of thing causally into a conversation about the weather. It’s best if you can let other people prepare to give you the attention and support you need and deserve.
4. Take a deep breath and just get it out
You can do it!
5. Be specific about what you need from the other person
Do you need support? Guidance? Help? Eating disorder treatment? Do you just not want to carry a secret anymore? For me, this morphed the more I started to talk about it. I started out just wanting to share my fears, and eventually I was looking for guidance and help.
6. Leave the door open for future conversations
This doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be the last time you talk about this. Ask if you can talk about this again another time, or set a date to have another check in. Sometimes people don’t know how to bring hard topics up again, so we can help by giving them permission to check in.
7. It's ok if it's kind of an uncomfortable and awkward conversation
Not everyone is a trained therapist and knows what to say when you share something heavy with them. People might want to say the right thing, but they don’t know how. This is normal, and the more you talk about it, the more people will be comfortable to talk about it as well, ask questions, and assert their opinion.
You may be thinking, who would I share this with? I don’t think I would have anyone I could open up to this about. Here’s a list of possible people in your life to share with:
- Significant other
- Extended family (aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent)
- A support group (preferably an eating disorder support group)
- Anonymously on Instagram in a comment on a post about ED
- A Facebook group about ED
I can speak from personal experience that keeping your eating disorder to yourself will be a very slow road to recovery and will keep you stuck. I also know from personal experience that it’s really hard to talk about. I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it, and you’ll be glad that you did.