Advice by Kaela: How Do I Tell My Friends and Family?
By Kaela Scott
Question: I have been hiding my eating disorder from my friends and family. How do I tell them that I am struggling?
Answer: Before I dive into this I do want to encourage you to acknowledge your own strength and courage. Telling people you love that you are struggling is a really important step towards recovery and I know it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and let people in.
In terms of how to tell them, the first thing I would recommend you do is take a deep breath and start writing. Before you tell other people either parts of your story you want to get comfortable with what exactly you want to share the first time you talk to them. Often these conversations take place over a period of time and you want to know what you feel comfortable sharing in the first round. For example, do you want to let them know you have been suffering with an eating disorder and that it has been going on for a certain length of time? Do you want to ask them to help or support in certain ways? Are you wanting them to let others know or would you like them to keep it to themselves?
I would encourage you to read what you write to yourself out loud. When we live with an eating disorder so much of what we experience and go through feels locked inside our own head. There is often a destructive dialogue on repeat in our mind that we aren’t even aware of. Speaking your story out loud to yourself will hopefully make you feel more comfortable when you share it with someone else.
When you are going to tell someone something as important and significant as this, we want to let them know in advance that we have something we want to talk to them about and ask them to set aside some time. Some people report that this can make them anxious and it likely will for you too, but doing so means that the other person will be not only more present but ideally better able to receive what you are sharing.
For example you could say something like “Hey mom, do you have a bit of time on Saturday for us to talk. I want to go over something with you that is important to me.” There is a chance that she may ask what it is and you have every right to tell her that you will share more when you talk on Saturday.
These conversations are big to share but they are also big to receive. In asking for them to set aside time and giving them some say in when a good time would be, it means both parties show up expecting to talk and hopefully with the ability to really listen.
Know that when you share you have taken a big step towards your recovery. Make space for both the feelings that come up in you as well as the feelings that come up for your loved one and be incredibly proud of yourself for having the courage to reach out. It is likely this conversation will be hard in a lot of ways (eating disorders thrive in secrecy so it typically feels quite overwhelming to share) but it also takes you one step closer to being free from your disorder.
Kaela Scott is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in Eating Disorders. She runs her own private practice and works with the Looking Glass Foundation in both their summer camp and their Hand In Hand Program. She has been passionate about working with eating disorders since freeing herself from her own struggle and realizing what it is like to be happy and well. When she isn’t working, you can find Kaela either cozying up with a cup of tea and her friends or up in the mountains going for a hike.