Struggling with an eating disorder can often feel isolating, lonely and shameful. Thus, having a community of recovery warriors has been essential to my healing. The depth of understanding, support and connection that comes from a fellow warrior is essential and incomparable.
Yet, an essential source of support and inspiration in my healing has been found in friendships with those do not suffer from an eating disorder.
Early on in my journey, I began to spend most of my time outside of treatment with my “recovery friends”. I felt safe, understood, and supported by those who faced similar daily challenges and struggles.
You need friends outside the recovery world
However, at the same time, I found myself disconnecting from my friends without eating disorders. The safety I found in my fellow recovery friends began to be a crutch. I became fearful of engaging with those who may not understand my struggle.
Yet, with the help of my two best friends, I discovered that developing a connection with others outside of my recovery bubble was essential to my progress.
First and foremost, it allowed me to see that my true identity lay in the totality of my experiences. I formed relationships from a basis of mutual hobbies, values and beliefs.
I realized I’m not simply a “girl in recovery”. I’m girl who loves horses, values her family, dreams of becoming an environmental scientist, and enjoys reading historical fiction.
Secondly, I learned how to create a larger support network outside of my treatment team and treatment friends. Communicating with friends and family who lacked an in-depth knowledge of eating disorders proved to be challenging at times. It requires much patience and practice. Yet, I in turn learned new ways of effectively communicating my struggles. I gave me greater awareness on how best to express my needs.
Thirdly, the individuals outside of my recovery sphere serves as tangible proof that a beautiful, full life outside of an eating disorder exists.
I learned from the way they coped with struggles, pain and disappointment. I that they experienced true happiness and satisfaction through their work, family, and spiritual life. Ultimately, they showcased that life- with all of its beauty, excitement, and messiness- could be lived without an eating disorder to help them cope.
I encourage individuals in recovery to learn not only from the example of their fellow recovery warriors, but from the everyday warriors in their lives. You may be surprised by what you learn when you allow the differences to dissipate, and our common humanity to connect us.