I’ve been in active eating disorder recovery for four years.
To me, “active recovery” means that there are still numerous issues I deal with, but for the most part I’m actively trying to trek to the top of the recovery mountain. In essence, there is the old “two steps forward, one step back” approach.
But no matter how slow- I’m moving. And I’m still going forward.
I’ve made leaps and bounds with my eating disorder (as well as my comorbid depression) over the last few years. People who have known me since the worst days of my eating disorder have told me multiple times that I look and seem better than ever.
And to be honest, I am. I’ve haven’t felt this happy for a long time.
Great- except for one issue…
I’ve been feeling pretty good, yet there one small issue that has been bugging me lately.
People keep coming to me for advice about their own or other people’s weight, diets, body image and eating disorder problems.
Or worse, people assuming that because I’ve been an “expert” in dieting and being “healthy” (note the quotation marks) that I am willing to discuss and be supportive of dieting and weight loss efforts.
I hadn’t been able to pinpoint exactly why this has been bothering me.
Until yesterday, I finally came to a conclusion. Although I look (and for the most part feel) well, I‘m just not ready to give advice.
There are two reasons for this…
1. It’s not my place
Firstly, because I am simply not in a position to do so. I am not recovered, nor am I an expert in the field. Whatever advice I give may not be correct and I don’t want to make the issue worse.
2. It sets me back
Secondly and most importantly, talking about these things (dieting, weight loss etc.) sets me back in recovery.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, I still compare myself to others. I still get quite stressed if I feel like I’m not doing enough to be healthy/ fit/ acceptable. For me, hearing about others who eat or exercise more, or merely differently from me, isn’t helpful because it can spur me to pick up behaviors that pull me away from recovery.
That said, I don’t want people to feel like they can’t come to me if they need support.
I still do want to share my story of eating disorder and mental illness recovery because it might help someone feel less alone.
Personally, I feel that if someone comes to me looking for serious eating disorder advice they should turn to a professional who is trained to help people recover. While I want to be able to support people, I can’t be a substitute for a professional therapist, dietician, or treatment center.
What does all this mean for you?
If you’re feeling in the same position as me, then we both need to speak up.
Next time this sort of situation arises I plan on gently saying something along the lines of “I want to help you and for you to not be alone in this struggle. However, discussing this is hard for me and my own recovery. Can I help you find someone who may be able to help you more than I can?”
I urge you to give it a go with me.
I’ve learned that the most important thing in recovery is looking after yourself. And if looking after yourself and continuing to climb up the recovery mountain means avoiding the “advice role”, then do it.