At the beginning of my recovery, a large focus of my treatment involved discussing how my parents, siblings and close friends could play a significant role in supporting my healing.
They attended educational groups, therapy sessions, and read countless books and articles on how to better understand and support me.
Yet, along my recovery journey, I realized that I can learn to be an active supporter to my friends and family.
I believe that support in the recovery process is not simply a one-way street. As recovery warriors, we too have a duty to support our loved ones when we are capable.
“You’re triggering me!”
I must admit, I can get extremely frustrated with my supporters, feeling that they “always say the wrong thing” or “trigger me.” As a consequence, many of my family members have felt as though they are walking on egg shells. They are fearful of saying anything that could my recovery.
Upon reflection, I found myself expecting my supporters to be perfect. I was placing unrealistic expectations on them as I do myself.
Being a mirror
Thus, hearing this honest feedback from my supporters has motivated me to examine my own behavior. I have worked to discover ways in which I can assist my supporters in feeling more comfortable, valued and confident.
For example, I have begun to mirror back the way my supporter treat me back to them. This has been exceptionally helpful.
Just as they have learned to adjust their expectations regarding my recovery process, I too have begun to have more grace and understanding for their own growth.
I am consciously working to shift my own perspective. It’s important to understand that those supporting us are also learning new skills, habits, and ways of being. I realize that changing is not easy, no matter what side of the recovery process you are on. My loved ones deserve patience and compassion for their own journey.
In addition, allowing my supporters to speak openly and vulnerably with me about their own struggles and concerns has improved the nature of our relationship.
This does not mean that I give them permission to put their worry or frustration onto me. Rather, I allow them to communicate to me in an appropriate way when they are feeling sad, stressed, or scared. Often their honesty has brought us closer and increased the depth of our communication.
We’re all human
Finally, it’s important to respect the boundaries and needs of your supporters as they do for you.
I realize that my supporters are humans, with their own limitations, struggles, emotions and lives.
This has helped me not to internalize when someone is unable to be there during a time of need.
My eating disorder tends to twist the situation. It might be saying that I am overly needy, annoying or draining. Yet, I can challenge this negative self talk by reminding myself that all humans have needs.
Ultimately, all those affected by an eating disorder deserve and need support.
As recovery warriors, we can empower ourselves to see beyond our own struggle and to aid in the journey of those around us.
I believe that having the capacity to see outside of my eating disorder is perhaps one of the most rewarding gifts recovery has given me.