I was in the midst of an eating disorder and no one seemed to be able to see a thing. All they saw was someone who had gotten skinnier, someone they ‘wished they had a body like’, someone who- on the outside- somehow seemed relatively fine and put together. However, I was slowly being eaten away on the inside- in both the physical and emotional senses.
I got home that night, and told my parents that we needed to talk.
“I … I think I have an eating disorder, and I think I need help.”
They were shocked. Somehow, I had managed to keep it hidden from them. Because of this, they thought that where I was wasn’t ‘that bad’. They could help me gain the weight back I needed to, we could do it all ourselves, within our family. No one else really had to know.
However, as you, dear reader, might expect, that wasn’t the case. I was in too deep for just my parents to be my only support in my recovery. I love my parents dearly, and they were a huge part of my recovery, but neither of them are particularly great at talking about difficult emotions; they’d much rather pretend they didn’t exist.
I needed a professional; so the summer before my senior year of high school, I started outpatient family-based therapy for anorexia. It did what it needed to do in that moment, but, for me, would not have been a sustainable option long-term. Despite that, as I went through the half-hour individual sessions that my bi-weekly appointments included, I learned some major insights about myself.
Until I got into therapy, I rarely talked about what I was feeling. I rarely felt what I was feeling. I was a tight little ball of concealed anxiety and depression who would cry herself to sleep every day, only to wake up the next morning and pretend like everything was fine. I felt the need to be ‘strong’ for my friends, to be the motherly type friend. For some reason in my mind, that meant my emotional needs were a burden. On the flip side, I considered it my job to be there consistently for other’s emotional needs. Learning to reach out and talk to others about what I was feeling was all sorts of terrifying, but has since become something that I value in my relationships with others. Being the one to do all the emotional labor is exhausting, and wasn’t sustainable for me. I needed to find friends who I could vent to without judgement.