Thursday, March 3, 2011

Letting Yourself Be Helped

  • You're upset, so you hold it in rather than talking about it.
  • You've returned from the store with a bunch of groceries and lug them all in by yourself. 
  • You feel as if though you do everything, that you have to do everything, because others won't do whatever it is correctly. 
  • You frequently take control of group projects at work or school.
  •  You push yourself to beyond exhausted to get everything that you need to get done.
  • When someone asks you what is wrong, you reply with a vague answer like "nothing," or "I'm fine."
  • You often view people who challenge your eating disorder as enemies rather than allies (i.e., you get upset or bothered by their comments or concerns)
  • You don't actively reach for help or support from other people that care about you or a therapist (e.g., calling someone when upset or when struggling with eating disorder) 
How many of these can you relate to? And how many more ways can you think of that you push away the help of others? Many of us withdrew into the solitude and secrecy of the eating disorder when we first became ill. Isolating yourself allows you to continue the eating disorder--by not eating around us and become independent as possible from the "outside" or normal day lives of those who eat regularly, you seal yourself off from the possibility of becoming better.

So when you're starting to recover, there's often a painful period of reintegration into the world of people and food. All the sudden you are learning to eat again and trying to cope with the emotions and energy that recovery unearths. This is where you hit the uncomfortable middle ground that Kat so eloquently spoke about--the beginning of recovery can sometimes feel WORSE than the eating disorder did. Your first instinct is probably to go straight back to the eating disorder, to go straight back to that "independence" and secrecy that allowed you to continue being sick. 

But stop. You don't have to do this. Recovery involves the process of learning new skills and new ways of dealing with your emotions and interacting with the people around you. When you first start consciously reaching out to others for help, it may be hard, it may hurt, it may be surprising or nerve-wracking and it may feel like you'll be torn apart by guilt. We often suffer from fears that we are inadequate, unworthy of being helped, or a waste of time, in much less obvious terms. Our world-view becomes distorted and it becomes normal to think that just like doing the whole eating disorder thing alone, we have to do the whole recovery thing alone. It's not true.

A little over the month ago, I walked into the office of my previous therapist. I hadn't seen her in about a year and a half, and had no contact with her over that time. I had first been seeing her post-hospital stay, but left after a few months when I started floundering again [and given I was returning to the same home environment from which I had first gotten sick, it wasn't surprising. That, however, is a post for another day]. I deliberated for days on end whether or not I could call her, what she would think about me for calling. I was waiting in the reception area for her to come out, since she had said her old office had moved.

When she came out, she saw me and had a huge smile on her face. "C'mon in, she said." I had prepped myself in the car on the way over the her office. I promised myself that no matter what happened, I would let her in, be honest with her, and genuinely accept any help she had to offer. I was desperate to change. By the time I left, she had told me, "I had no idea what to expect when you walked in. I was driving over here earlier and I really didn't know how you would be...what had changed...and I was just so relieved once we started talking." Granted I've changed a lot since I'd last seen her, I think it was my attitude of wanting help that struck her the most as changed. I hadn't asked for help so directly before; I had mostly sat in her office and felt sorry for myself (all along having this great resource of a person to draw from). 

As I've gone through the recovery process, I've gradually learned how to let people in. I opened the door into my mind and feelings just a peep at first, and often slammed it shut at the first sign of fear or rejection. But bit by bit I learned how to inch it open further, sometimes far enough to let a whole person in rather than speaking to them through the door crack. 

Through doing so, it's become easier to ask for help. I let my boyfriend carry thing for me. It doesn't mean I'm weak; it means I am strong enough to ask for help. I tell someone close to me when I am sad or upset so that they can help me through the emotion. It doesn't mean I am an emotional wreck; it means I am learning to be open enough to share what is really going on inside of me. When it's time to do a group project, I use my leadership skills to delegate out tasks to other people as fairly and equally as possible. It doesn't mean I can't do the project; it means that I recognize that I could benefit from the input of others. 

When I got out of that appointment with my therapist, I texted a friend and said, "I let myself be helped." 
He quickly replied back, "I'm proud of you."

Look over that list again, and try to think about any other things you do that might benefit from recieving other people's help. You don't have to go at this whole recovery thing alone, you know. We bloggers are here, we know what it's like, and you certainly have people in your own life who are probably waiting to help you. But you can't know that until you let them in.


  1. I really really love this post.

  2. I needed that. Letting myself but helped is so hard for me!


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