When you’re a kid- let’s say four or five- if you are lucky enough to have come from a caring, healthy family environment, you are told when to eat. Your parents tell you how much to eat, and when to eat it, and when to play and when to sleep and when to get up.
Once you get a little older, you get more freedom. You get some choice in what you do and wear and yes, what you eat. If you want a biscuit, you don’t have to ask anymore.
When you get even older, all of that responsibility is on you. You make lists, shop, cook, eat, wash up. Rinse and repeat. You set the alarm clock and get up, or wake up when you want to. You are in control of your own life.
Unless you develop an eating disorder, and enter recovery.
You spend a lot of time watching the clock tick by, near to crying (sometimes crying) in frustration because you know you need to eat- and hell, you want to eat- but until somebody says ‘you need to get some food now’, you ‘can’t’.
You don’t know what to buy in a supermarket or how much is okay to spend. You don’t know if people will look and snigger and gossip if you buy a bag of crisps.
You don’t even know when to get up anymore. Getting up is having to deal with breakfast. But getting up is a chance to exercise. But getting up is hard when it doesn’t feel like there’s a point.
Eating disorders take you back to four years old, and they take your voice away at the same time. In recovery especially, you might go back to needing somebody else to do things for you. Needing somebody else to tell you what to eat, when to eat, how to eat it.
It’s a bit like relearning, reverting. And of course, for a lot of people who have never had a healthy relationship with food, it’s just plain learning. Learning to eat what you want in the right amounts, learning to not over or under-eat. It’s erasing the strict rules you set yourself and introducing healthy guidelines.
So yes, you might need somebody to tell you how much to eat. You might need somebody to tell you how much exercise is okay.
In recovery, you might just need more. That is okay.
It can be hard to accept that, I think. To accept that you need treating a little differently to most other people. To accept that it’s not just okay, but necessary.
You might feel like that four year old again (or for the first time). You might feel so dependent and needing- and if up until now you’ve relied on yourself and your own distorted beliefs, that can be hard.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that in recovery, you are going to need to rely on people. That is okay.
You aren’t always going to have the answers, or know the right thing to do. That is okay.
You are going to need more help. You are going to have to depend on people. Those things are truly, genuinely okay.
Accepting help and guidance doesn’t make you weak. Just because you feel like a child again doesn’t mean that’s what you’ve become. You are still a strong, independent, vibrant, amazing woman or man or girl or boy. Even if you feel so powerless and dependent inside, you are not.
Making the choice to let somebody else help you is one of the bravest things you can do. Don’t let pride or shame get in the way of that.