If I could persuade you of one thing that would greatly improve your chances of recovery it would be this: Do not hide.
Stay in community. Stay in the open. Stay where you are seen. DO NOT HIDE.
An eating disorder loves isolation. That’s where ED thrives. By isolating from people, ED can maintain his hold on you you by keeping you from eating, by exercising too much, by binging or purging – because in isolation, no one is close enough to notice. No one can step in to help, no one can see that you need to be loved into recovery.
ED loves to be alone in your head.
I hid for 17 years. I changed from a social teenager and young adult to a home body who made excuses in order to stay home, who pushed attempts at close friendship away, who pretended she liked it that way, all so that I could follow ED’s rules without someone calling me out.
That’s a lonely place to be. And a dangerous place. Being alone with ED is life threatening, no matter how much he tells you he is making your life better. An eating disorder loves isolation, but you must reach for community.
What Community Is
I’m an introvert. I need my alone time to regroup and revive, but there is a serious difference between an introvert needing space from the overwhelm and ED stealing the joy of community.
Community is fellowship with other people by building relationships that allow you to give to others just as you allow them to give to you – of time, conversation, empathy, celebration, sadness, encouragement . . . Community is a desire to connect with other humans. It is never defined by a need to hide. Community is focusing on others first. The deepest community allows you to be yourself and know that you will be loved through your faults and mistakes.
ED is selfish. He puts his own needs first every time. He is too consumed with his own rules to allow you to reach out to another for deeper companionship. He is too prideful to relinquish control over who sees you. So I know what I’m asking of you when I ask you not to hide.
I know that I’m asking you to defy ED. And in defying ED, I know that I’m asking you to share your insecurities, your fear, your anxiety, and your loyalty to these beliefs that ED has been feeding you for so long.
I understand, heart to heart, that asking you to admit all of these things to another soul feels nearly impossible. Because by admitting, you have to let go of your security blanket called ED. You have to drop your cover with nowhere to hide what’s underneath.
I’m asking you to expose yourself in the most vulnerable way. I’m asking you to admit that you have a problem. I’m asking you to admit that you need help. I’m asking you to ask for help.
And that is scary as hell.
There is no fear like the fear of letting go of ED. It’s a fear that grips your heart and chokes your airway. I remember when Benj confronted me and I couldn’t hide anymore. I was terrified. Terrified, because I couldn’t hide behind my rules anymore. I felt my “control” slipping through my fingers.
But, friend, this is me asking you to trust me and trust the community around you. I am asking you to fight ED. The two of us understand precisely what ED does alone and isolated in our brain; the two of us understand the gravity of what I’m asking you to do. The eating disorder loves isolation, but I’m here to tell you that you can do this. You can do it. You can ask for help and find community. Asking for help is your line in the sand. Asking for help is your true act of courage.
You can do it.
But you can’t do it alone. You must ask for help and open the door to a community that matters more than ED ever could. You need to trust me. Trust those who see clearly. You need community again. ED is going to tell you that you don’t. Remember, the eating disorder loves isolation. ED will call me a liar. He’ll tell you to shut this page down. He’ll give you all the reasons you are fine and I am a psycho on the other side of your computer screen. But please, stay with me and know that I understand.
I understand that ED keeps you safe from feeling vulnerable.
I understand that ED keeps you numb from feeling loss, from feeling guilt, anger, loneliness, depression, from feeling scared, feeling exposed, feeling less than.
I understand that ED is your safety net, your ability to control at least one thing in your life: your weight.
I understand the deep, profound fear of losing that one piece of control and seeing the scale rise.
I understand that feeling out of control allows all the out of control things in your life to come rushing at you in one mountainous tidal wave.
I understand that ED’s grasp is a vice grip on your life.
I understand why it’s easier to hide.
You need community. With God. With people. With yourself. You need to let go of your safety net called ED, be willing to feel the negative in order to feel the love. Yes, ED may help hide you from the pain, but he also hides you from the beautiful.
Ways to Live in Community
In order for ED to know that he is not wanted, you need to make conscious, intentional steps in the polar opposite direction then what he’s telling you. You have to make every possible decision away from ED that you can. Every choice matters. And every step is going to be like trudging through thick muck. Every step will be hard fought. But that is why you will stick out your hand, and your community will take turns reaching out to you and pulling you forward. Together you will walk out of the swamp until you are standing on solid ground.
So, that means finding community and throwing yourself into situations where you can have support, give support, and realize the joy of relationships. Each decision to clasp hands with others builds a more solid community of love and support.
- never eat alone (or ED will invite himself to join you)
- a step farther – share your meal plan with someone who can hold you accountable
- create a network of friends who you can text or call when ED is pounding your brain
- join a support group of those who understand ED’s power and can share your struggles and celebrate your triumphs
- have friends over to scrapbook or color or watch a movie or paint toenails or plant flowers – anything
- join a Bible study or a book club
- find a committee at church or in your community that you care about and that could use your help – not expertise per se, but your help
- form a Friday night card club
- find a therapist and don’t skip appointments
- become a member of an online community, whether its ED support, a moms group, a baking group, a gardening group, a whatever-you-find-interesting group
- join a gym and find an exercise buddy
- join an aerobics class or yoga class or boxing club
. . . the list goes on.
The point is not to surround yourself with people all the time, but to surround yourself with people in situations you used to hide from or activities you used to do on your own. Don’t give ED an open invitation to come back by forgetting that the eating disorder loves isolation. Start building relationships, and you will add more and more locks to the door that keeps ED out.
Do not hide.
Stand on a hill and wave your white flag. Be brave in the face of fear. Trust that you will have a community of love to encompass your hurting heart and help you heal. Don’t hide, my friend. Let God pick you up and gently carry you to the arms of community. As you step farther and farther from ED and learn to trust those God has placed in your life, you will experience joy in stark contrast to ED’s isolated, muted world.