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One thing I find very universal with eating disorders is how poorly they get along with relationships. Ruining existing relationships, or preventing new ones, eating disorders isolate us in so many ways. It replaces relationships with family, friends, and loved ones with one relationship that is all encompassing: the relationship with the eating disorder.
I know that for me, the timing of my eating disorder played a huge role in my lack of friends. I struggled most during the transition into high school and throughout high school, which is when most of my friends were having first dates and girlfriends. Meanwhile, I was at the nutritionist or fighting with my parents about what was for dinner. Did I feel left out? Not really. I didn’t feel at all, all I could focus on was the seemingly imperative task of making sure my dinner, or snack, or whatever was something my eating disorder would approve of.
Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that suffer at the hands of an eating disorder. My friendships were shallow at best, simply because I was closed off. Having a secret so huge that takes up such a large part of your life makes it hard to connect with people on any level. I think it would’ve been different had I been open about my eating disorder, but at the time that didn’t even seem like an option. Even now, looking back on my decision to not tell my friends, I don’t think I could have had the courage to tell everyone, or the strength to fight the preconceived notions people would have about me once they knew.
I know that being a guy had a lot to do with this stigma and judgement I felt was unavoidable if the truth were out, but I don’t think it would’ve been easy at all had that stigma not existed.
So yes, eating disorders most definitely do isolate sufferers. But what about recovery? I know that I personally haven’t heard much about this, but I have realized, looking back upon my recovery journey, although the eating disorder itself isolates so harshly, the recovery process brings us together in a way few other things can.
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I have met a lot of wonderful people through my recovery, and I can honestly say that each and every one of them has had a positive impact in my life in one way or another. I think it is something about the shared struggle of recovery that brings people in recovery together. The ability someone has to understand your situation when they have been there for themselves is a very powerful thing.
For me, a lot of the relationships that grew during my recovery were were mostly through blogging. From letting each other know we believe in each other, to celebrating our victories together and laughing together, these friendships had, and continue to have, an extremely positive impact on my life.
In addition to meeting an incredible support group full of people who understand where each other are at, I also got a lot closer to my family. The process of working through recovery with someone requires so much trust and hard work, and realizing that my family was willing to do that for me brought me a lot closer to them.
The important distinction to make is the difference between the wonderfully supportive recovery communities of family or online, and the lack of relationships when entrenched in an eating disorder.
It’s no coincidence that when we fall further into our eating disorder, our relationships fall to the side, and that when we walk further in our journey towards recovery, our relationships grow deeper and more meaningful. I think strong relationships help us progress towards recovery, while at the same time the stronger our recovery the stronger relationships we are able to support.
I know it sounds cliche, but I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, my eating disorder included. The good comes with the bad, and while the eating disorder and isolation is certainly a bad thing, Without having gone through it I wouldn’t have entered into the recovery journey, and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet the wonderful people along my journey.
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