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  • Writer's pictureShannon Williamson

How important is support and connection in recovery

One thing I have never been particularly good at in my life is reaching out and telling people I’m not okay. I grew up in a house where everything got put under the rug - but eventually that rug is gonna get bigger and bigger until you’re tripping over it every day.

One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn in recovery is communication and reaching out to the people you love and even some you don’t.

Not only is it helpful for the people in your life to understand you a bit better and to be a bit more patient in certain situations, but I also found it helped me feel more validated. Being more open also helped me feel lighter: in a sense, the monster in your head can’t continue to torture you once you tell someone what’s going on; When you open a conversation about the monster and you realise you’re not facing it alone, it’s not so scary.

I am blessed to have the best & most beautiful souls around me but that doesn’t mean telling them or asking them for help was easy.

My Mum has been one of my pillars in recovery. When I first moved back in with her, I really struggled to open my mouth and tell her when I was struggling. I felt like there was a hand over my throat warning me not to tell her. but once we worked at it and she was so patient with me, I was able to open up and now we have the best communication we’ve ever had.

Another huge pillar in my recovery is my therapist, Cate. When I first spoke to Cate I was really reserved and I filtered everything I said, because I was terrified for her to see the cracks and to know that I was falling apart. Even in therapy I was trying to hold it together and it took me such a long time to feel okay about messaging her when I was struggling because I had it in my head:

She has a life, I shouldn’t bother her.”

“Ugh I’m probably annoying her.”

“What if she leaves because I’m too much.”

That took a long time of bonding with Cate and her reassuring me that none of that was true, helping me to see feeling like a burden to people was from my past. The eating disorder just didn’t want me to get help and move forward. As a therapist and mentor Cate is now one of the mainstays of my life and my recovery.

Another pillar in my recovery is my best friend. She was with me when I hit the “I’m gonna get healthy and eat better.” phase of my eating disorder. We went to the gym together & shared weird eating habits. We walked hand- in -hand straight into that vortex together.

For a long time we both didn’t think anything was wrong. I always worried that if I told her I wasn’t well she wouldn’t believe me (that’s because of my own trauma not who she is) but when I relapsed in 2020 she was the one who found someone online who I could talk to; she was the one who also suggested a therapist- that was the only reason I realised I wasn’t well and needed help.

When I came back home from living in Aberdeen, my friend was such a rock- every challenge and restaurant we went to, she was so patient and so helpful. I didn’t even have to say anything and she knew: she would just take my hand and be there. I don’t struggle so much in restaurants anymore but I will never forget those times that she got me through.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you that you’re gonna be lucky every time you tell someone you’re not well, I had people look me up and down and say “you don’t look ill.” Because I’m not underweight.

The thing is, anywhere you go, you’re always gonna get idiots and insensitive people but that’s not a reason to internalise and hide how you are really doing. Even though you might get the odd co-worker that still talks about your weight or their diet or get the odd family member who comments on your food, I believe telling the people you love and trust is always worth it because you’re choosing yourself. You are telling your eating disorder to do one and that’s one of the most important thing in recovery.

Me personally I tell most people that are around me in certain situations. Obviously I wouldn’t just slip into conversation at a bar, but when I’m at work and an alarm to eat goes off on my phone or someone talks about their weight or a diet I will set my boundary and ask them to not talk about it with me and most people that I have done that with have respected it and we’ve moved on, like I said before you’re gonna get the few dickheads that weren’t taught boundaries and wouldn’t recognise one if it flew into their forehead but you’re gonna get that anywhere.

So I personally think {and I know from my experience) telling the people I told that I wasn’t okay and I need help saved my life; because I got the right support and took the right steps I can live my life again : I can look forward to summer and hot weather and meals with my friends again.

So if you ask me, I will say Yes. Tell someone, feel the fear and do it anyway.


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