The gifts of eating disorder recovery are immense and incredible. In our other two posts on the topic of recovery, we focused on the meaning of GIFTS OF EATING DISORDER RECOVERY and Physical Freedom as a Gift of Eating Disorder Recovery. Eating disorder recovery in regards to relationships can mean the relationship to food, relationship to body, relationship with self, and relationships to others.This post will focus on recovery and healthy relationships. Even more specifically, healthy interpersonal relationships meaning relationships between people.
In my recently released book, EATING DISORDERS: Decode The Controlled Chaos – your knowledge may just save a life, I state that “Eating disorder sufferers focus all of their energy and attention into the dark world of their eating disorder, often leaving their family, loved ones, and friends behind.” Relationships are affected when one is in the depths of an eating disorder, or any type of addiction. This is especially true when one may feel or have felt like the only connection and relationship they have is the one with their eating disorder. Those who have struggled from an eating disorder, along with those who have been affected in any way by the wrath of an eating disorder, most likely understand that any or all of those close relationships are affected in a negative manner. The secrecy, avoidance and/or denial results in distrust, withdrawal, difficulty communicating, and a lack of emotional intimacy. For example:
- I slowly stopped returning phone calls. I said that I would do it tomorrow but then another day passed and another until the shame and guilt led me deeper into isolation.
- I am not a liar, but when it comes to my eating disorder or other addictions, I can look right into the eyes of those I love most and lie. I will protect my eating disorder at all costs.
- My relationship deteriorated, how can I let someone touch me when I am so repulsed by my own body?
- I make plans with a friend and have every intention of going, but as time grows closer all I can do is think of every reason possible why I have to cancel.
The connection between eating disorder recovery and healthy relationships tends to be a concept which is more accepted at different times along the journey of recovery. Learning to trust others and becoming trustworthy is often a painful and daunting task. Eating disorders and addictions leave a great deal of destruction in their path. So, while some of these relationship gifts of eating disorder recovery may be extremely subtle, some will be much more pronounced. Some come earlier in recovery and some further along the journey of recovery. Recovery can result in relationships filled with honesty, trust, sincerity, affection, healthy communication and clear boundaries. Some examples of healthy relationships as one of the many gifts of not only eating disorder recovery, but recovery in general, includes:
- The ability to actually speak my truth and have someone listen to me and even actually hear me.
- The ability to use my voice and not be questioned.
- To be believed and know there were no secrets or lies.
- The ability to go out with a friend, which is a big deal in the first place, and laugh.
- The ability to be present and engaged instead of comparing self to others.
- To allow my significant other to hug me without me pulling away because I was too focused on him thinking I was “fat”
- I am married, I have children and I love my family.
- I have people in my life that I can call and we can rely on one another.
- I have a group of women in my life that I truly love and they truly love me.
- I can go to a social event and freely engage with others.
- I am able to help others and serve as a role model of woman who has recovered from an eating disorder.
The list goes on and on and is so personal for each individual. Please share some of your stories of recovery and healthy relationships. Everyone needs hope and to know there is a light and beauty ahead on the path of recovery. It is so important to reflect on the unique gifts that we have experienced through recovery and share with others to give hope those who may still be living in the darkness of an eating disorder.
You can also learn more about eating disorders and recovery by reading my book, EATING DISORDERS: Decode the Controlled Chaos. If you or someone you know or love may be struggling with an eating disorder, please utilize the resources listed below to help find support and treatment in your area. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and ericaives.com
International Eating Disorders Professionals Association (IAEDP)- iaedp.org
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)- nationaleatingdisorders.org
Eating Disorder Treatment and Information Centre edreferral.com