Topic Tuesday: Recovery

“Asking for Help in Recovery” (By: Peggy Miller)

The first time I told someone that I had an eating disorder and needed help was incredibly hard. What I didn’t realize was that recovery would mean thousands more times when I would have to reach out for help even when everything in me did not want to.

Sometimes, those moments of asking for help felt like I was admitting defeat- like when I had to go to residential treatment after being in outpatient treatment for a while. Or when I had to tell many people I was close to in my life that I had been lying to them. After I left residential and felt very motivated for recovery, I thought I was done having to ask for help. What I didn’t realize was that recovery is not about having everything figured out so that you can do it for yourself, but being able to reach out and voice your needs when you can’t do something.

After being in recovery for a while, I felt like I should not have to ask for help anymore and like I had these expectations on me of being at a certain point in recovery and not needing help. However, the more that I did not reach out for support when I needed it, the louder my eating disorder voice got. Although residential treatment was so helpful to me, the process of learning to reach out to my friends and family in my day to day life and only have appointments with treatment professionals a few days a week was hard for me.

While in residential treatment, I learned to use my voice to ask for help, but since it was the staff’s job to help me, after a while I felt comfortable reaching out. Transitioning to outpatient treatment, I had to overcome my fear of being a burden or being seen differently when I asked for help. So often, shame keeps me from reaching out in the moments when I need it most. But shame also lets my eating disorder thrive. It gives it more power over me and makes me feel more alone.

The last few weeks, I have been learning the immense amount of bravery that it takes to continue to reach out for help in recovery. But also, I have been learning the freedom that this brings. The freedom of being known and of not carrying something so heavy alone.

As much as I think that asking for help makes me weak and is something I won’t need to do once I recover, the truth is that this skill is one that I will use throughout my entire life and that asking for help actually means I am strong. Eating disorder recovery is unique in the fact that not only does it give me the skills to overcome my eating disorder, but also to live a healthy, full life by teaching me skills to handle things that will come up throughout my life in different ways.

Whether you are trying to find the strength to tell someone about your eating disorder and ask for help for the first time, or whether you have been in recovery for a while and are trying to learn how to ask for help even when you feel like you should be okay, know that you are being so brave. You are not alone, even when it feels like it. Your struggle does not make you a failure or a burden, and as much as your eating disorder wants you to hide your struggles and “handle them yourself”(which is really your eating disorder handling them), being vulnerable gives your eating disorder less power over you. Even though the shame that keeps you from asking for help can seem crippling, there is so much freedom that comes in letting yourself be known, even in your darkest places.

About the Author

Peggy is a college student in Nashville, Tennessee, and hopes to one day become a therapist for eating disorders. She has struggled with some kind of mental illness for most of her life, and has struggled with anorexia for several years before choosing life and recovery by deciding to get treatment. She is passionate about recovery, and hopes to one day get to help a client find the freedom and hope that her treatment professionals helped her find. Peggy absolutely loves people, deep conversations, coffee, and most of all, Jesus. She aspires to show each and every person she meets that they are loved and worth immeasurably more than they can imagine.