National Eating Disorders Association

Don’t Go the Journey Alone: This is How You Can Develop the Ultimate Support System in Recovery

Ashley Michelle Williams

Life is not meant to be lived alone. We are here to empower one another and to be there for one another through the different positive or negative journeys we face. I have begun to realize that more and more. Indeed, it is the people who are around us—particularly during our struggles—that push us forward and allow us to conquer the battles we face. 

I don’t know about you, but when I was battling with my eating disorders, I couldn’t imagine a time when I would be normal, when I could look at food without wanting to count every calorie, when I could not eat something and then urgently want to run to the bathroom, or when I could just hang out with my friends and not feel insecure. The struggles of having an eating disorder in many ways consumed my life. 

Looking back, it was this constant annoyance inside my head that made me feel trapped, uneasy, and completely unable to have any sort of a “normal” life. And the saddest part is the toll it took on my relationships for that moment of time. I kept pushing people away, wanting to hide my disorders in shame. I feared those around me becoming aware of them, and how they may negatively view me. But interestingly, once they became aware of my eating disorders, this “negativity” that I feared never happened. In fact, quite the opposite happened. 

They embraced me. They strengthened me. They encouraged me. They helped heal me. 

Making the first step to begin to recover from my eating disorders created the most dynamic and empowering relationships of my life. It also gave me the most important notions of my life. 

What I realized is that, I couldn't recover from my eating disorder alone. I needed the help of my family and friends to push me through, to make me believe in myself again, to help me to love myself again. I had to shatter this idea in my head that I could go it alone; I had to shatter the belief in my head that that I wasn’t good enough, skinny enough, and all of those things. It was my relationships with the people around me that helped me shatter these ideas and who helped me through. I am forever grateful to them. 

I also now have come to realize that putting together these relationships ultimately started with me. It had to begin with me.

It had to begin with me deciding that I would let go of my shame in order to get help from the people who loved me the most. I had to be the one to believe I could recover and to take hold of the journey that I needed to embark upon. 

So how does one develop a support system to help you in your recovery from an eating disorder?  

Well, I recommend that you just reach out, plain and simple. You simply make the choice to reach out.

Then, once you make that decision to take action, you should recognize the people in your life that you feel you can trust and who have your best interest at heart. I initially did this. From there, I went to each of them and told them more about how I wanted to do better, how I wanted to recover, and if they could be someone who I could turn to for help with this. 

When it comes to family, it can seem like this is not needed, like they should know to do this. But rest assured, it is definitely needed and heartwarming for you to do this. It helps your loved ones to gain a different perspective on what you are going through and feel a new sense of understanding in helping you.

Yes, that is the daunting part. Yes, it comes with shame. But you have to do it. As much as those around you want to help you and support you through your eating disorder, you have to be the one to take the initiative and to fight for your life, fight for your freedom, fight for what your ultimate dream of “normal” is for your life. You have to be the one. You have to tell the people who you love that you need help and that you need them to see you through this: that you need them to encourage you, to stand by, to check in on you, and to not let you give up on your journey of recovery.

I know this is a lot to take in but trust me when I say, don’t go the journey alone in your recovery. Never. By doing so, not only will you become better, but from your journey, you will be able to inspire those around you as well in knowing they can get through anything and that they can turn to you one day whenever they’re in need. 

Ashley is the founder and CEO of RIZZARR, a social publishing platform that aims to collect the voices of young people around the world to empower them and to positively transform their lives. She has a background in journalism. Ashley has worked for NBC News, WBAL Radio and USA TODAY. She graduated with honors from the University of Southern California, earning a B.A. in broadcast and digital journalism as well as minors in international relations and Spanish.

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