National Eating Disorders Association
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How to Tap Into Your Support System at the Start of the School Season

Luz Lavado

Recovering from an eating disorder is a process that not only affects the ones struggling, but also the people around them, such as family and friends. The recovery process may be frustrating at times—especially during the back-to-school season—because family members or friends may not fully understand your journey or the additional stressors brought on by returning to school. Even when they have the best intentions to help you, they may not always know the right thing to say or do. Here are a few ways you can get the most support out of your loved ones as you start the school year.

Your eating disorder is not the same as someone else’s.

Each eating disorder is unique, so educate the people around you about your eating disorder, your triggers, and your battles. Don’t be afraid to tell them what bothers you or what comments trigger you, even though it may be scary. They won’t know what’s most effective until you inform them.

Your support system needs support, too.

It’s important for your support system to take care of themselves as they take care of you. Encourage them to participate in a support group for family and friends. Have them check out resources such as NEDA’s Friends and Family page, which will provide a parent toolkit and basic information about eating disorders.

Start with one person at a time.

It takes a lot of courage to build a support system so start small, perhaps with someone you trust, like a school guidance counselor. Have that person help you plan to talk to the rest of your family and friends. If you are in therapy, see if your therapist can assist you in communicating your needs and concerns to your family and friends. Remember: you are not alone and your support system wants to help you, but they will need your guidance to help you heal.

Communication and an open mind are key.

Remember that this is not an easy process for them either, and it is essential to have those important people in your life be a part of your journey. Try to communicate your feelings with someone trustworthy at home who you can go to when you feel stressed or frustrated. Encourage them to do more of what works for you and motivates you to stay in recovery, and to ask questions. You matter, your feelings matter, and your opinions matter; therefore, communicating them, while difficult at times, is very significant in this journey. 

No one has to recover alone. Having a healthy support system is crucial to recovery and hopefully these tips will help your support system understand how they can effectively help you and how they can help themselves. Recovery is no easy feat, but having a supportive group of people who understand you and have your back makes the road ahead a little less frightening. You’ve got this!