National Eating Disorders Association

Reaching Out for Help is Not a Sign of Weakness

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Reaching out for help.

It’s so hard.

After all, you’re not that sick. You’re still functioning and there are many women and men who are so much sicker and need so much more help.

You still have it under control, right?

I mean, you’re eating. A bit. You’re hydrating yourself. A bit. But what you’re doing is not that serious. You can always stop, but you want this, don’t you?

This is exactly what I have been thinking for most of my life. Whenever my sister or my mom tried to convince me to start seeing a therapist, I replied with the platitude of not being sick and having it under control.

Yeah, right.

I knew deep down that I was walking down a terrible path of ruining my health and my life. I was frightened, miserable, lonely and oh so lost, but I wasn’t going to ask for help.

Should I want to recover, I would do it on my terms. I wouldn’t eat what nutritionists told me to eat. I wouldn’t do what therapists suggested and I sure as hell wouldn’t admit myself to a treatment program.

I would do it my way.

Well, this mindset played its toll on my body, my sanity and my life. This thought pattern kept me imprisoned in a living hell for 14 years and almost cost me my life.

When I was physically so weak and mentally so worn out that I didn’t know how to continue, I was ready to get treatment – or so I thought. I got myself a spot in a beautiful clinic and I was proudly saying that I was willing to gain weight and become healthy.

Instead, what I did was continue to lie – to my treatment team, my family and myself. I cheated on my food intake sheets, I looked my therapist in the eyes telling him one lie after the next and I continued to lose more and more weight. I was standing on a cliff inching my way closer to the abyss.

Even though I wanted this agony to stop, I believed that I couldn't let anyone know how dark it was inside my mind. I thought that if I told the entire truth, I’d be judged, alienated or considered too sick. Until the end, I believed I just couldn’t be liked if I shared what was really going on.

When I couldn’t take the inner abuse anymore and I blurted it all out like a toddler saying a dirty word, what I experienced was an abundance of love, understanding and support. Nobody screamed at me. Nobody abandoned me. Nobody made me feel like a failure, a mad person or worse.

The relief I felt was beyond this world and as a result my recovery was finally going somewhere good.

I wish I would’ve seen sooner how important it is to reach out for help, be open and say the truth. I wish I wouldn’t have lied to my sister, who was so worried and whose childhood was way too affected by my eating disorder. I wish I would’ve told my mom the whole truth, let her hold me and take care of me. I wish I would’ve relied on the help of experts sooner than later and would’ve listened rather than judged.

Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of courage, strength and hope. Being open about your inner trouble isn’t the first step on the road to perdition and judgment; it’s your best opportunity for recovery, freedom and life.

The truth is that most of us just can’t fight our eating disorder on our own and why should we? Why should we take up this humongous battle on our own and not rely on expert advice and guidance? Why should we not take advantage of the many resources out there, created for us? Why should we not let our family and friends help us when this is exactly what they want to do?

Because you’re scared? That’s normal. But what’s scarier than living the rest of your life with your eating disorder? What’s scarier than ruining your health? What’s scarier than continuing to do what you are currently doing?

If you’re honest to yourself, you know the answer: Nothing.

Deep down, you know that reaching out for help is your life anchor, your first step back to life. Don’t wait any longer and use the many resources and expert advice out there for you.

And if the prospect of counseling is still too scary for you, then confide in a friend, someone who is close to you, someone you trust. They will be glad to help you and hold your hand.

Yes, taking this initial step of asking for help and sharing your struggle is terrifying, but the rewards of your courage will amaze you in ways you can’t even see right now.

Take a leap of faith, go for it and give yourself the chance to live the life you deserve. 

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