When you use your courage to open up and seek help for an eating disorder, it’s disheartening to only be met with closed doors. Sometimes, despite your best efforts to seek care and support, things just don’t go your way. If you’re struggling to find support in your recovery journey, keep reading to hear how Recovery Warriors community member Tiffany Folk took matters into her own hands when facing a lack of support and resources.
Back in 2020 at the start of the pandemic not only was the world shutting down, but Tiffany felt like her dreams of recovery were shutting down too. For her, it seemed that the worst had happened – she was dropped from her intensive outpatient program and told to go to residential. But due to insurance issues, that wasn’t an option.
Support in recovery
Feeling alone and without support, her struggles were further compounded by her responsibilities at home. She had nine kids to care for, and felt a deep necessity to be “the strong one” for them. Even when it felt like her recovery efforts were falling apart, she put her needs on the back burner for her children. Tiffany was living two different lives. One was in the eating disorder world, and the other was the life at home where her struggles were kept hidden. It was a constant emotional battle to keep these lives separate.
Ultimately, Tiffany brought these worlds together by pursuing recovery. She became her own advocate and took matters into her own hands by finding a therapist and a recovery coach. She also joined the Courage Club here at Recovery Warriors’ which is a community that inspires healing and personal growth in recovery. It provided her with the training, accountability, structure, and community support she needed to make real change happen. Now Tiffany is in a completely different place, and surrounded by support and healing, including at home.
Even when facing a lack of support in recovery, Tiffany used her fierce determination to recover and reach momentous milestones. She also discovered that opening up about her needs, actually helped her to be there in better ways for her children.
Let’s go over three key lessons from Tiffany’s journey:
1. Embrace Vulnerability
Support in recovery doesn’t just come from the environment, but from within as well. It’s often the strong ones that need the most help. The “I need to do it on my own” attitude can be a defense against being let down. Tiffany struggled with opening up and asking for help, and showing that she too has needs.
If you’re someone whose needs have not been historically met, you may ask yourself how you can suddenly trust someone to meet them now. Enter an armor of self-reliance, which gives a sense of security and safety because you don’t have to rely on anyone but yourself. The trade-off is that your walls become so high and thick, no one can get in.
For Tiffany, even when she was in the depths of her eating disorder, she had a hard time letting her walls down:
I was closed off, I had that wall up. Breaking that wall down was one of the hardest things because that meant letting people in and trusting vulnerability, and allowing compassion from somebody else. I never thought that I deserved it or that I was worth it.
Once Tiffany started to embrace vulnerability, everything changed. The more she talked about her feelings, the more she developed freedom of expression, and it became easier to become vulnerable at home. Tiffany was surprised to discover that vulnerability actually IMPROVED her relationship with her children by helping her be more present in the moment with them, without being distracted by disordered thoughts.
Being afraid to ask for help is real. It leads you to feel utterly and totally helpless as you live with the unbearable shame and pain of an eating disorder. Opening up is the anecdote. Allow your walls to come down. Yes, this can be terrifying. Especially when you’re so used to the false security of the walls you hide behind. But remember, you don’t have to love every part of the recovery process. Parts of it are really challenging. But the rewards are worth it. And walls don’t always have to be bulldozed down, you can take them down brick by brick too.
2. Your eating disorder is a separate entity from you
It’s common to feel like your eating disorder defines you, or that it’s your whole identity. When you’re living with destructive thoughts and behaviors day in and day out, they can seem like a part of you that will never go away.
Never say never.
While your eating disorder can absolutely be a huge part of your life, and affect every area of it… your eating disorder is a separate entity from you. Learning to separate your eating disorder self, from your recovered self, is key to recovery.
For Tiffany, she felt like her care team was challenging HER when they were challenging her eating disorder. She explains how she realized that she and her eating disorder were not one and the same:
“Before I wasn’t sure where my eating disorder stopped and I began. It’s been a process to figure that out and realize which part is which. And that’s been hard, but it’s gotten a lot easier to separate the two and realize that I’m not one and the same as my eating disorder.”
Separate the two and realize that you and there is a whole other you, totally separate from your eating disorder.
3. Embrace your voice and advocate for yourself
For so long, Tiffany kept quiet. She didn’t use her voice and didn’t speak up about her needs. In recovery, she found her voice, and learned to use it:
“The one main thing that I learned in treatment, was finding my voice. I realized the power of my voice and how important it was to advocate for myself. That was something I never did before. I found my voice, and I asked for what I needed. That’s a big part of what has gotten me where I am.”
You are the expert on you. Nobody can advocate for you or speak up for you as well as you can. Like Tiffany, you can use your voice and advocate for your treatment and care as you walk the path of recovery. Some people may not like it when you start to use your voice, and that is okay. Because it’s not about them, it’s about you living authentically and vulnerably sharing your truth. So embrace your voice and advocate for yourself.
Finding support in recovery is possible, even when it feels like all hope is lost. It may not look how you pictured it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not what you need. And support doesn’t always have to be with someone physically next to you. You can find positive influences in podcasts, virtual treatment programs, social media, or online communities like Recovery Warriors. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you, and leaving what doesn’t.