A Key To My Recovery: Creating a Support Network

19 Nov, 2018

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that require intensive, evidence-based treatments delivered by a range of trained professionals. However, there are many other pursuits and activities that some people may find helpful. This blog is part of our series, A Key To My Recovery, which provides a direct reflection of the unique experiences of the author and may not be the experience of everyone. Always seek out professional advice for you.

We asked InsideOut volunteer, Rachel Wilson, about what helped her most on the road to recovery from an eating disorder.

I have spent quite a lot of time considering what one factor helped me the most in my journey to recovery. After considering the help provided to me by doctors, psychologists, dietitians, and close friends and family, I realised that I can’t simply name one thing that helped more than another. The truth is that I needed the support of many people, all of whom continue to play a part in my journey to recovery.

In August 2015, increasing anxiety caused me to start restricting food. For the first few months, I believed I had this temporary ‘diet’ under control. My GP at the time referred me to a psychologist to help manage my anxiety. As the sessions went on, I could only admit to ‘disordered eating’ rather than having an ‘eating disorder’ which in my mind were two very different things. By late 2015, my weight had dropped but was still in the healthy range. The focus on my weight and diet was the ultimate distraction from my anxiety, but then I began to withdraw socially. I didn’t eat with people during my lunch break and avoided seeing my friends when food was involved. It was this change in my behaviour that was eventually questioned by one close friend, who I worked with and knew very well.

This friend was someone I came to rely on heavily for support and advice throughout my illness. He listened to me and tried to help me see the damage I was doing to myself, mentally and physically. He was the friend that told me the things I didn’t want to hear but needed to. This friend was the one who caused me to finally accept how unwell I was and seek more specialised treatment.

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with Anorexia by a new GP I had started seeing after my previous one retired. This doctor was kind and sincere in her efforts to support me. I was referred to both a dietitian and a new psychologist, one who specialised in treating anxiety and eating disorders. After only one session with my new psychologist, I felt relieved and hopeful. She could explain the thoughts in my head better than I could. I remember wishing I had gone to her sooner. Throughout my recovery journey, she has celebrated my success in becoming healthier and has also given me many strategies to cope when the negative thoughts and feelings of anxiety are triggered.

My dietitian works closely with my psychologist and has educated me about the science of food. For the last couple of years food had so much emotion attached to it. With the help of my dietitian I now have a better understanding of the nutritional needs of my body and practical strategies that allow me to enjoy eating again.

I was fortunate enough to have the support of another friend, who I worked with very closely. I made the decision not to hide my illness from her and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I would spend more time with her each week than any other friend or family member. I knew that she was going to be the person who saw me struggle at times and I didn’t want to put my energy into hiding the illness like I had in the past. I had come to realise that recovery had its up and downs and I needed someone I could trust to understand that. She supported me by listening when I needed to talk and often reminded me of how far I had come in my journey. She was the positive voice I needed when my thoughts became negative and she continues to empower me to persevere with my recovery.

With the help of these people, both the professionals and personal friends and family, I have become healthy again. It has not been from the efforts of one single person but rather a combination of different people offering different types of support. I am fortunate to have these people in my life and am stronger in my resolve to stay healthy knowing that these trusted people are there to support me in my recovery journey.

If you are seeking to build a support network for your recovery from an eating disorder, check out our Treatment Services Database for specialists and programs near you.