Written by MEDA Undergraduate Intern, Sage Feltus
There seems to be a time in a person’s recovery where they feel empowered and stable enough to share their experiences with an audience. At this time, a person may feel motivated to participate in an event like Hope & Inspiration at MEDA, or perhaps share their story at their high school, on a college campus, online, or even at a treatment center through a chapter of the organization Project HEAL.
Sharing a recovery story is certainly not apart of every person’s recovery journey, but in an effort to destigmatize this illness I see it becoming increasingly popular to share details of the descent into illness and journey into wellness with online and in person audiences. Personally, I have shared my experiences many times at events like Hope & Inspiration, at treatment centers, on my college campus, at Project MOVE as well as on my personal Instagram and Facebook pages. In this blog post I want to share what I have learned about how to responsibly share your eating disorder recovery story to an audience. All of these tips have been informed by NEDA’s guidelines on how to share your story publicly and MEDA’s guidelines on how to share your story at Hope & Inspiration.
Remember, your recovery is above all what is most important. It is always a risk to share your story because you may not expect your own emotional reaction or how others may respond. There are ways to prepare to share your story to protect your well-being first and foremost.
Here are some do’s and don’ts of sharing your eating disorder recovery story:
- Share your story because you are committed to your recovery, excited about recovery, and eager to tell others that you are in recovery.
- Talk to your current support system about your choice to share your story of recovery publicly.
- Call on your support system to be present before, after, or during the time you share your story.
- Discuss sharing your story with your therapist if you are still in psychotherapy.
- Understand that you can back out at any time. You do not have to do this, this isn’t apart of everyone’s journey and your recovery belongs to no one but YOU.
- Discuss how your eating disorder developed but also how you got better or how you are still getting better.
- Mention resources you used to maintain/achieve recovery (i.e., treatment, therapy, support groups, hotlines, Recovery Record, etc.)
- Know what feels comfortable to talk about and what feels too uncomfortable to talk about at this time (you do NOT need to share every detail of your recovery!)
- Be prepared to deal with your own emotional reaction to sharing- have a game plan for how you will take care of yourself before and after you share.
- Mention specific numbers (i.e., high or low weights, caloric intake, hours spent engaging in physical activity, etc.).
- Discuss specific methods of behavior use (i.e., specific ways to binge, purge, restrict, count calories, etc.).
- Provide “tips” about how someone could “do” an eating disorder (i.e., “I would use X amount of laxatives a day” or “I would exercise for X minutes a day in order to compensate for Y amount of food”)
- Give detailed physical descriptions of yourself at your worst with your eating disorder.
- Contribute to the misconceptions that eating disorders only exist in smaller bodies.
- Focus only on the descent into illness and forget to talk about the journey to wellness.
- Forget to emphasize that no one can get better alone.
- Show “before and after” pictures or “transformation” pictures.
Photography from Chantal Kellerd Photography