I am a very lucky person. For most of my adult life I have had many friends around me. But for years I felt like the loneliest person in the world. It is only now, after having gone through years of treatment that I have realised that it was only myself that I had to blame for my loneliness. For the most part I found that my friends and family have been supportive to me in recovery and it was only my own fears and insecurities that was making me push them away.
I told almost no-one about my problems
For nearly a decade I have struggled with eating disorders and depression – this has lost me places at university, jobs and in some cases, friends. For nine of these ten years I tried to keep everything inside, I told almost no-one about my problems – or if I did it was the bare minimum, leaving out the torment that was raging about inside me. I was terribly ashamed of what I was going through, convinced that others would think less about me if they really knew what was going on.
Being honest about what I was going through allowed people to actually understand what was going on with me
It was only about a year ago, after hitting rock bottom and the second major overdose in a few months that I decided I had had enough. Before I had been only flirting with recovery – not really trying, not really wanting it. But now it was different. I wanted recovery, not because anyone else wanted me to but because I wanted to do it, for me: that was one of the key things that allowed me to make the progress I have made. The other key aspect of recovery was honesty. For the first time ever I was totally open about what I was going through, I wasn't ashamed of what I had been through because I was beginning to realise that it was actually shaping me into a stronger person. To my absolute surprise I discovered that instead of people being horrified about my mental health problems people were actually pleased that I was beginning to open up. Being honest about what I was going through allowed people to actually understand what was going on with me and that meant they could support me more appropriately. And more importantly I was accepting of that support.
I have newer friends I have met through treatment who have inspired me to realise that it is fine to recover
I honestly wouldn't have made it to where I am today without the support of others around me. I have lots of very good friends, some without eating disorders that have been there stoically for me throughout the years, regardless of how much I tried to push them away. I have newer friends I have met through treatment who have inspired me to realise that it is fine to recover: I'm not going to magically lose a part of who I am by recovering. Because I have been able to enjoy more activities in my normal life I've also made new friends through these activities – which serve as a brilliant distraction and just a reminder of how nice it is to be just ‘normal’. And then, of course, there is my amazing, dedicated family: they have cared for me despite the horrible times I have put them through. At times I've also tried to push them away but they have always let me know that they are there whatever the weather.
Some people are very sceptical of friendships made in treatment, particularly by those people experiencing eating disorders. But I honestly don't know where I would be without the people I have met on my recovery journey. Being able to support others too has been hugely motivated me towards recovery, knowing how much the support, advice and inspiration of others in recovery was for me I get a lot out of being able to pass on what I have learnt to others. I hope to be able to do this professionally in the future as a mental health nurse.