Saturday, April 24, 2010

Question # 21: When You Feel You've Exhausted the Topic

An anonymous reader recently wrote:

"Hi Arielle :) I'd really appreciate if you could give some advice on what to do when you feel you exhausted the subject of your ED with a friend, or family, in my case my boyfriend, yet you still feel like you do need to talk about it sometimes."

I'd start off by asking yourself a few simple questions.

Why do you feel you've exhausted the subject? Is it because of a reaction you get? Or is it because of a reaction you're afraid you'd get? Don't let fear get in the way of your needs.

Also: Do you feel misunderstood? Do you feel like you're not being heard? Is it putting a strain on the relationship or are you just afraid it will?

Make sure you assess your particular situation. It's very important.

Talking about your eating disorder is not something you can give yourself a limit for. You can't say, "I will only talk about it 3 times this week and if I've reached my max and need/want to talk about it again, I won't." It doesn't work that way.

If you feel you are holding something in, it will put even more of a strain on your relationship and on yourself.

Remember that having an eating disorder is like many other things. If someone comes home every day and says, "I had a bad day," because they dislike their job, they are saying the same things regularly and you wouldn't tell them to be quiet.

It's true that it can be hard for people to listen to things about eating disorders (or your eating disorder in particular) on a constant basis. Just be aware of how often you talk about it and how they might feel. Also be aware if you are repeating yourself a lot. Where do you hope to get with bringing up the eating disorder?

You know as well as anyone else that listening to someone complain on a regular basis is not fun. So ask yourself if your eating disorder talks are productive or therapeutic or helpful. If they are just complaints, they aren't helping you or the person listening to you.

Also remember that your partner or friend is not your therapist. Some things are better discussed in therapy. There is a difference between requesting support or acknowledging something, and having a mentally draining conversation frequently. It's really hard for some people to listen to certain things that therapists are more accustomed to hearing. Not everyone is equipped to be able to deal with everything. If you're not in therapy, consider it. Could be you need that outlet to get your thoughts out and right now only have a special person in your life to discuss these things with and it's becoming too much.

That said, needing to talk about the eating disorder is normal and silence will not get your far in recovery. If you hesitate to speak up when you need to because of another person, you may need to evaluate your relationship with the person. If they are not willing to listen or will not try to understand why you need to keep talking about the eating disorder from time to time, the problem may be the relationship.

Anyone recovering from an illness or addiction needs support, and if you are not getting support in the right quantities or in the right ways, you need to be honest with yourself.

For some people, keeping a journal is enough to make them feel better. For others, talking about struggles and thoughts are necessary. If you are constantly wishing you could talk about something, but don't, your relationship is not healthy...and neither is your recovery.

Any successful relationship needs good communication. And any successful relationship needs support flowing both ways. Do you have these things?

It may be that the person with whom you are in a relationship is not able to give you the support you need. This happens. Some people can not give us what we wish they would give us. It is not necessarily the fault of the person and there is not necessarily anything you can do to change the relationship dynamic. Sometimes it's just about acceptance, which can be very hard. Always put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand what they are hearing from you and how it might make them feel. BUT don't do this at the cost of your own well-being. PLEASE remember that compromise is a solution, NOT completely giving up your desire to talk about something. If you keep quiet for someone else's sake because you feel or they feel that you have exhausted the subject, you are really cheating yourself.

Be aware.
Be thoughtful.
Be willing to compromise.
But do not be silent.
Your recovery will suffer.


Anonymous said...

The problem is that people who hasn't lived anorexia doesn't understand whan you talk about it. Maybe they try, maybe they only pretend to be interested in what you say, but, at last, they don't understand. And they are afraid about it. They panic. People is always afraid in front of something they can't handle. And they slip away. They leave you alone, in the end.
That's why you can't talk about anorexia with somebody.


paper*dolly said...

sweetie I just wanted to remind you what a fantastic, bright, intelligent, beautiful, amazing and inspiring woman you are. Im so thankful to work with you and to know you. You inspire me continously and your strength and spirit so encouraging and hopeful. I adore you xxx