com·mu·ni·ty: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
In 2007, 44 years after I developed anorexia nervosa, for the first time I publicly shared my inner story. My hope was that if I helped one person with an eating disorder know that they had an illness from which they could recover, this would make my own suffering worthwhile. So began the most fulfilling, contented, purposeful period of my life. I became an advocate in raising awareness of eating disorders.
~ June Alexander
EVERYBODY has a story to tell, including YOU.
Whatever your age, writing about your ED experience and sharing it in a safe and supportive environment can help overcome the isolation and reduce the fear that characterizes the illness. When my therapist recommended several stories to assist in understanding how ED could sabotage thought patterns, my journey of self-renewal took a leap forward. These stories helped me to accept that the thoughts making my life ‘hell’ were not of my true self: they were productions and, in some instances, illusions generated by ED. The stories also helped me to understand how to distinguish and separate ED from ‘me’. They were immeasurably useful in helping me to believe that if others could say ‘goodbye’ to ED, I could, too.
Stories about others can help you understand this hold the eating disorder has on you. Writing your story for yourself can be helpful too. This process alone can help to define and distance you, as a person, from the illness. Re-storying your diary entries can assist in stepping back a little and discovering how your life has value and purpose. You may want to compile a record of events, correct misconceptions and misunderstandings, explore the effect of secrets, inform and educate and even entertain. Realizing that you can make your own story, hereon, is empowering. Only you can tell your story, and the mere thought of having this to reflect on, and draw on, as years go by, can be sustaining.
There are many ways in which diary writing can lead to a powerful connection with community. You can transform your diaries into a collective memoir to be shared with family and friends, as well as for possible publication. You can also take your diary writing online by blogging and posting on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. ED is an extremely isolating illness and finding a community, and a voice in that community, can encourage tremendous strength and healing.
I was limping along in my recovery after a 30-year struggle with eating disorders, until I stumbled upon an advocacy movement taking place on social media. Joining this movement exposed me to a passionate and caring community, and provided me with the opportunity to lend my own voice in support. As a result, I’ve felt empowered to ‘come out’ to family and friends, share my story online, become an advocate, and create friendships. I’ve learned so much from this community, and I’ve made leaps and bounds in my recovery with its support and guidance.
— Diana Beaudet
Participating and sharing in a recovery and support group can be a compassionate and healing experience. If you do not have access to a face-to-face group, participation in a supportive online community may help you in many ways. Joining The Diary Healer website community is a wonderful start! Other support groups can be found on Facebook, and you can create and be part of strong communities by following highly respected organizations and individuals in the ED community online via Twitter, Instagram, pod-casts and websites. These organizations and individuals provide often daily messages of support, education and information that encourage recovery and banish the notion that you are alone in your experiences and pain.
Where to get help and support…
A major part of recovery from an eating disorder is about making relationships work. This includes the relationship you have with others and especially your relationship with your own body and self. Finding the right help can speed the process. When accessing a health service, for instance, development of trust between you and your therapist is essential for progress to occur.
In many health services, there has been a welcome move forward in developing a collaborative approach to healing. This more person-centred approach can help you feel and see that you can bring something positive to the recovery process. The diary provides a powerful tool to assist communication. If circumstances deny you the opportunity to access a health service in person, or you feel apprehensive about sharing thoughts and feelings in a doctor’s consulting room, engaging in a safe and supportive online forum from the safety of your own home, or wherever you happen to be, may seem an easier and safer option.
The diary is typically seen as an intensely private document intended for the writer’s eyes, only. However, in today’s Internet-based societies, there may well be a place for the diary as both private and public, with an email, blog, app or other social media tool connecting the two with a virtual pathway.
These online resources add a new dimension to diary writing by allowing instantaneous creation, sharing and exchanging of information. The effect of this openness, however, can be difficult to predict, with potential for destruction, stagnation, healing and growth. This is because the method and extent to which you feel ready to connect, share with and trust others may change during the phases of an eating disorder.
Fronting up to a health service to tell a doctor that you think you may have an illness such as an eating disorder, anxiety or depression, can take much courage. However, starting to reach out on the Internet in supportive environments a good first step. Often, engagement in this way encourages self-healing and the accessing of health care services for the first time. People with an eating disorder, who have already accessed health services in person, also find that online engagement with peers can complement their regular face-to-face treatment.
Part of a home-based care kit
The diary can be a helpful tool when navigating the move from inpatient to community-based care. The key challenge for the treatment team is how to help you, the patient, play a significant role in your own recovery. Using the diary to develop a first aid kit can contribute to this. Right from the first visit, the therapist can start the empowerment process by emphasizing that your role counts. No matter which way you look at it though, recovery is hard work, and often the therapist’s guidance is necessary until you can take over.
Knowledge can be a powerful resource in understanding and overcoming an eating disorder. The Diary Healer offers a comprehensive resource list developed by eating disorder researchers, therapists, carers, parents and sufferers. It is a sample of the literature and support available to assist you. Remember that new information is continually emerging. Always hold on to hope and never give up.
Online writing tools like those offered on this website can enable family and friends who are caring for a loved one with or at risk of developing an eating disorder to access support from the comfort and convenience of home. Patient advocate groups or non-profit organizations that recognize the vital need for family and friends to be part of the treatment team and to actively support recovery typically provide this assistance informally.
In other forms of online sharing, people with lived experience of eating disorders offer support and self- care guidance to people experiencing an eating disorder today. Reliable online support links and resources include:
- Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) – www.aedweb.org
- Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.) – www.feast-ed.org
- Global Foundation for Eating Disorders (GFED) – http://gfed.org
- International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP) – www. iaedp.com
- Gurze/Salucore Eating Disorders Resource Catalogue – www.edcatalogue.com