Talking to someone you love about something difficult you are going through is never an easy conversation. We all want to keep those we care about free from pain, and if we feel like we are the ones that are going to be causing it, opening up can be an extremely tough ask.
Whilst this is true for anything that you might be going through, dealing with an eating disorder is tough, and helping family and friends to understand is important for your recovery. That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to help you open the conversation.
Pick a safe space to have the conversation
The most important thing before having a conversation like this is to choose a place where you feel comfortable enough to have it. It could be around the dining table, in your bedroom, or even out in nature, as long as it’s in a place where you feel calm.
If you need to, have the conversation side-by-side
Talking about the issues that affect us can be really daunting, and starting this conversation is always challenging. It’s often the thought of looking at someone’s face and their reaction that puts us off. Instead of sitting opposite who you want to open up to, try sitting side by side, or going for a walk whilst you discuss it. If this feels wrong, you could try writing it in a letter, or even simply connecting with them via Whatsapp or another messaging platform. All means of opening up to someone have their pros and cons, but the important thing for you is to start it any way you feel most comfortable.
Make sure they are in a position to hear what you have to say
Not everyone in your life will be a good person to go to with something like this. Have a think about if you know someone who you’ve confided in before, or who you might have heard talking about similar issues in a sensitive way. Going to someone else you know is currently dealing with a similar thing might not be a good idea, as it could be triggering for both of you. Instead, perhaps someone has recovered from their eating disorder, or they are simply a good friend to you. If no one in your life feels right, there are plenty of helplines you can use, a list of which is at the bottom of this page.
Be prepared for questions
It is likely that whoever you choose to speak to, they will have some questions for you about what you’re going through. If you feel like you can’t answer them, the best thing is to be honest. It could also be that they might jump into overdrive trying to get you help. Understand that this is coming from a good place, a place where they want to help. If you feel like it’s too much, share that with them. Perhaps suggest taking a break from the conversation and doing something else until you feel ready to talk again.
… And for emotions
It might be that the person you are talking to blames themselves for your condition, or reacts poorly to your current situation. It’s important for you to remember that it is no one’s fault, and you cannot help how someone reacts to what you have to say. It’s understandable that this could make you reluctant to tell someone else, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t. Take a bit of time to regroup after a difficult conversation, and have a think about who else in your life might be better placed to understand what you are going through.
Have a conclusion ready
A conversation such as this could have the ability to drag on for a while, especially when there are lots of questions and emotions involved. If you don’t feel like that is something you can manage at the moment, have a conclusion to the conversation ready. Whether that is saying you want to find help, or you simply are grateful for them for listening but you need to take a break from talking about this, it will help you to know before jumping in that this uncomfortable situation won’t last forever.
If you need any further help, reach out to us
We are always here. If you need further support, you can reach out to our community here for confidential support and advice.
Alternatively, you can seek specialist support at the BEAT Eating Disorders helpline, on 0808 801 0677 or beateatingdisorders.org.uk