November 2003
An eating disorder is like nothing I've ever experienced before. It was a cage that I was locked in and whose key was guarded by my own fears, a secret that I shaded everyone from. Nobody knew about my eating disorder - others' knowledge of one's eating disorder is completely under control of the disordered.

I worked in that mindset towards that goal for what seems like forever. It's made up such a huge part of my life yet I still have incredible difficulty explaining and speaking about it without diminishing it's profundity or becoming overwhelmed with confusion. Of course I can't try to explain something I don't yet understand, and I can't expect to feel comfortable telling someone about these experiences that have left me shameful, self-loathing and yet not doing much to stop them for two years.

It's a secret that I'm coming to terms with. I've struggled with it for three years alone, I've been prepared for my decision to recover. How can I expect someone to react when I reveal the darker side of myself to them? How can I make it understandable, even in the slightest way?

July 2004
I'm a little less confused about this than I was in November, so let me start again. Before you tell anyone about your ED you should consider why you want to tell them. It could be necessary for your recovery (e.g. your parents' support and help with therapy) or it could be important to tell a good friend or significant other to help them understand who you are. In my point of view, you should tell someone, but you don't need to tell anyone specifically, and you absolutely don't need to tell everyone. Telling a few people who are very close to you will help you both. Secrets lose power once they're no longer secrets, so it makes a big difference to let someone else know what's going on. Explaining your situation and teaching someone else about it will help you understand it with more clarity and learn something new yourself.

Being nervous about telling someone is completely natural, but if you think about why you're nervous you may feel less inhibited from opening up. You probably have little idea how the person will react. I expect everyone will be confused and shocked, but some people will express this through concern and kindness while others won't know how to express this in any way other than anger or ignorance. Be grateful if they listen to you and ask genuine questions about your experiences and what decisions you have or need to make. If they react angrily, consider why they're reacting this way - because they don't understand why you would do that, because you hid it from them, because you lied to them - and try explaining yourself further.

It can help to write, whether in a journal in preparation to tell someone or in letter form if you feel that would be a better way to confront the issue. Writing a letter gives you more time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it as well as taking away from the power of tension and anxiety. If you're afraid the person will react unkindly, writing a letter may be a good choice to start; telling them in person puts them on the spot and doesn't give them as much time to think it over. They can read a letter as many times as they need to understand what you have to say.

Don't put yourself down when you're coming out about this. Let the recipient of this message understand how important this is to you - if you make your situation seem petty and unworthy of respect, they will only understand it as petty and unworthy of respect. The opposite extreme of downsizing the disorder would be blowing it up (or even just going into too much detail?) into something that could seem threatening to the recipient. Find a realistic medium. I would include things like the feelings or thoughts you have that go along with your disordered behaviors, your understanding of why you want to recover, and what you're asking from them, which is probably support in general.

If they're really interested in understanding and helping you, that's great, and I hope you can both be comfortable with asking and answering questions. You can always offer material for them to read (e.g. a memoir of someone eating disordered who you can relate to), which I haven't done but I've spoken to others who have found it helpful. Don't be afraid to share anything that you think will be helpful to their understanding, but you don't have to share anything you're not ready to or not comfortable with.


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