I feel like in society, there’s this idea that we can’t ask for help until all hell breaks loose, until we’re in complete crisis, until we’re having a major meltdown, until the shit hits the fan… However you want to put it, our pride can often stop us from asking for help until we absolutely need it. We wait until we’re at rock bottom before asking for advice, asking for a hand with our uni work, asking for a shoulder to cry on, asking for help to follow our meal plan, asking for accountability for something we may be struggling with. This isn’t even specific to eating disorders – I think to some degree, this can be true of us all at various times throughout our lives.
During the last 3.5 years, I’ve had a few admissions in different eating disorder units for inpatient treatment. All of those admissions happened when I hit rock bottom – I felt like I had to “justify” going into hospital, I felt like things weren’t “bad enough” to go in, that I “wasn’t that sick”, that my “weight wasn’t low enough” (just FYI it’s not ABOUT the weight). And I’ve been in treatment with people who have experienced these thoughts too. “Other people are worse off”. “There are people who are sicker than me who need that bed more than I do.” “I don’t deserve inpatient care / treatment.” The excuses to confront the illness are endless.
Here’s the thing: recovering from an eating disorder is scary. Change is scary. The anxiety about what people may think of us if and when we do ask for help is overwhelming. And the thoughts about not being “sick enough” can often be relentless. But recovery – ongoing and long-term recovery – isn’t about making a few steps forward and then ending back up at square 1. It’s about prevention. It’s about continuing to make progress, however long the process may be. Slip ups happen, and behaviours can creep in, yes – but that’s the point where we need to stick up our hand and ask for help. Someone who’s been dragged out to sea in a rip and is drowning doesn’t wait until they’ve almost drowned to raise their hand, do they? In fact, it’s generally the very first thing they do. Why should it be any different when it comes to mental health?
And because of this, sometimes extra appointments with health professionals or a few weeks in hospital for a little boost to keep ourselves on track – sometimes these things are necessary. My dietitian and I planned way back in July that I’d go back into hospital during my mid-semester break late September for a little top-up, and to get back on track after a few old behaviours have slipped back in here and there. And yeah, it’s hard to go in when I feel like things aren’t that bad. It’s hard to go in when I feel like people will be judging where I’m at with my physical health in comparison to where I was in April. But it’s not about what people think, it’s about me and it’s about my recovery and so I’m going to do what I gotta do to continue getting – and remaining – well.
Don’t buy into the belief that you have to “justify” asking for help. Don’t buy into the belief that you aren’t “sick enough” to receive treatment. These things are bullshit. You deserve help and you deserve to recover, so gather all the resources you possibly can and fight with all you have.