I’ve been having a bit more support for my eating disorder recently. This means more time away from work, absence which will definitely impact on my colleagues. I feel I owe the people I work closely with an explanation about where I am disappearing to and why. I also won’t see many members of my team for a while, and (if all goes to plan) I’ll look noticeably different when they do next see me. I am still fairly private at work (and in general) about my ‘issues’, but during the last year conversations about food and weight have gradually become part the normal fabric of life with my partner and close friends. Not so long ago I couldn’t say the words ‘eating disorder’ or ‘anorexia’ without becoming overwhelmed, so the talking is definite progress, even if I do feel ashamed and guilty, hate that it is necessary and feel horribly embarrassed that I find certain things so difficult the stage of life I’m at. I don’t know if anyone actually gets how embarrassed I feel every time I try to ask for help, help I don’t think I should need, can’t judge how or when to ask for, and can’t always say what I think I actually might need.
Setting these issues aside, I am also a bit fed up of hiding, feeling ashamed, being secretive and keeping things boxed away. It’s exhausting, makes me feel fragmented and (possibly) prevents me from fully recognising the true impact. Eating disorders are by nature shrouded in shame and secrecy. As long as you need something for self protection, it is difficult to share. When that begins to shift, openness begins to be a possibility. I don’t always mind people pointing out the things that need to change so much. But being open brings other issues. The impact on those around me, for example. When I share, I don’t just share my own story, I expose theirs, too. Or I give them information they might not want. We don’t exist in isolation and we can’t ignore the impact of our own ‘stuff’ on others.
The other trouble with openness is that it brings about the need to navigate others’ understanding of your label. And their understanding may be wildly different to your own. People do judge. They do set themselves apart. I may generally fit the label, but I don’t fit the stereotype. In some ways, this makes me want to speak out too. There is so much misunderstanding and if we remain silent, we allow that to flourish and we silence ourselves. But no matter what we say, some people will impose their own understanding. It’s a risk.
So how much do I share? With work colleagues, friends, family members? How much do I share in therapy? Really share? I am honest, more honest than I’ve ever been, but I still hold things back.