I’ve always had a tricky relationship with my body. Not enough for a diagnosis or for my friends and family to worry, but it was something that played on my mind most days.
My issue wasn’t extreme or life threatening like you see in the news. I was managing a full-time job, had a great relationship and life was okay. I just hated what I saw in the mirror like everyone does, right?
And I tried to ‘fix’ it. I’ve tried most diets, researched them all. Spent embarrassing amount of money on different books and fads and the conclusion was always the same… I’m not TRYING hard enough. It’s my fault I’m this way.
I was in this cycle of dieting, failing, emotional eating and then finding myself feeling worse than when I started. And then we’d go again.
In the back of my mind, I knew I had a problem but it’s all so normalised. Facebook is full of ‘success stories’ and people becoming a ‘better’ version of themselves, and Instagram is basically the how-to guide to fitness and #WhatIEatInADay. I scroll and scroll, telling myself that if they can do it, I can do it (internally shaming myself for all the years of failure.)
It was a very lonely place to be. I couldn’t talk about it to friends as I was embarrassed. I couldn’t relate to the body positive movement and I didn’t qualify for the ED community. I was alone in this. I’m just another silent female relying on an unhealthy relationship with food to manage my emotions and complex feelings towards my body.
Befriending changed my whole perception.
I can’t remember how I found First Steps, but I know I had reservations. I made a referral and signed up for their befriending support and had to wait a bit to be paired up with some poor soul who was going to have to listen to me for months on end.
It provided an end to isolation and a gateway to understanding.
Being me felt really lonely. I was surrounded by family and wonderful friends who are really supportive, but I couldn’t tell them what I was going through. Befriending gave me someone with no emotional investment in me or my situation which was important. I find it easier to confide in people I don’t know and having a befriender who can listen means no fear of conflict or someone holding this over me for years to come.
It opened my eyes.
By this point I had tried every door and pretty much any ‘fix’ I could find to no avail. I knew this service wasn’t going to offer a me the solution or any quick fix, but it did open my eyes and offer an entirely new perspective which was the magic cure for me. The conversations I had showed me that my life doesn’t have to be defined by how I looked or what I ate in a day. I had missed out on so much: experiences, memories, friends and embarrassing moments grandparents tell their grandkids about.
It made me realise my feelings were valid.
I was always pretty worried that I shouldn’t be bothering them. It felt like I was taking the spot of someone who REALLY needed this, but my befriender reassured me that what I was feeling was valid, and whilst I don’t have a diagnosable eating disorder, I’m struggling and deserve a helping hand. And that felt good.
Admittedly the first few chats felt weird. I went with email befriending, because the online video option sounded quite intense for me at the time but it was still difficult to type out what I was feeling without it sounding completely ridiculous. In time I realised that these emails gave me the luxury of writing anything I needed to, no matter whether I was in search of advice or just saying IT, processing IT and getting IT off my chest.
This stranger(ish)’s advice is something that has stuck with me, always. It helped me change my ways and seek out support in other areas of my life which were impacting me and my body.
Being able to email someone whenever I needed was so important. Was I on my way to developing an eating disorder? We’ll never know. But it was definitely a risk. I wouldn’t receive more than the agreed two responses a week but knowing I could send emails whenever I needed to was a huge help, and I recommend this kind of support to anyone.