There are strict rules of etiquette around what you do and what you don’t talk about; socially acceptable themes of conversation – and those that should be kept behind closed doors or under a stiff upper lip.
We’re scared of giving too much away, of putting ourselves in the firing line of judgement or criticism or idle chitchat – self-editing’s an easy habit to slip in to.
Most people aren’t that bad. Most people appreciate a little honesty. Most people are willing to listen –
- if you’re able to talk.
Exposing the eating disorder elephant –
It’s hard to approach the subject politely. There’s not that many nice things you can really say about an eating disorder; but, talking’s key to getting better – and you get over the formalities pretty quickly…
And then, suddenly, you’re not alone in your head anymore.
After the claustrophobic silence, there’s someone else there to challenge or support or question – or just understand.
It’s surprising how many people get what you’re going through. It’s refreshing to get a different perspective on it all. It’s a complete relief to be honest and open and real – even if it’s a little scary.
I started talking in therapy. Not, I’ll admit, in the first lot of therapy (it took a while for the penny to drop); but, when all the barriers had been broken down. When I had nothing else to lose.
You don’t need to reach that point.
Talking isn’t about giving away your power – it’s about getting it back.
When it was being particularly virulent, the eating disorder shouted louder than I did. It deafened – and then deadened – me.
Talking levelled the playing field. It cranked my own voice up a notch, and let a few new voices in. There’s power in numbers and my head couldn’t compete: it eventually shouted itself into oblivion.
When I was really ill, I never felt quite real; I always felt a tad jekyll-and-hyde-like – the ‘voice inside my head’ version and the ‘how I should appear to the rest of the world’ edition. It’s okay to have facets but bulimia split me in two – and then made me feel like a fraud.
Talking made me whole again: it got the inside out there.
If you talk about things, you can relax a little: the skeleton won’t fall out the moment the door’s opened. If you’re honest about things, that horrible “they wouldn’t like you if they really knew what you were thinking” charge has a little less clout.
When the eating disorder told me that I was terrible – I could check it out.
When it said that food was bad – I could ask someone else.
When it made me feel worthless – I could say how I was feeling –
- and be heard.
Being listened to makes a huge difference.
Finding your voice is the start of the transformation.
P.S. A brief note on safe people and safe places…
We’re all adults here. Talking to the office gossip or the guy you end up sitting next to on the train is not likely to help; equally, a Birthday party’s not the right occasion and some days are better than others…
The therapist’s couch is a great starting place; but, if that’s not your cup of tea, people you trust and people who care about you can make all the difference – and you tend to sense who they are.
Checking out if its good to talk is sensible (because the abruptness of someone on their way out won’t be all about you), and remembering that people are only human will help.
And, if bearing your soul’s a step too far, a good conversation’s a great tonic in any context – ‘It’s good to talk’ may sound twee, but it makes a lot of sense.
Visit the Someone to Talk to Page for more information.