At The Emily Program, your story matters. We believe that it has the power to heal, inform, connect, and inspire, and sharing it at a safe, appropriate time can help you and others. Here are five reasons you might consider sharing your recovery story.
“My voice is what matters, not Ed’s, and every time I share my story, it empowers me and strengthens my recovery.”
Your story is yours alone to share. Once free from the secrecy and shame of your eating disorder, you may find power in your ability to share your experience on your terms and by your rules. While you did not choose your illness, you chose recovery—and now you can also choose why, when, and how you talk about it.
In sharing your story, you amplify your own voice, the one that’s now louder and clearer than that of your illness. You further distance yourself from eating disorder symptoms and behaviors. You elevate your own values, dreams, and passions instead, affirming belief in an identity separate from your illness.
“I can’t help but wonder if we all shared our story, maybe we could do our part in lessening the shame.”
Sharing your story may help normalize dialogue about eating disorders and mental health. To talk about your experience is to actively challenge the idea that mental illness is taboo. Doing so simply and powerfully asserts: It’s okay to talk. It’s okay to share your struggles, past and present, and to break the silence that perpetuates shame and fear. It’s okay to regard mental health with the same urgency and importance of your physical health and to vocalize these needs equally.
Participants of a 2016 study better understood the severity and complexity of anorexia after listening to stories of recovery. Learning more about the lived experience of illness and recovery allowed them to shed stigmatized views. It is possible your story has the same power.
“People’s reactions to my secret showed me that I wasn’t alone.”
If eating disorders thrive in isolation, recovery thrives in community. Your story may connect you with a community of people united by a shared goal of lasting recovery. This community may hear and understand your experiences in ways that your friends and family simply cannot.
Swapping stories in this community may build solidarity that helps protect your recovery in our diet-crazed, appearance-obsessed culture. In sharing strategies and experiences with one another—successes and challenges—you can band together in the pursuit of healthy relationships with food and body. You can support each other in spite of the larger culture that often does the opposite. There is power in these numbers.
“Being educated on the signs and symptoms of eating disorders may have led me to seek treatment earlier.”
Though eating disorders affect more than 30 million Americans, the public’s understanding of these illnesses is still largely informed by myths, misperceptions, and outdated stereotypes. Your story may be an educational tool, a means by which you can teach others about these complex conditions. Each shared experience can influence the way eating disorders are seen and understood—and a better understanding can aid in earlier detection and intervention.
Individual stories are necessary to show, for example, that eating disorders affect people of all ages, sizes, genders, races, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Each story is a valuable addition for its unique description of illness, treatment, and recovery.
“I’ve also learned that vulnerability is a strength, not weakness, and that sharing my story will not only help me but that it has the power to help others.”
Your story is undeniable proof that recovery is possible. Often a formative chapter of your larger story, it may also be life-changing for others. It may be evidence that the seemingly impossible can be done, that someone who once felt extraordinarily desperate or hopeless could heal. It’s hope, a foundation for every recovery.
The Emily Program features stories of recovery on both our blog and podcast. If you are interested in sharing yours, please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheens, E., Rhodes, P., & Dawson, L. (2016). Encountering anorexia: Challenging stigma with recovery stories. Advances in Eating Disorders, 4(3), 315-322. doi: 10.1080/21662630.2016.1217495
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