Losing Relationships To Your Eating Disorder
When you have an eating disorder, you lose a lot. Some of these things - weight, bone density, sanity, self-respect - can be regained during eating disorder recovery. Others - like relationships lost to your eating disorder - may never return.
Over and over again, the things that have caused the most tears throughout my eating disorder and recovery are not the lost years, the lost money, the not being where I "should" be in life. It is the friendships that saw me through hard times, the girls who should have been on my short list for a wedding party, the people I considered family that I no longer speak with.
Not every friendship will be destroyed during your eating disorder. I was lucky enough to have some friends who pursued me through the worst of it, and others who stepped away for a season, then returned when it was healthy for them. But there are also friendships, relationships, that you can't get back. People that you pushed so very far away that it would be too much a risk for them to let you back in.
First of all, if you've lost relationships over the course of your eating disorder, it is not because you are a bad person. All the negative talk that takes place in your head would like you to believe that, but it is simply not true. You are, however, human - and as such, you run the risk of hurting and disappointing others (and being hurt yourself).
Asking For Forgiveness After Losing a Relationship
The first step to attempting any sort of relationship repair begins with two words: "I'm sorry." And it's not an "I'm sorry, but..." You can't make excuses for things that happened in your eating disorder. Yes - you were sick. Unfortunately, being sick is not some sort of "get out of jail" free card. You still have to take responsibility for what you did, said, etc. during your eating disorder.
The only thing you can do is let the person know how genuinely sorry you are for how things turned out. You can offer to repair or replace or otherwise make amends for things you destroyed. But once you send that e-mail, that card, leave that voicemail...it's out of your hands.
The person you are apologizing to may never respond. They may respond and tell you that they have no interest in repairing the relationship. Even if they do want to continue in relationship with you, you will often have to deal with the fact the relationship is going to be altered. It may take months or years for this person to trust you again.
You cannot make them respond. You cannot make them forgive you.
You can forgive yourself.
Forgiving Yourself For Losing Relationships During the Active Disorder
Admittedly, forgiving yourself is easier if those you value have extended grace and forgiven you first. But even if your friends, parents, partners, etc. forgive you and let you back in, you will still have to face yourself. And until you can forgive yourself, you're not likely to believe you are worthy of recovery and all its benefits
Again, this isn't some sort of "get out of jail free" card. Your actions had - and may continue to have - consequences. But there is a difference between accepting consequences (a lost friendship, for example), and beating yourself up unnecessarily.
Forgiving yourself, in essence, is saying that you are no longer going to punish yourself for something that happened days, weeks, months, or years ago. It, like so many things in recovery, is a decision. You have to decide to try and believe that you are not a terrible person. Believe that you did not choose this disease. Believe that even though you chose wrong things in your illness, you are still worthy of good things, worthy of being healthy.
It's not going to happen in one day. It has taken me years to get to this point. And to be clear - I've not totally forgiven myself. That may be another few years yet.
But I am choosing to believe (even if I find it unbelievable) that I am not a bad person and I deserve better than an eating disorder.
You deserve better, too. But you have to choose to believe it.
Hudgens, J. (2014, January 10). Losing Relationships To Your Eating Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2014/01/the-things-you-lose
Author: Jessica Hudgens
This article I resonate with. I am 6 months into recovery, my mind and body are on a road to recovery however my relationships with my closest friends will never be the same. Non-existant to be frank. I have tried to rebuild these connections to no avail. I used to blame them for not understanding and myself. This article has allowed me to understand whats happening a lot better. It's almost like that old saying, one step forward - two steps back. I would have never thought the road to recovery would be a lonely one, but then I read articles like this which humble me and remind me I am not the only one struggling with recovery, and the realisation I have lost my girls.
Thank you for reaching out with such honesty and vulnerability in your comment. I want to applaud the work you are doing to recover, and I am so sorry for the pain you feel in those altered relationships. You are absolutely right, taking responsibility for actions and decisions influenced by an eating disorder is a humbling experience, but it can lead to so much personal growth and healing.
"Surviving ED" Blogger
this is probably the most important thing I have read whilst battling my eating disorder. And when I'm finding things really hard, it's usually this I come back to. Thank you for this post
This is probably the most important article I've read since deciding on recovery. I've been overcome with guilt, I still am every single day. But next week, I'm going to ask my friends for forgiveness, and try to suck the poison of bulimia out of my relationships. And once I've said I'm sorry, I can start to trust that I am a good person, just someone who got lost because of my ED.
I'm so glad you're determined to take back your relationships from your eating disorder. You ARE a good person and I wish you all the best in your effort to find yourself again.
This is something I need to learn to do!
Beautifully written and a very important message. Thank you for sharing!