Part of ED Recovery Is Honoring My Needs

February 28, 2023 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

When I spent three months in residential treatment back in 2010, the clinicians would frequently encourage the other patients and me to communicate and honor our needs. This practice was meant to teach us how to separate our own inner voices from the control and influence of an eating disorder. As well-intentioned as these clinicians were, however, I remember asking myself: "How can I learn to express my needs if I'm not sure what they are?"

Flash forward almost 15 years, and I have become more intuitive about identifying what I need—sometimes, I will even share that information out loud. But there's a final step that continues to elude me: taking action to meet those needs. While I would rather ignore this responsibility, I know a crucial part of ED recovery is honoring my needs. I wish it came more naturally to me, but as with just about any skill, it can be honed with commitment.  

Why It's So Hard for Me to Honor My Own Needs in ED Recovery

Several years ago, I reached the conclusion that it was unsafe to verbalize my needs—much less hold onto the expectation of meeting them. I was an adolescent in the uncomfortable throes of puberty who, for reasons still unclear, had been ostracized by almost everyone else at school. In order to navigate this circumstance, I leaned into the clearest solution my developing brain could think of: Be small, mute, unnoticeable, and self-sufficient.

"Need nothing from anyone." This became my mantra. To have a need meant to show vulnerability and accept the inherent risk of rejection. I was not interested. By the time I exited those turbulent teenage years, I was so numb to my core self and so caught in the spiral of eating disorder behaviors that I would not have been able to recognize or articulate my needs if the flashiest neon sign told me what they were. Even now, at a stable point in ED recovery, I still bristle at this idea of honoring my needs. I hesitate to assert myself and claim space in the world. All these years later, I continue to ask: "Is it safe? Am I deserving? Should I just stay mute and small?"

I watch my husband know precisely what he needs at any given moment, then take the initiative to meet this particular need without issuing a reason or an apology. He just does it, which simultaneously angers and inspires me. I want to be more like him, but I feel unworthy of my needs in the first place. I taught myself not to hunger or thirst for anything—in both the literal and metaphorical sense. My instinct is to deprive, restrict, and ignore. As my therapist often reminds me, however, this scarcity mindset is incompatible with a life of abundance. Part of ED recovery is honoring my own needs. Since I cannot escape that reality, I might as well learn to embrace it.

Here's How I Am Learning to Honor My Own Needs in ED Recovery

What is your current relationship with honoring your own needs? Does this feel like a natural part of ED recovery, or is it uncomfortable to even wrap your brain around this concept? What are some coping mechanisms that make it easier for you to recognize, articulate, and honor your needs? Please share in the comment section, below. 

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2023, February 28). Part of ED Recovery Is Honoring My Needs, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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