Reaching out has never been an easy task. The first time I discharged from residential, I left with a “goodbye book” filled with messages and contact information from patients who had left before me and those I left behind. On almost every page was written “ASK FOR HELP!!!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not silent. I’m loud in an all caps kind of way. I talk in every group. I offer words of wisdom. I’ve even learned to verbalize the walls I run into. Yet, turning to the person next to me and giving them a chance to change my perspective or walk with me through the fight is a thing that makes my skin crawl.
Over time and with desperation, I’ve evolved. It used to be that bringing my hardships to my treatment team was unfathomable. That has surely changed. Now, however, it is seeking support in my peers. There is something about the dependency upon another untrained person to pick up some of the pieces that feels wrong. It’s partially a lack of trust and a need for self-sufficiency. There’s some hopes to appear all-knowing and unbreakable and some hesitancy to drag others into the depths of my suffering. There is a reluctancy to exhaust all of my resources, as if asking for a hand on all ends is the red button that’s meant for the worst of worst emergencies. And then there’s just the part that doesn’t know how, or, rather, doesn’t think to ask. In all other areas of my life, I haven’t had to ask for help. Growing up, I did mostly everything alone because I could. I learned to self-soothe and that felt best. I could rely on myself.
Eating disorder or not, we, as humans, are meant to grow in groups. We have language and such highly elaborate emotions in order to thrive with one another. We are structured to be imperfect in order to get needs met with support. It is in helping others that we develop purpose to give to ourselves. Even if we could subsist on our own, we are not supposed to.
With more recent bumps in the road, I’ve found myself stuck in the hesitancy to reach out. Though I remembered I can’t do it on my own, it hadn’t struck me how else I could do it. I began to call anyone I thought could listen. I went through my list: my therapist, my dietitian, others on my treatment team. It wasn’t working all the way. I’ve never had to pick myself up out of 24 hour care, and the distance over the phone, the lack of immediate security and the inability to comfort within myself shook my parameters. I needed more.
Yesterday, I cried, “I’m not getting the help that I need.” I didn’t know what it was I wanted, though. I could feel what was missing, but I couldn’t identify how to fill it. A therapist replied, “You’re asking for more support, but you’re not using the support around you.” At first, I was pissed. For the first time, I’m struggling and telling the truth. I’m saying I need more help and I’m not getting it. I can’t win. It was my fear exacerbated: if I ask for help, it still won’t be enough. I won’t have any back up. Then it sunk in. I am living with six people who are all well-versed on eating disorders having had them themselves. My stubbornness in wanting only staff to help was keeping me trapped. I was mind-reading in the expectancy that I was already a giant nuisance. I was limiting myself.
So, last night, with exhaustion and depression setting in and my bed calling my name, I chose to find sustenance in something other than my pillow. I sat around the TV with all of the other girls and watched Soul Surfer. I ate my snack. I laughed. I felt community. I let people in and it helped. It is the constant engagement in my surroundings that can save me. I just have to look and ask.