For those of us who have spent time working with individuals trying to overcome an Eating Disorder, we know how scary it is for someone to live with the disorder. We also know how scary it can be for someone with an Eating Disorder to contemplate living without it. This is partly why it is so difficult for those affected by an eating disorder to accept treatment, and start the painful process of giving up the eating disorder. When The Doctors TV show contacted us to try and offer treatment to a young woman battling with Anorexia and Heroin addiction, we couldn’t help but want to help. The combination of a medically threatening eating disorder and powerful addiction is a perilous one. The addiction and eating disorder will both fight to keep their place in a person’s life, regardless of how dangerous they are. We knew that it would be difficult for someone deeply entrenched in an eating disorder and addiction to be willing to receive our help.
The process of coming to terms with and accepting help is grueling. It is like a war between the healthy self, which they may be out of touch with or has been neglected for sometime, and the disordered self, which at that moment is much stronger. This internal struggle is compounded by underlying beliefs that we shouldn’t need help or we don’t deserve it. Accepting help is not as easy as we might think. Imagine that someone asked you to give up the thing that you hold most dear in your life, your most useful, helpful, prized possession, and asked you to trade it in for some mystery object that you didn’t have a clear concept of, and every fiber in your body told you not to trade it in, but they assured you it would be worth it in the end. That is a tough sell for any of us, yet that is what we ask of someone when we ask them to accept help. For those with eating disorders and addiction, their disorders have been their most reliable and sometimes only form of coping with emotional pain.
Accepting help means they will have to willingly be vulnerable and face that emotional pain without the protection of the Eating Disorder. Encouraging someone to accept is very difficult, but remembering this key principle can assist:
Everyone deserves help. No matter who you are or what you think you have done, everyone deserves help. No one is expected to recover alone. Remember that others have been helped and you can be too. We tried to convey our belief in recovery on The Doctors TV show, knowing that although someone might not have a clear vision of what their life could be in recovery, we do. We have seen many people who needed help, and we have seen how those people can find recovery, find themselves and build a life for themselves they never thought possible.
Accepting help is hard, but it really is a significant step on the road to recovery, a step at which you realize you no longer have to walk it alone.
Matt Keck, MFT
Cielo House Founder and CEO