May 26, 2011
Those of us who struggle with eating disorders also struggle with having close friends. Here we have a little discussion on the topic with some tips on how to keep the friends that are healthy and how to let go of those that are not.
It’s funny, when I think of boundaries I visually imagine Newport Beach, CA on the 4th of July. The police install barricades as long as an entire street block that force people to walk around. Most of the time the barricades are seen as a nusance for beach goers and partiers who have to walk the stretch around the barricade in order to get to the other side, but as annoying as the barricades are, they keep us safe. Boundaries in friendships are the same way, though we may find them difficult to execute and adhere too they keep our friendships healthy and safe.
Some find the word “boundary” to be misleading. It arises the thoughts of distance and if you’re friends with someone why would you want to push them away right? On the contrary, boundaries aren’t made to push others away, they are made to take care of ourselves. For those of us in eating disorder recovery, taking care of ourselves is a difficult task. We fear that people will reject us if we tell them how we truly feel, what we truly need or what we really think. Thankfully boundaries can help us to take care of ourselves in friendships. Starting with Sharing and Watching…
Sharing and Watching….
For those of us with addictions its easy to be impulsive; meet someone, call them our best friend and indulge them with all of our struggles and secrets that go with living. Of course we’re human and we’re females; we love to share; however, we need to make sure that the people we are sharing with are trustworthy. Just like in a romantic relationship, take your friendships SLOW. Share a little bit of information and then wait to see to how they handle it. Do they tell others? Do they listen intently and ask follow up questions? Do they relate? Do they not care? The answers to all of these questions will determine if you share more information with your new friend in the future. If you find that your friend does over share you might want to set up the following boundary, “ I share personal information with you because I trust you and respect your opinions. However, when I hear that you share this information with others it makes me want to share less. Can we change that?”
Opposites tend to attract in romantic relationships and friendships. It’s not uncommon for a loud and extroverted person to befriend an introverted and shy person. This can turn out to be an awesome friendships where each one teaches the other about new hobbies and interests. However, the energy level of each person varies quite dramatically. Telling someone that you can’t hang out because you’re too tired or just don’t feel like it is okay. Sure, they might be bummed but that’s for them to deal with, your job is to take care of yourself. If they guilt trip you for not being able to hang out then you might not have the healthiest friend. If you need to set up a time boundary you might want to say something like the following, “I’m stoked to hang out tonight, but just so you know, I can only hang out until 11. I need to get some rest.”
Drinking/ Eating ….
A lot of us in eating disorder recovery no longer drink alcohol and abstain from certain foods. It’s important that our friends support our decisions and don’t poke fun or single us out for not participating in certain activities. If they do, it’s our responsibility to put up a boundary and tell them, “You mean a lot to me, but so does my sobriety/abstinence. My choice not to drink is a choice I have made for my own health. Can you try to support my choice instead of singling me out?”
Some feel that if you’re friends you have to be in each others lives every waking moment – Not true. In fact distance is a healthy thing. It’s important that each person in a friendship be independent of the other with separate friends and hobbies. If you notice a friend feeling left out or annoyed at your independence, you might want to set up the following boundary, “I sense that you’re angry with me. Can we talk about it?” From this vantage point one can express their fears and hesitations.
The bottom line is you deserve to have healthy, loving friendships... we all do. It's your job to make sure that the people you let in your life are adding to your life, not taking away from it or causing you to stumble in your eating disorder recovery. There are tons of people out there to be friends with, look at friends the same way you look at romantic relationships...don't settle!
May 12, 2011
Our series on boundaries continues as we explore what boundaries should be in place before a person in eating disorder recovery resumes dating.
There is something about dating the opposite sex (or the same sex, depending on your fancy) that makes all the hard work of eating disorder recovery slip right out of our hands. Dating make us revert back to pre-eating disorder recovery where we had no voice, no opinion, no boundaries, we were simply at the whim of others preferences. Who would want to go back to that? And what is this mysterious power that potential companions have over us?
My theory is LOVE. Potential companions, suitors and dates have the one thing every person with an eating disorder is starving, binging and purging over, it’s love. Love encapsulates the same idea that if “I just get to the right weight…I will feel lovable” or “If I just make you like me….I will feel lovable.” However, more often than not being the right weight or finding the right guy only makes us feel lovable for a short period of time and then we’re back to square one. In fact it’s the process of working so hard to be the “right weight” that gets us into rehab. As well, it’s the behaviors that go along with “doing anything to make someone love me” that keeps us alone.
So what is the solution to these problems? They are boundaries. Kind of like a meal plan that keeps us physically healthy, boundaries in dating keep us emotionally healthy. Being a woman in recovery from an eating disorder, I have made my mistakes in dating…a lot of mistakes. Here are some of my personal favorite dating boundaries:
Reservations – Women with eating disorders like to get into relationships very fast. We divulge personal information, backgrounds, traumas and it’s not healthy. One reason it’s unhealthy is you don’t know this person yet; so take the time to get to know them. Tell them a little bit of information and see what they do with that. How they react. If they prove to be trustworthy give them more. Stay in check with yourself too, it’s an unhealthy sign when someone just spills their guts in front of a stranger. Think of it like making reservations at a restaurant; you call ahead and ask someone to save your seat, but you don’t have to go. You could always call and say, “I changed my mind.” Check this person out and if they aren’t what you want don’t be scared to cancel your reservations. It happens all the time.
Car Door – You know how guys open your car door for you? It’s a chivalrous thing to make sure that you get in safe. Girls with eating disorders have a hard time protecting themselves and making sure they’re safe. If you’re gonna be getting physical with someone make sure that you
1.) Ask them if they’ve been tested (Note: If you’re too uncomfortable to have this conversation with the person, sex might be pretty uncomfortable too.)
2.) Make sure you’re physically protected.
Dinner – For many of us food has held the our worth in its hands. If we don’t eat we’re lovable, if we do we’re not. This thought process easily transfers over to men. We think that if he says the right thing we’re lovable, if he doesn’t we’re not. This is dangerous territory for both people. The best boundary a girl with an eating disorder can put up in this scenario is an Emotional Boundary. A girl with an eating disorder needs to come to a place where she realizes that her worth is counted in much more than scales, calories, cute texts and dates. Her worth is in the fact that she was put on this earth for a beautiful purpose, that there is a God/ Higher Power that loves her beyond she could ever imagine and the love of that power is the only love that truly matters.