I’ve been sprouting on about why I don’t think that sufferers and ex-sufferers of eating disorders make the best ED therapists. If you need to recap the posts are:
Why Eating Disorder Treatment Needs an Overhaul
Why I Don’t Think Ex-Sufferers Should Treat Eating Disorders
Why Do So Many Ex-Sufferers Want to Be Eating Disorder Therapists?
How ex-sufferers can help the Eating Disorder community
So anyhow, I realized that I didn’t really want to be an ED therapist for the right reasons, and so I focused more on my own recovery. Then, the more recovered I got the less being an ED therapist appealed to me. But I still wanted to do something.
So what do I do? I want to help. I want to use my experience of Anorexia to help other people in the same boat. I want to make them feel understood because when I was a sufferer I felt like nobody understood me. I want to make them feel that they are not alone, because when I was a sufferer I felt very alone. I want to give them support, because when I was a sufferer there was literally nobody I could find who could help me.
As a non-professional, my opinion is just that, my opinion. It is not a professional opinion, it is just a I-lived-though-this-and-you-
can-too sort of opinion. I can be honest. I can be raw. I can be vulnerable.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have responsibilities. I do. I’ll spell the responsibilities of the sufferer advocate out in a couple of weeks, but in short some of these responsibilities include:
– Making sure that people know you are not an expert, not a professional, and that your opinions are your own.
– Making sure you understand that your triggers are not the same as the cause of your eating disorder.
– Not getting too attached to your trigger-story and above all, don’t project your trigger story onto others—this won’t help them progress into seeking proper ED treatment.
– Not projecting information that you know might trigger other sufferers into relapse—I’m talking pictures of you when you were suffering or weight numbers.
– Make sure you are not reinforcing the already over-established erroneous views held by the wider population on what eating disorders are.
– Make sure you are looking after yourself first. As a recovered sufferer, it is up to you to show those in the throws of an ED what can be achieved. (This is also helpful to remember on those days/weeks when eating is more difficult—because we all still have those, don’t we?)
There is a really important role for the non-professional ED survivor, and that is being a part of the non-professional ED community. When we communicated and support one another we learn from one another’s experiences.
More importantly we can support one another in the way that only an experienced sufferer can—just by being able to say “I know.”
I know how it feels to be unable to eat because I too have felt like that—but I had to eat anyway, and you have to eat too.
Parents: You Too!
I think that parents a massively important part of the ED community because they can offer one another the same sort of “I know” support that only a parent of a staring child must be able to offer.
As an ex-sufferer, communicating with parents of sufferers and ex-sufferers has been an invaluable part of my continued understanding. They have helped me really understand the impact of the disease on the loved ones of sufferers.
What I like the most about being a non-professional advocate:
There is one thing that stands out to me almost every time I write a blog, and it is what I think is the very best part of being a non-professional voice in the world of eating disorders.
I can say things like “I don’t think ex-sufferers should become ED therapists” and all sorts of things that I suspect many professionals in the field are thinking, but cannot say out loud.
I think that at this early stage in ED understanding and at a time where we are trying to change the professional treatment model for EDs this sort of voice is essential. I care so much about promoting proper understanding of and treatment for eating disorders that I simply don’t give a shit who I might upset. If I believe it will lead to better treatment for future sufferers I’ll say it, no matter how unpopular it is.
I can honestly welcome differing opinions on whatever I say and detach my ego because I’m not a professional and I have no professional opinion or status to defend. In doing all of this, I can push conversations that might not have ever been had, and I can demand resolutions in a way that no professional in the field with a career to lose can do.
So yeah, being a non-professional advocate for eating disorder is pretty cool!