Today is Time to Talk Day, so I wanted to ask you:
- How much do you share your struggles with others?
- When was the last time you really let the wall down, removed the ‘I’m ok’ mask and let someone know what you were experiencing behind it?
- What if you could tell someone more of your inner truth?
Eating disorders can make a person isolated, push people away, present to the world an independent, fully functioning and even highly performing individual, when inside they are really very lonely, terrified, feeling stuck and sometimes very near to crumbling completely.
And, tragically, it is a fact that up to a third of people with eating disorders have attempted suicide at some stage and people with anorexia are 18 times more likely to die from suicide than those without (source). Suicide can seem the only way out if a person feels trapped, alone and unsure who to turn to that might listen, understand or join with them in overcoming the things they feel there’s no way out of. That is not to say that talking will prevent every suicide, but there is definitely enough evidence in the research to show that talking does help people and can stop suicides.
When you have an eating disorder, not talking, isolating, putting on the mask… these can all keep the illness stronger and enable it to not just stay where it is but even take over more of your life.
If you can talk to someone though, open up, share and seek support, it might just be the first step to finding a glimmer of light beyond the fog you are in now.
Sometimes just talking can help to just drain off some of the emotional energy that is being held so tightly within and provide a little relief.
Speaking out our problems can also help us give them a voice, get us out of our own heads and sometimes just hearing those problems back can allow us to see them in a new light or you might find the person you are talking to is able to give you a different perspective on things.
From a neuroscience perspective too, researchers have found exactly why talking is so important in helping us when we are in emotional pain or under stress. Studies found that being able to label our feelings, either out loud or even in writing, reduces activation in the amygdala (the area of the brain responsible for our fight or flight reactions). When we speak about and label our emotions and the things troubling us, we move out of our limbic system (emotional, responsive) area of the brain and into the right pre-frontal cortex where language and meaning are processed, allowing us to be less emotional and stressed and more mindful and aware.
So you see, talking really does help.... Even the science proves it!
And if you are reading this, not because you have an eating disorder, but know someone who does… never stop asking them how they really are, keep letting them know you are there to listen, not to judge, just to listen and support them however they need it.
We all need to be able to say, 'I’m not ok' from time to time, eating disorder or not.
But when you have an eating disorder, talking and removing the secrecy can ultimately take away a little of its power and give you some power back.
For me, it took years to really admit to the right people that I really wasn’t ok… but when I did , it helped more than I ever thought it could and helped me stop living in an 'I’m ok', disordered denial and finally accept things had to change, somehow.
Eating disorders thrive in isolation… The people you talk to don’t have to have the answers (they probably won’t). They don’t need to be able to say the right thing because I am not sure there is a right thing when you are struggling with an eating disorder, but they can be there and they can listen and they can help you feel just a tiny bit less alone.
Find someone you trust, be that family member, friend, partner, colleague, coach, health professional or even the shopkeeper you see every day and find the courage to say, ‘I’m not ok, can I talk to you?’
They don’t need to have the answers, but they can be with you, listen and support.
As humans we were never meant to live in isolation or problem solve alone… we were created to live in tribes, join together and help each other when someone is struggling.
Let people in, just as you would want someone to let you in if they were going through tough times.
It’s Time to Talk Day.
Perhaps it’s time for you to talk.
**I work as a coach and mentor supporting people who are overcoming eating disorders, disordered eating or low body confidence, enabling them to find freedom in body and mind to live a more full and happy life. If you are interested in knowing more about my coaching work, then please take a look at my full coaching website: www.hellybarnes.com**