There’s this thing about secrets.
It’s like walking around with a box of fireworks. At first, it might have been fine -‘I have this thing that no one knows I have’ – maybe it even felt a little powerful knowing that if you let it drop, it might cause a ruckus. You may have kept the secret to yourself for a long time – just a private thought here and there, ‘I know a thing no one else knows.’ Your box may have felt small, manageable.
Maybe your secret is that you are living with an eating disorder.
In the beginning, it feels easier to keep your eating disorder to yourself, because you’re not sure what other people will think and you certainly don’t want them to make you stop. Often though, secrets grow. We tell little lies to protect it, and as we do, that little box of fireworks grows. Over time, it’s trickier to remember who we told what – and the box keeps growing, becoming harder and harder to hide.
At some point, maybe you take stock – ‘here’s this thing I’m carrying around, it’s kind of scary!’ Maybe it has grown so much that the idea of putting it down starts sounding like a good idea. Inevitably though, comes the question, ‘but who can I trust with this huge secret?’ Maybe you don’t want to give it up your eating disorder all. You think to yourself, ‘I’ll just figure out a way to shrink it so I can get back to that safer feeling of when my secret fit into my pocket.’
Probably by now you’re figuring out that you can’t just put the secret box down. That means, you’re bringing your eating disorder to class, to parties to meals. Maybe it’s even coming to bed with you, keeping you up at night. All the while, this box of fireworks has become more volatile and you are keenly aware that at any moment, one could go off.
The only way to get rid of that secret is to share it.
Eating disorders are serious conditions that can have life-altering medical and psychological consequences.
Like secrets, eating disorders thrive in isolation. That is why it’s so important to share your secret with someone else. You don’t have to live with your eating disorder alone. While it might be scary to trust someone with your fireworks, it is safer than trying to manage alone.
Eventually, the hope is that with time and trust, a shift happens. There is a glimmer of hope that starts to replace that feeling of isolation. With support, with time and trust, you can view any nearby fireworks from a distance without ‘needing’ to pick them up again. Maybe in this New Year, you might be open to sharing your box of fireworks with someone who cares for you. Maybe this year will be the last time you feel like you need to carry your box on your own.
Emily Forsythe, MA, LPC is an evaluation clinician for Walden Behavioral Care’s Waltham, MA eating disorder clinic. Emily’s work with patients over the years has focused on building relational and individual re-storying for whole-life wellness. Emily completed her Masters at Bellevue University, and completed her licensure in professional counseling (LPC) in Austin, TX. Emily uses a narrative lens to see her patients as the experts in themselves, helping them see eating disorder treatment as beginning a new chapter when they first come for evaluations.