Peer support in eating disorder recovery can be detrimental but also very triggering. Many inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are offering treatment in a group setting. In the following, I would like to look at the pro’s and con’s of peer support and how to protect yourself from potentially bad influences.
Having peer support can be incredibly helpful, people understand you and they are often on a similar journey to yourself. They understand how frightening meal times can be or weigh-in time. Exchanging experiences can help you, not to feel alone and let go of some shame attached to your eating disorder behaviours. You will find that motivation spreads and a motivated peer can make all the difference when the day goes pear-shaped.
Some days are simply rough and having a vent to someone ‘who get’s it’ can be helpful, rather than internalising all your struggles.
Just like motivation seems to be infectious, so can destructive behaviour be. You will find that not all your peers are on the exact same road to recovery, or at different stages. Treatment Authorities are a common instrument to help those seek treatment who have lost direction due to their illness. Keep this in mind, it is never any bodies fault or intention to bring you down, it’s just so easy to get lost in this. Some people will give your eating disorder helpful advice, but you know it will be hindering your recovery. It is easy to pick up and behaviours from others. Eating Disorders are driving us to compare us to others constantly and sadly that can happen around other patients too. All types of thoughts like, ‘I am the biggest’, ‘I need to eat the least’, ‘I am not sick enough’ might come to mind and that can be tricky and very dangerous. ..
The hopefully useful
What is the best way to avoid being triggers of others and benefit from peer support in your recovery?
Think about yourself. This is very important and healthy boundaries are your shield. It can be very easy to chat with your peers about how to break rules or how to sneak morning tea off the table. Obviously, this issue is something you all have in common. But is that what you are here for? Are you going to be more ‘likeable’ for sharing your advice? Why is it important for you to be liked in the first place? Eating Disorders are often leaving us with a big need for validation.
When it comes to this I know it is very hard to not get involved and the ED voice will be screaming at you to keep going down the spiral. Please don’t! If you find it hard to justify to stay on a helpful path for yourself, think about the others. You can’t see what might be a huge trigger for a peer. ‘No numbers’ etc. are rules which seem a little uptight and it’s tempting to overstep the line, this is what we think about most of the day isn’t it? I can only urge you to think about your own goals and the journey of those around you.
If you find yourself in a position where a peer is entering a triggering conversation topic,
speak up! You will find they will respect you for this and it might even help them on their journey. It can be as easy as saying: I don’t feel comfortable discussing this. If that seems impossible: change the topic or find a reason to escape the situation. You deserve to protect your soul and recovery.
After reading this you might feel like, discussing your experiences with peers is not a good idea. That is far from the truth, as mentioned below, it can be extremely helpful but check in with the other person before entering potentially triggering topics.
This is a very difficult topic for many in treatment. I would be curious to hear your views or strategies in situations like this. Send me a private message via the contact form or comment below.
To a new week of adventures – let’a keep the spirits up!