Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Time to Talk About It

by Nicole Johns

Nicole Johns is the author of the powerful memoir Purge: Rehab Diaries, in which she reveals her experience during treatment for EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). For National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we asked Nicole to write a guest post about how to seek help for an eating disorder if you may be struggling silently:

It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 20-26) and this year’s theme is “It’s Time to Talk About It.” Eating disorders breed secrecy and shame, and this can be a huge barrier to asking for help, so I’m going to talk about some ways to ask for help. You might feel like you don’t deserve help or that you aren’t sick enough to need help. The truth is that everyone deserves help and recovery from an eating disorder, no matter how sick they are, what they weigh, or what clothing size they wear.

So, how do you ask for help? Start by talking to a friend, family member or anyone else who you trust. It will probably seem scary, but you will find that people will want to help you in any way they can. You can start the conversation by saying, “I would like to talk to you about something that I am struggling with,” or “I’m having a hard time with…” The person you confide in might ask how they can best help you, so you should think about what you need at this point. Do you need someone to talk to? Do you need help finding out if your insurance has mental health coverage? Take advantage of any offers of help and support that you receive; a good support system is always important, but it’s especially important during the recovery process.

Talking to friends, family and other supportive people in your life is a good way to start asking for help, but you should also think about looking for a therapist to help you work on overcoming your eating disorder. If you have health insurance with mental health coverage, you can call the benefits number on the back of your card and get the names of some therapists covered by your health insurance. If you’re a college student, you might have a counseling center where you can see a therapist for little or no cost. Depending on where you live, there might be community resources such as therapists that offer a sliding-scale fee, or organizations that offer free or reduced-rate counseling.

There are other options besides seeing a traditional therapist. Some people find it helpful to meet with a nutritionist, to do art therapy, bodywork, equine therapy or group therapy. Recovering from an eating disorder is different for everyone, and there are many different options for seeking help and working toward recovery. The most important thing is to find what is most helpful in your recovery. For me, individual therapy and writing about my eating disorder helped me the most, but a 12-step program and art therapy were key factors in helping one of my friends recover. Recovery is an individual process.

It’s Time to Talk About It. You can ask for help, and you deserve a life without an eating disorder. Asking for help is the first step in recovery, and by asking for help you are breaking through the secrecy and shame surrounding your eating disorder.

Nicole has been in recovery from Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) since 2005. Visit her at


Chynna said...

Thank you for being brave enough to talk about this. As a girl who lived with an eating disorder for more than 10 years, and SURVIVED, I so appreciate others raising awareness by getting people to talk.

What saved my life was getting pregnant with my daughter. =)


Nicole Johns said...

Thank you, Chynna. Congratulations on your recovery (and your daughter)! Be well, Nicole