Every time I post something about my history with eating disorders or open my mouth to speak about it, I still have the same thoughts. Really? Should I?
I made the conscious decision when I decided to become a dietitian to be radically open and honest with people about myself. I want people to know that I have struggled, and still do struggle, with what I call “food stuff”. I have been through anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, orthorexia, fad diets, plus lots of mental health issues that contributed to the “food stuff”.
Part of my decision to be open about these things is that I feel like it’s only fair – if I expect my patients and clients to be honest and vulnerable with me, I should go first. I can’t ask them to tell their deepest darkest secrets to a stranger.
Another part of it is that I hid this stuff for so long that I was over it. It felt really important to share these things with people, to come out of hiding and shake off the shame. And it really, really worked – I have zero shame about any of my disordered eating past.
But after I posted a story to Instagram today about some recent realizations I’ve had about the nature of my eating disorders, I felt compelled to be even more transparent and open about my experience with sharing these kinds of things with others. I know it’s so easy to see someone else on social media handling their hardships with apparent ease and then feel badly about yourself.
So I want to be clear – telling others about my eating disorders is scary. I’m shaking a little writing this post, and I’ve talked about this stuff openly for the last three years. I actually deleted that story about having bulimia before reposting it. It’s gotten easier to talk about these things, but it’s not easy. I don’t know if it ever will be, and that’s okay.
Before I post or speak about something vulnerable, I always do a check-in with myself – is this oversharing? Does this feel good to do? Will this help someone? And yes, sometimes I overshare. Sometimes I tell someone a detail about my disordered eating past that I realize later I wanted to keep to myself. But the cool thing is that I can use the way I feel after oversharing to guide me in the future. If I start to get a sick feeling in my stomach, or if my chest tightens, those are my personal signs that I may not be ready to share that detail yet. And if I start to get shaky, or my breathing and heart rate quicken, I know that’s actually a sign that I’m ready – I’m just nervous or scared. Learning these nuances came with practice and making mistakes (like everything else).
And another thing I want to be clear about – I shared all of this stuff with a therapist way before I shared it with anyone else. I try not to use my friends or the general public as my counselors because that feels icky for everyone. If I feel like I might be looking for validation or pity, that’s another great sign that I need to hit pause and keep it to myself (and share it with my therapist at my next appointment).
I know we hear this all the time, but don’t judge yourself against others, especially when it comes to social media. You will make progress in your own time, and there is no need to push yourself to be vulnerable just because you see others doing it. Share what feels good and appropriate for you, and save the rest for a professional <3