Thursday 25 February 2016

The Wall of Love: Friends, family and reminders of support

Rhiannon writes about her experience of an eating disorder during university and how the support of her friends helped her overcome the disorder.
- Rhiannon Long

University can be an incredibly lonely place, especially when you‘re living with an eating disorder. 

I experienced this myself when my disorder was at its worst and I was living in a house full of people and was surrounded by friends. I loved these people, yet I‘d never felt so alone. 

An eating disorder has the ability to warp your perspective and is incredibly effective in persuading you to believe things which just aren‘t true. Mine tried to convince me that I was a burden on my friends, that they didn‘t want me around and that the only thing I could rely on to save me from my loneliness was the disorder. It was these same friends, however, who saved me from its grip. 

I‘d gone to visit some old school friends in Leeds for a birthday, and had been sinking further into the depths of my eating disorder for almost two years. I didn‘t realise how much it was affecting me, and how unhappy I was, until they made me speak about it.

Friends have the ability to notice what you sometimes can‘t. Mine saw my weight loss and the sleeplessness in my face but most of all, they saw how unhappy my disorder was making me. 

I had spent so long living with the disorder that I had become used to its presence and oblivious to its effects. It took their encouragement for me to free myself from it. They persuaded me to seek help and use the university‘s counselling service. They assured me that I could always rely on their support, and would always have someone to turn to. 

Shortly after beginning my counselling sessions, I created my Wall of Love. My friends had been sending me postcards with supportive messages and photos of our times together. They were providing me with constant encouragement, either through phone conversations, texts, or simple chats over cups of tea. I managed to fill hundreds of Post-Its with their words of support and friendship, and pinned them up above the foot of my bed, along with the postcards and photos. 

Every time I woke up I would see this wall, reminding me that I was not alone. With every glance at the wall I was shattering the illusions which the disorder had built up and proving to myself that I was stronger, loved, and didn’t need the disorder. 

Your disorder will try and convince you that you need it. Your disorder can only survive as long as you are relying on it. I needed a physical wall to help block my eating disorder, but you might not. Remembering how loved you are, and how alone you aren‘t, is the most important step to beating your disorder, once and for all. 

For more information on understanding eating disorder click here.

For information on seeking support with eating disorders click here.

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