Eating Disorders and Friendships
It’s funny, when I think of boundaries I visually imagine Newport Beach, CA on the 4th of July. The police install barricades as long as an entire street block that force people to walk around. Most of the time the barricades are seen as a nusance for beach goers and partiers who have to walk the stretch around the barricade in order to get to the other side, but as annoying as the barricades are, they keep us safe. Boundaries in friendships are the same way, though we may find them difficult to execute and adhere too they keep our friendships healthy and safe.
Some find the word “boundary” to be misleading. It arises the thoughts of distance and if you’re friends with someone why would you want to push them away right? On the contrary, boundaries aren’t made to push others away, they are made to take care of ourselves. For those of us in eating disorder recovery, taking care of ourselves is a difficult task. We fear that people will reject us if we tell them how we truly feel, what we truly need or what we really think. Thankfully boundaries can help us to take care of ourselves in friendships. Starting with Sharing and Watching…
Sharing and Watching….
For those of us with addictions its easy to be impulsive; meet someone, call them our best friend and indulge them with all of our struggles and secrets that go with living. Of course we’re human and we’re females; we love to share; however, we need to make sure that the people we are sharing with are trustworthy. Just like in a romantic relationship, take your friendships SLOW. Share a little bit of information and then wait to see to how they handle it. Do they tell others? Do they listen intently and ask follow up questions? Do they relate? Do they not care? The answers to all of these questions will determine if you share more information with your new friend in the future. If you find that your friend does over share you might want to set up the following boundary, “ I share personal information with you because I trust you and respect your opinions. However, when I hear that you share this information with others it makes me want to share less. Can we change that?”
Opposites tend to attract in romantic relationships and friendships. It’s not uncommon for a loud and extroverted person to befriend an introverted and shy person. This can turn out to be an awesome friendships where each one teaches the other about new hobbies and interests. However, the energy level of each person varies quite dramatically. Telling someone that you can’t hang out because you’re too tired or just don’t feel like it is okay. Sure, they might be bummed but that’s for them to deal with, your job is to take care of yourself. If they guilt trip you for not being able to hang out then you might not have the healthiest friend. If you need to set up a time boundary you might want to say something like the following, “I’m stoked to hang out tonight, but just so you know, I can only hang out until 11. I need to get some rest.”
Drinking/ Eating ….
A lot of us in eating disorder recovery no longer drink alcohol and abstain from certain foods. It’s important that our friends support our decisions and don’t poke fun or single us out for not participating in certain activities. If they do, it’s our responsibility to put up a boundary and tell them, “You mean a lot to me, but so does my sobriety/abstinence. My choice not to drink is a choice I have made for my own health. Can you try to support my choice instead of singling me out?”
Some feel that if you’re friends you have to be in each others lives every waking moment – Not true. In fact distance is a healthy thing. It’s important that each person in a friendship be independent of the other with separate friends and hobbies. If you notice a friend feeling left out or annoyed at your independence, you might want to set up the following boundary, “I sense that you’re angry with me. Can we talk about it?” From this vantage point one can express their fears and hesitations.
The bottom line is you deserve to have healthy, loving friendships... we all do. It's your job to make sure that the people you let in your life are adding to your life, not taking away from it or causing you to stumble in your eating disorder recovery. There are tons of people out there to be friends with, look at friends the same way you look at romantic relationships...don't settle!