By Natalie Hutson, M.S., L.P.C.
One of the foundations to healing from an eating disorder is rebuilding trust within oneself and with others. However, for many, this ability is often damaged due to a past injury when a close relationship was broken. Perhaps you were sexually abused or neglected as a child. Or maybe an important loved one was unable to be there for you and the bond once established was lost. The solution is finding safe, reliable people who put your welfare first. These relationships can grow from a variety of sources: family, friends, health professionals, teachers, spiritual mentors as well as professional therapists.
Your therapist may be your first contact in building this kind of relationship. But how do you open up to a complete stranger? It may be uncomfortable at first, but remember the goal of this professional, hired by you, is to help you make positive lifestyle changes that offer chances to heal and grow. A good therapist provides unconditional acceptance and a non-judgmental approach. At the core of the relationship is confidentiality. What you say in the room is protected, so honesty is both possible and important. Provided you are not exhibiting any thoughts or behaviors to harm yourself or others, the professional is ethically bound to keep your information confidential. Trust is based on this promise of confidentiality, and then grows as you work together.
It has been said that you are only as sick as your secrets. Shame and guilt over past experiences can cause information to be held back, which can become a vicious cycle because not disclosing information essentially prevents you from moving forward. The process of opening up can be painful (and may feel embarrassing), but it helps remove the negative stigma of secrets. You’ll be surprised at the sense of relief in talking about something for the first time. Take the risk of opening up; it may indeed be what sets you free.
Building Other Safe Relationships
Finding and experiencing trust with your therapist provides the bridge for opening up to others in your life. You’ll want to find people who have been dependable, and who act in your best interest. Perhaps it’s time to reach out to your parents or significant other. Let that person know you are in need of his or her unconditional support. Avoid relationships with someone who has harmed you in the past or if you feel unsure of the person’s intention—those relationships may be unhealthy and dangerous. Listen to your intuition. The goal is to find people you can trust so you can build healthy relationships with others—and find true healing in your own recovery.