Deciding to go public with your recovery can be a hard decision and is one I personally struggled with for several months. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to share, how exactly to share my story, and worried about the response I would get.
“Going public” can mean something different for everyone, but I believe it means sharing your story with anyone outside of your direct support system (i.e. family, treatment team, close friends). For people that experience an eating disorder and recovery while at school, like me, it’s usually on a pretty big scale. Whether you share your story with your coworkers, social media followers, or classmates, it’s a decision that is yours to make in your own time. Obviously I did end up going public and while it’s something I am glad I chose to do for myself, I also won’t lie: it did alter the course of my recovery! Here are pros and cons of going public:
Pro: It’s freeing
Even though I logically knew that my mental and physical health was my business and mine alone, I still felt like I was carrying around a big, bad secret. I think eating disorders can feel like that not only because of the societal stigma and lack of understanding/education, but also because ED often uses shame and guilt to manipulate you into secrecy. I felt like I was constantly living a lie and looking over my shoulder before I was open about my recovery- especially since it was hard to keep leaving college a secret. Classmates texted to ask where I was, neighbors noticed me in and out of my house, and I completely ghosted my social media (which definitely wasn’t like me). I decided to share my story to close friends and family first while at residential and more publicly on my Instagram after finishing treatment. Putting it out there in its entirety made me feel strong, authentic, and free to continue healing.
Con: It can make you feel “pressured”
My truth being out in the open was freeing, but I also felt more pressured. I shared my story on social media after finishing the residential, PHP, and IOP portions of treatment, but that isn’t where recovery work ends. Honestly, I think that’s where it begins. Once everyone knew I felt like I was wearing my eating disorder diagnosis on my forehead and that relapsing or continuing to struggle was not only a sign of weakness, but embarrassing. I had to work through those feelings and use the pressure I felt to keep going as motivation and accountability.
Pro: You’ll likely get support
Letting people know about your recovery will likely lead to a lot of extra love and support, especially from those closest to you! When I told my friends, a lot of them had a lightbulb go off about why I had changed so rapidly and they were able to support me. I got cards while in residential, plenty of messages, and overall gained a lot of support I otherwise would have lacked. As I became more public on social media, the support was now larger scale. So many people reached out, commented, DMed, and shared kind words with me. Human connection can go a long way!
Con: People may change how they act around you
Early on in recovery, everyone who knows the situation acts different around you. Someone would say something about calories or exercise and immediately follow it with “Oops! I’m sorry.” Luckily my family and close friends were quick to ask questions and get educated- but not everyone is your family and close friends. People may get uncomfortable and change how they act and, as awkward as that is, it’s okay! Living your truth has to come first. If people are acting shy, unsure, or different than usual, try talking it out. Remember: your eating disorder may be old to you, but it’s new to them. It may take time for everyone to adjust and learn how to support you while taking care of themselves, too.
Pro: You may help someone else
The main reason I decided to share my story on Instagram was to hopefully help someone else. During my eating disorder my changes, both physically and emotionally, did not go unnoticed, but several health professionals had cleared me as “healthy.” On top of that I continued to achieve academically at the same level, work, have a boyfriend, and other things that were not clear indicators of my struggle. I wanted to put my whole story out there so that people could not only be a little more educated than before they logged on that day, but also to recognize any signs within themselves or their loved ones. Within minutes I had gotten messages from people that had gone through or were struggling with similar things themselves and seeing my story allowed them to find hope and see they weren’t alone, either. Sharing my story definitely made me feel like I was using a negative as a force of good, which was a beautiful thing!
Con: You may get some haters
Haters…are the worst. Still, you may get a few and that’s something to consider when deciding whether or not to go public. Large social media followings and being in middle/high school can make you more of a target for internet trolls or inconsiderate classmates. I had a hater or two myself! It’s an unfortunate part of life, especially in the age of the internet, but it’s annoying enough to make it onto the con list.
Going public was something that allowed me to grow stronger in my own recovery, but it didn’t come without its troubles. These pros and cons are meant to give you some insight into my experience and how it may fit into your own, but ultimately the choice is yours (and yours alone) to make.
All content on RecovRoad is based on personal experiences, research, and ideas. Please do not repost/share without credit and be aware that nothing on this blog takes the place of professional help. This is also a formal trigger warning: content about and relating to eating disorders may be triggering to survivors. Please see the “RESOURCES” tab, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 800-931-2237, and remember to take care of yourself.