You'll have to consider the impact of the new way you'll be communicating. The nature of communication with someone who has been entrenched in an eating disorder is often one-sided or absent. So in a way, coming out is a signal that you're ready to reinstate two-way communication even though you may be out of practice. Try to imagine how you'll express your needs and expectations to others. Think about what it will feel like to have others bounce their ideas off yours and to actually consider their positions.
Ask yourself the following questions and write your answers in your journal or notebook:
• What do I hope to accomplish by coming out, both now and in the long run?
Do you really want help in overcoming the eating disorder or do you just want to get people off your case because you're sick of being the object of so much scrutiny? Do you want to take an active role in your recovery and do most of the work yourself with the least possible input from outside sources? Or are you able and willing to get a variety of people constructively involved in your life and work with them toward a common goal? Are you looking for sympathy? Do you want to rekindle old relationships that have been hurt by the eating disorder, break ties with the past, have old and new relationships blend into a different present reality for you? What are your short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals?
• Who do I want involved with rne in this process?
Do you want to involve family and friends right away, or rely first on the help and advice of doctors, therapists, or self-help groups? Do you want a combination of people (professional and family/ friends) involved in your quest for health? When you select a friend to confide in, do you know for sure that the person can handle the responsibility of knowing about your problem? Will he or she keep it in confidence? Is there any likelihood that your confidence will be breached and other people will find out about your situation? Are you prepared for that possibility? What will you tell your friend about why you're sharing this information and what you hope will happen as a result?
If you plan to confide in family members, are you willing to accept the possibility that their reactions may not all be positive? How do you plan to react if they say things you really don't want to hear?
If you think sharing your innermost thoughts with friends and family may be more stressful than successful, but you still want to tell someone, seek out a therapist, teacher, clergyperson, school nurse, school counselor or other trusted person who will help you devise successful ways to talk to those other people. Make a list of the 10 "ideal" people you would want to talk with, starting with your first choice as number one.
• Where and when will I actually come out?
Do you envision a family gathering at which you'll make a formal declaration? Will you corrie out gradually, giving clues when it seems appropriate, but without a specific plan? Will you come out only if confronted and specifically asked about your eating habits or do you see yourself voluntarily telling all? Will you go to a self-help group and come out in that type of protective environment before you open up to family and friends? Will you do it anonymously by participating in an online eating disorder-oriented chat room, or contacting a resource like a hotline or helpline?
Will you want to just discuss the facts about your eating behaviors or do you think you'll feel secure enough to discuss the emotions and motivations that support those behaviors as well? Will you be willing to delve into issues of family dynamics one-on-one with your relatives, or do you want a third party such as a therapist or counselor with you for such discussions? What tone of voice will you use? Will you allow yourself to express all your feelings, including anger?
Here are some productive and proactive opening lines to begin the coming-out process:
• "I'm ready to discuss some things about myself that might make you uncomfortable. I need to know whether you think we can talk without your lecturing or yelling at me."
• "I have a problem with food and eating. I think you're probably aware of this. I don't know what to do about it and I'd like to hear your thoughts. Here's what's going on..."
• "I have what I think is an eating disorder. I can't handle it by myself anymore and I need some help from you. I'm not sure what kind of help, though. Can we discuss the possibilities?"
• "All the things that were worrying you about me are true. You were right to be concerned. I wasn't ready to hear it before, but I'm willing to talk now. I want you to know how scared I am to do this."
• "I don't like what's happening to me anymore. I may not like what you have to say but I want your opinion about what I should do."
• can't guarantee how I'll react when we talk, but I'm tired of all the tension around here. I'm anorexic/bulimic/anorexic and bulimic and I need to know how you feel about that."
If you feel you can't say things face-to-face, write a letter and ask for a written response. This technique is useful because you will have a record of each person's thoughts, which will be the foundation upon which your recovery builds.
Can a dialogue exist when there is criticism or will you retreat and refuse to continue the discussion? Do you imagine being able to ask your critics for clarification? Will you accept that criticism might be part of the experience of corning out or will you put up your defenses? Could you express your feelings about being criticized with others who were uninvolved in this dialogue,, like a therapist or close friend who can give you a safe place to vent?
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A time for giving and receiving, getting closer with the ones we love and marking the end of another year and all the eating also. We eat because the food is yummy and plentiful but we don't usually count calories at this time of year. This book will help you do just this.