Having a social life with an eating disorder and/or chronic invisible illness. 7 tips to tackle this
Oh boy, have I got some experience in this area. The pendulum swings both ways, because I've been on both ends.
I've been a hermit for a loooong ass time (mainly during my anorexic years), but once I dipped my toe in being a social butterfly while simultaneous being chronically ill, I messed up SO many times.
Honestly, I definitely have no experience in having a severe eating disorder while at the same time having a social life, but I do have some suggestions since most of my clients DO struggle with this. But back to me messing up.
"How did you mess up?" you'd might think. Well, I didn't do anything except for pushing myself beyond my limits (and trust me, I still do this way to many times) and it always backfires.
I end up being in more pain than I can handle, my exhaustion is through the roof and I just basically feel like a piece of garbage.
It's always a mind game. My mind is telling me: "Come on Danie, you got this. What if you miss out on something really cool? You have been stuck inside for way too many years. Go out!"
But 9/10 times my body says: "Girl, are you F-ing kidding me right now?! You are in pain, you are drugged on so many painkillers and benzos, you're basically the epiphony of the walking death AND you still want to be out and about? YEAH RIGHT. Stay home, you fool."
Guess what voice I've been listening the most to these days? You guessed right. The second one. Like I said, it's hard to find a balance, but I have found some things to be helpful.
BUT I know it's hard to be/have:
A. Strict to yourself and say NO to certain things and take into consideration you might be bedridden if you just do the next thing, instead of staying home and being the self-care queen/king.
B. The Fear of Missing Out aka FOMO is one of the millennial downfalls of our generation.
C. The feeling of disappointing/hurting people by saying no to thing.
Here's what I've learned over the past few years: It doesn't matter if you struggle from an eating disorder and/or a chronic illness, this will apply to both of them.
1. Always take care of yourself first. I know it's the cheesiest thing in the world to say, but it's SO true. You can't take care of anyone else if you don't take care of yourself FIRST. That means being "selfish" sometimes and saying no to things.
2. It's all about the delivery. The way you say it makes a HUGE difference. For instance: if your friend invites you to a party and you tell him/her: "Listen, I'd love nothing more to come to your party, but I really have to take care of myself and stay home. My mind says yes, but my body says no. I promise I'll make it up to you. Let's have a coffee date soon! I promise I'll text you. Have fun!" How can someone be mad about that? And if they are, let them go.
3. If you are dealing with chronic pain like I do, make sure you always have your handbag stocked with any kind of painkillers or medicine. I always have a mix of diazepam, paracetamol, excedrin, a vape, CBD oil and more in my bag. Just be prepared and that alone can take some anxiety away in any case you need to pop a pill. I also always have sunglasses with me or I bring a hat. Just be prepared AF.
4. Also always bring a snack with you ESPECIALLY when you have an eating disorder. This is something I demand from my clients. Don't be afraid to open up the fact you need to eat x amount of times per day. If you don't feel comfortable telling people you have an eating disorder, just tell them you're hungry or hypoglycemic. Something I noticed: most people don't even notice or care.
I always bring a protein bar or nuts with me wherever I go, because I AM hypoglycaemic and if I don't eat when I'm starving, I basically faint.
5. Whenever you're with friends or at an event: Try to open up to the people you're with and tell them how you ACTUALLY feel when they ask you: "How are you doing?" Usually I tell them in advance in any case I need to leave earlier, but 7/10 times I just take it minute by minute.
Most people respond well and it's really cathartic to say: "you know what, I've been better. But I'm managing. I'm just very tired and in pain, but I'm so glad I'm here and I wouldn't want to miss it for the world. Just don't be surprised if I leave within an hour haha. But how are you?"
If you're feeling anxious around the food they serve, just be honest. Recovery always goes first and make sure you can text someone during moment like these to make the best decision. Someone like a coach (ME!), a friend (ME!) or your parents or siblings (NOT ME!).
6. Don't be afraid to say "YES" to certain things, go (or don't) and then leave if you don't feel well enough. I'm all about trusting and following your gut feeling. I've said YES to so many things, while I knew my body could barely handle it. Sometimes I arrived at said appointment/event and thought to myself: "Get me out of here. Migraine alert." and I left while apologising 500 million times and sometimes I went and thought: "Okay body, you're killing it today. I'm so glad I went, because somehow I managed to perk up." Either way is fine, but never be afraid to leave.
But ALWAYS explain why you left, because most people without a chronic illness (or don't know that you have a chronic illness) don't understand why someone would suddenly leave a great party.
7. Compromising and finding solutions! This is my most fav tip. I'm the queen of voice messages because A. I find them way more amusing, handy and personal and B. texting triggers my eye pain (lyme related thing) and sending voice messages is way more gentle on the eyes.
If you're in chronic pain or tired, try to find somewhere to rest or sit down. I always scan a room and whenever I go out, I always call up the venue asking them if there's any place for me to sit.
If I have to stand in line, I literally sit down on the floor sometimes or I ask someone else to stand in line for me. I know those things are damn hard, because you just want to be normal. But it takes time, patience and a lot of practice to accept this part of your life.
Just try it.
Don't let your limitations get in the way of your full potential.
That's it! Let me know if you have any tips!