Talking to parents about eating disorders and self-harm

Last week was one of the most challenging weeks that I have ever had to face in my life. I had to face the challenge of telling my parents about my mental illnesses. I was dreading it for months but I knew that they needed to know about it, and there’s no better time than the present, right? Right.

I had been worrying for months about how to tell them and how much to tell them. I didn’t think it would be possible for them to understand. I thought for sure that they would be mad, but I was wrong.

The amount of love and support that my parents showed me was incredible; it was unpredictable. I had imagined every possible worst case scenario in my mind but never once did it cross my mind that my parents would be 100% supportive. Turns out I should have had more faith in my parents. They’ve been incredibly supportive and have continued to treat me the same as they treated me before. They are 100% supportive of my recovery and are not being pushy or asking questions about my illnesses. They’ve completely respected my boundaries and are not pushing for me to tell them anything that I am not ready to talk about.

In my mind I thought that they would freak out, yell, scream, cry, and any number of other bad reactions. While it’s true that there were some tears and some questions in the first hour or so after learning about my struggles, my parents were not angry or disappointed in me about any of it.

On the contrary, my parents told me over and over again about how proud they are of me for struggling with these illnesses for so long but still working to recover on my own. They recognized the courage that I couldn’t even see in myself for a long time. They saw past all of the self-destructive behaviors and saw only a girl who was fighting to survive the only way she knew how. And they were proud of that girl; they are proud of me.

For anyone who is considering talking to their parents about an eating disorder, self-harm or any other struggle that you may be facing, please trust me when I tell you that it gets better after you disclose your struggles. I tried for years to hide my secrets, and I was very successful at hiding them, but in the end the weight of all of my struggles almost destroyed me. It took more courage than I even realized I had for me to finally open up and talk to my parents about my struggles. That being said, I didn’t get through it alone. I had my therapist by my side during the appointment with my parents, and I had the support of two of my closest friends who were there for me before and after the appointment. I am so lucky to have such amazing people in my life, and I am so happy that I was finally able to open up and tell my parents about my struggles.

Sharing my story has been a life changing experience for me. I realized that if I can get through that, then I can get through anything. I’m no longer ashamed of myself for what I have been through; I am proud of myself for getting through it all.

I am so much happier now that I have told my story and showed my family the “real” me. If you are thinking about telling your parents, be prepared for them to be upset, but have faith in their love for you. The love that they feel for you will be so much stronger than any other emotion; no matter how upset they may be initially, they will still love you and support you.

Have faith in the love of your friends and family. Have faith in yourself. You are strong enough to get through this.