Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Will People Think of Me?

Around this time last year, a few of my closest family members were beginning to hear the news that I had entered treatment. Against my wishes, my parents told a few of my closest relatives. At the time I was furious with them for telling anyone without my permission. It was impossible for me to understand how they could possibly be doing that for my own good. I remember thinking things like...

What are they going to think of me? 
How much gossip is being spread about me right now? 
Did you hear about Kelsi? 
Will they notice how much weight I have gained? 
If so, what will they think of how huge I am now?
Now everyone will know how weak I am. 

One of the most difficult parts of the transition home from treatment was telling people where I had been for the past six months. Before entering treatment, I honestly did not believe other people knew how sick I was. Although I had been severely underweight for quite sometime, because nobody really said anything to me about it, I thought my illness was a secret. The lack of nutrients to my brain didn't exactly help me see things clearly, either.

Worrying what others think has always been an issue for me, not just when people found out I had been in treatment. From a very young age I have always felt a little different than the rest of my family, which lead to a childhood filled with acting in a way that was accepted. Because I was constantly worried what others thought of me, I never really figured out who I was or what I wanted out of life. Having people find out about my eating disorder felt like the biggest possible let down to those who cared about me. If I wasn't good enough for people before, I couldn't imagine the things they would think of me now.

Once I was able to get past how angry I was with my parents for telling a few people I had entered treatment, I was able to see what blessing it actually was. One of my aunts began sending me cards a few times a week and to my surprise, those cards became one of my biggest motivators. Before I knew it, there were cards coming in from friends and family members that I never expected to hear from.

There craziest part of all - the more people that learned of my stay in treatment, the more support I began to feel. People were not judging me at all and I found support from some of the most unlikely people. Perhaps best of all, I quickly discovered that we are all human. Everyone has their struggles and by facing mine I did not suddenly become less of a person.

People often ask me how to deal with this transition and the truth is, there is no easy answer. First of all, it is important to remember that nobody needed to know the exact details of where I had been. I had the right to decide how much information I wanted to disclose. It was easier to be open with a few of my closest friends at first and once I saw that they still loved me, it became a little less scary to open up to more people.

Also, there is no shame in taking all the time needed to transition back into normal life. My health became the most important thing and I had to accept that recovery takes time. If people were going to gossip or judge me, then they probably aren't the type of people I needed in my life anyways. 

As far as the weight gain is concerned, people did notice and the "you look great!" comments are inevitable, but with time I was able to accept those comments. Friends and family were often just as nervous as I was and feared saying the wrong thing. Although I still saw myself as HUGE, I had to keep reminding myself that my body image was still highly distorted. What other people saw was completely different from what I saw. Those thoughts do go away with time. Be patient. 

I found this picture a few days ago and it has been haunting me for the past 72 hours. The only thing I can think about is what people must have thought of me when I was at that weight. Seeing me at a healthy weight must have been such a relief to my loved ones. I can now see that others did not think any less of me, they were genuinely proud of this huge step I was taking.

Sharing the news of my treatment stay and recovery journey has not been easy at times. I often fear what others must think of me. In the long run, however, it is one of the best things I have ever done. Yes, I was upset with my parents for quite sometime for telling others, but now I can see they really did have my best interests at heart.

Most importantly, recovery has been about finding myself. What other people think of me in every aspect of life - recovery or not - really doesn't matter. In order to take care of my health, I need to do what is right for me regardless of the opinions of others. There's a good chance I will be working on this one for the rest of my life, but there's no shame in that. The only opinion of myself that matters is my own.



  1. Its scary when you see how deep in denial anorexia can make us.
    This post has really helped to remind me that just cos people talk, its doesnt always mean that they are GOSSIPING about you, its that they are worried and scared for you... I guess we can be so blinded by it sometimes, that we misread concern for judgement.
    Another fab post girly! x

    1. Yes! There is a huge difference between gossip and concern... Whyyy did it take me so long to figure that out?! <3

  2. I think it is fabulous that your family understood and was so willing to support you. And, your relatives too. It is my immediate reaction in my mind, "what the others would think or are thinking about me." Fear of being revealed for negative parts of us (secrets) is huge, but slowly it starts to fall off from us through our recovery. We often have to step out of our comfort zone to see what the reality is. Sometimes, we encourage ourselves to do it, and the other time, we are forced to do and see it. It is a gift of recovery for either way. I have gained weight, and I thought that people knew it and were feeling so sorry for me. Then, I am finding out that they have even not noticed it yet.... One girl said, "did you? 1 oz?" We are so self absorbed... LOL. <3

    1. lol... yes, eating disorders to make us a little self absorbed. ;) Fear of the negative side of us being revealed is something I still struggle with, but you are right, it does get a little easier each time we open up. <3

  3. The issue of disclosure is a really tough one. On the one hand, I am proud of my recovery and want to share my experience others, and on the other I don't want to receive negative judgement. Also I have been told that in the field I am going into (clinical psych) you need to be very careful about who you disclose mental health history with and how you express it, as some people will see you as unstable, or going into the field to "fix yourself." I am curious about your opinion on this since social work is obviously highly related - do you ever worry about this? It seems harsh and unfair to me that people who are in the field would ever judge, and I struggle to this day with how I am going to handle that in grad school and beyond. In casual conversation no I'm not gonna go on and on about it - the opportunity to talk about it rarely comes up as it is - but why should I have to hide such an important part of my life?

    Recently I admitted to being in recovery for an eating disorder on Facebook. This was REALLY tough for me, as I was afraid people would judge me for sharing something so personal in such a public way. Luckily, people were very supportive. I felt very freed that I was no longer hiding this secret. Maybe there were people who judged me, but it is worth it to feel that freedom.

    My mom, god love her, has always shared every personal detail of my life with every family member and friend imaginable despite my expressed wishes for her not to. Though I forgive her - it's honestly just the way she is - I feel that disclosure should *always* be our choice.

    You are right in that there is no easy answer for how to handle this. Any choice is a valid one in my eyes. I think blogs like yours lessen shame and fear of disclosure. Every time we put a real face and name out there to a story, there is that much less isolation for those who are trying to recover. :)

    1. Thanks Lindsay for a thoughtful comment, as usual. :)

      I honestly have never even thought about keeping my history a secret in a professional setting. Actually, I have been told that my past experiences will make me more credible because I can relate on a different level than those who have not had the same struggles. I am much more open in my blog than I am at school. If the opportunity/situation is right then I'm not afraid to open up about it, but it's never the first thing I tell people about myself. I think it really depends on what you feel comfortable sharing. You will find a balance as you go along. You would think people would be less judgmental in this field, but sadly that is never guaranteed.

      Congrats on opening up on FB! It's not right for everyone and that's okay. Disclosure should absolutely always be our choice, I agree, but unfortunately life doesn't always work that way. Keep fighting the good fight! :)

  4. Kelsi, in your opinion should a person say something to an individual who is obviously severely underweight? Some expression of concern? I'm not talking about a perfect stranger, but maybe a coworker, or a not-too-close friend. You've written a lot about denial; are any comments useful or just alienating? And, if so, what approach would you recommend? Aunt Judy

    1. Here you go.... :)