Recovery: It Takes a Village

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Recovery: It Takes a Village

Tanja Haaland, MA, LPC

One thing I have learned in my recovery journey, is that I can’t do recovery by myself. No matter how much I try to convince myself that, “I can do this on my own,” I know the key to winning the battle to long-lasting recovery means letting others in. I’ve spent much of my life guarded, fearful of what others might think of me if they knew the war that sometimes wages in my mind. I feared judgement of the behaviors I was engaging in and what people would think of me if they knew what I was doing to my body. I didn’t want to bother anyone or felt too ashamed for having needs. I wanted to seem strong and capable, and asking for help was something I deemed weak.

It truly does take a village in eating disorder recovery. A village consisting of a therapist, dietitian, medical provider, and supportive individuals helping you fight for your life.

I have always found it easier to open myself up to, “the paid individuals,” thinking, “that’s what they are paid to do.” Friends and family on the other hand…that’s where my distorted thinking patterns can kick in and I find myself struggling to reach out and let them into my world. When I can challenge feeling like a burden or too much, the people I let into my experience truly become the tribe that helps me fight the battle against the eating disorder. They help me in times where I find it challenging to help myself. They are a light in times when I feel smothered by darkness.

Asking for help and letting others in can be incredibly difficult, but pivotal in the recovery journey. When I let my tribe know I am struggling, my ED loses so much power. The eating disorder loves it when I am alone in the fight because its chances of winning are much stronger. Help from my tribe can look like someone asking me to go out to lunch (sometimes even telling me that’s what we are going to do at times where my ED is telling me otherwise). It can be that they distract me from my strong ED thoughts. They give me encouragement and help challenge the negative thinking patterns and messages the eating disorder wants me to believe about myself.  

There is such power in someone you trust believing in you when you are having a hard time believing in yourself.

Sometimes you just need to hear, “You’ve got this. We’ve got this.” When I allow others into my recovery journey, I allow myself to be connected to something outside of myself and my struggles. It’s much harder for the ED to win when the entire tribe comes charging towards it, and at times that I lack motivation to keep going, they are right behind me, their pitchforks raised, ready to battle with me.

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Tanja Haaland, MA, LPC contributor

Tanja Haaland, MA, LPC received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and her master’s degree in Counseling at the University of South Dakota. Since 2006, she has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders and trauma. Her experience includes working as a trauma therapist in a psychiatric hospital setting, running her own private practice, and program director for a eating disorder partial hospitalization program. Currently, she is the Clinical Director of The Meadows Ranch, an inpatient, residential, and partial hospitalization program for women and girls, who suffer from and Eating Disorders. Tanja has lectured nationally on the topics of eating disorders and trauma and has provided clinical consultation and supervision to clinicians working toward deepening their knowledge of treating this specific population.