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Life changes

Community Member

Hi everyone.

I have recently been diagnosed with anorexia, and am in recovery. I'd say I've had disordered eating for the past two years but only acknowledged it last year.

As part of my recovery I'm assessing for myself my life circumstances and can see that the current situation I'm living in (a religious community) contributes to the disordered eating. I've been living here for a number of years. Mealtimes are had together, we have a cooking roster so I can't always plan my own foods, and the people I live with often trigger me with comments which are well-intended but not always helpful. There are lots of demands and expectations living this life, I've often fallen short, and at times have been subject to gaslighting and even to bullying - which in part triggered the disordered eating. I don't have a lot of energy at the moment and can't do a lot, and I sense that really leads to some resentment in others. All of this makes me very anxious and reluctant to be around people.

I have thought a lot about returning home to my parents, who have been very supportive. I feel a lot of calm, peace, excitement and joy at going home and even at starting with nothing - feelings I haven't had in a long time. At the same time, I have a lot of guilt, because my community has given me a lot of support and care and I know they want me to be healthy. I feel sometimes like I "owe" it to them to stay, because of how much they've invested in me, which I know is problematic because that sense of obligation compromises free choice. Leaving would mean leaving literally everything - I would have no job, no money, nothing - but that doesn't really make me scared as much as the thought of being a disappointment.

I know my recovery could really progress and things might get better, but this whole journey of illness has shown me that perhaps I am really not able to live this life and that it's not suitable for me anymore. There will be challenges everywhere, and I'm really holding on to the peace and joy I feel - but at the same time, I can't shake that sense of guilt. It's making me anxious and I don't want to be. Would love any advice or guidance as to how to make sense of what I'm feeling.

23 Replies 23

Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi sparrowhawk,

That’s wonderful that your in recovery.

If your going home to your parents brings you joyful feelings then I think you know your answer. ❤️🙏

Life is too short to feel Iike you have to please others……

Community Champion
Community Champion

Hello Dear sparrowhawk,

It’s so good to hear that your assessing ways to help your recovery even better..

You say, you feel a lot of calm, peace, excitement and joy in going home...maybe where your living now, is a nice community to live in, but not a place that you call home...

I agree with our lovely Petal22..life is to short..to please others....you feel that you owe this community where you’re living now something because they have been their for you..

I’m wondering if you do move home...and you still feel that you want to give back to the community your living in now...would it be possible for you to volunteer yourself for a weekend every so often?...

Being back at home, with loving , caring and supportive parents, would be a huge step forwards and a boost upwards for your mental health.... sparrowhawk, first priority is you, your physical and mental health...and doing what’s best for you....follow your heart...

Talk here anytime you’re feeling up to it.,

My kindest thoughts with my care dear sparrowhawk,


Hi Petal,

Thanks so much. I have been receiving treatment for a while for a GI issue which triggered the anorexia, and never acknowledged the disordered eating to my team. It was just too scary.

I feel a lot of joy and excitement not just at the prospect of being with my parents, but also in starting fresh. I was actually thinking about it the other day and the word "courageous" suddenly came to my mind. I feel like actually stepping up and doing something for me - not because I want to please people, or because I'm worried what others might think - will be a huge turning point. It's those fears that actually perpetuate my disorder.

Thank you so much, Grandy!

I have felt very at home where I am now...but you're right, it's interesting that I didn't call it home. In some ways it has actually become a toxic environment because some of the people I live with and work around actually trigger my disordered eating and behaviours. It's often through no fault of their own and I know my parents may well also trigger me unintentionally, but from how things have been with my parents lately I feel they are much more able to support and be "on my wavelength". My sister even encouraged them to read up on anorexia and she often checks in to see how I am and only invites me to talk about what I feel comfortable.

I do feel sadness at the prospect of leaving people I love. And I do love the people I live with. But at the same time, there is this strong sense of owing them. When I started living in community I was still studying and they really supported me in finishing my degree. They've supported me when I've needed psychological help and when I needed to be admitted to hospital last year. I worry that leaving will be, in some ways, taking advantage of that support and saying it didn't mean anything. It did, it meant so much, but I know that I can't live my life feeling like I'm in debt to people and that I can't leave a relationship or a situation because of what I've received.

The most painful part will be leaving people I love and see every day. Your idea of volunteering is a great one and I've thought about offering that. I love graphic design and social media work and have been doing that for my community for a couple of years, so even doing occasional volunteer projects would be great. I don't know if they would accept it, but I feel like it would be a good proposal.

Thanks again. I feel quite confident and calm in moving forward, but then find myself second-guessing things or questioning how I really feel...but even just looking back over what I have written, that I find this current environment triggering, and more joy and peace in leaving, to be a sign of where my heart is.

Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Sparrowhawk,

I second the comments made earlier to mine as well. Creating a safe environment is so important for recovery and sustaining your progress long term. With your health and wellbeing at risk, I would encourage you to go home and take a break from the community until you feel ready to reassess.

If you don't mind me asking, are you under any pressure to stay in this community or are you able to leave quite easily?

Hi Banksy,

thanks so much. I don’t mind you asking that at all.

With this community, we make formal commitments or promises which bind us for a year at a time initially, until we make them for life. I am in the temporary commitment stage, and only made my most recent promises a month ago (on my request). I’ve thought a lot about what was behind that request and whether I was honest with myself. I already knew I was struggling and had been for a while. But I think there was that deep sense I should keep going and even to ‘prove myself’, because so often in this community I’ve felt like such a disappointment.

There is pressure to stay, but I think it’s mostly coming from me. I’m the youngest by a fair bit. I’ve been told several times that the community has made a lot of allowances in giving me less duties, that if I were healthy I’d be given much more - and that just sends me on a giant guilt trip, like I’m taking advantage or I’m not sick enough to need all this support. The community is small and I tell myself I need to stay to give them numbers. But all of that makes me feel very trapped.

With my commitment being temporary, leaving is a bit easier but needs to be done formally through the leader of our whole community (we are international). The ones in charge here in Australia said that if I really want to leave, they can’t make me stay, but they just don’t want me to make a decision I’ll regret.

Sometimes I second guess things, because I do still feel happiness and love around the people in my house. I think if I were really meant to leave, wouldn’t I be really unhappy here? But then I be real with me. Choosing something over another thing doesn’t mean one is good and one is bad. It just means one is better for me. My biggest pain in leaving is that I fear I’ll lose contact with these people I love. I don’t know if they’d want to stay in contact if I left. That brings me a lot of sadness and I don’t really know how to cope with it.

Hi Sparrowhawk,

This sounds like such a complex and difficult decision, one that your heart is deeply connected to and so I think its very understandable that you would feel torn and unsure what to do.

I will say this: If ever someone or something makes you feel less than or not enough due to your condition, please know this is not true and you deserve much better. We are all doing our absolute best every day with what we have right now.

I also don't believe you need to feel completely unhappy to leave. The fact you are torn just proves you care deeply and want to honour your commitments with this community. But at the end of the day, choosing your recovery and wellbeing is the ultimate commitment and one you owe to yourself more than any, I would argue.

In terms of losing touch with people you care about, is there a way you can confide in one or two people and broach the subject? Sharing that you are considering going home to focus on recovery and would love to stay connected in some way as you'd hate to lose them.

Thinking of you.

Hi sparrowhawk

It’s great to see you around.

I agree with Banksy92 here.

It’s hard to call it “love” if one way or another someone makes you feel guilty, inadequate, not enough, like you owe them something. What about them? Shouldn’t they be grateful for all the work you have put in and given (as I understood) for free? Shouldn’t they be grateful for you to stay with them sacrificing your personal life, possibly your family life? Social connections work as a two way traffic. One gives to the other in need. And then the roles revert: the other gives back to the one in need. That’s how successful relationships of any kind exist. However, if one side becomes expectant, criticising, using emotional or psychological blackmailing etc, well not much good can come out of it.

I have no doubts about your feelings of love and gratitude being genuine. And I am sure this is for good reasons. But if your heart tells you or even makes you consider going back to your family, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try. If your feelings about your current place are so mixed up, by leaving them, you might gain some perspective and clarity and decide after some time what to do next.

Stay safe lovely.

Hi Banksy,

Thanks so much for your response. I have been given a month to focus on my recovery and really consider my decision, before we meet again hopefully in mid-April. It's been good, as I've really been able to rest without needing to meet other obligations of our community life (presence during prayer and meal times, and house responsibilities), but it's also making me feel things are just drawn out. I want to honour what we agreed to, but I also know what I want to ask for.

To be honest, I have been made to feel those things a lot. Particularly in hearing comments several times like, "You are stressed, well what about us?" And then the strong sense of resentment I feel from them at not being able to do more. Makes me feel like such a burden and so invalidated.

I think you're right in that I don't need to feel unhappy. I love the people I live with and I love the life and the commitment I made. But I just feel very drawn to choose healing and I know that, for me, it's not going to come here. I was told outright that if I leave I can't come back. After talking to a friend about it, she helped me to see that's a sort of emotional blackmail, which I felt considering the way it was said. But even as I heard that, I didn't feel sad, more of a "well, that's okay".

The people I would generally confide in about leaving and staying in touch are the people who are triggering a lot of these negative feelings, but I do have a few that I'm more friendly with who I would definitely contact once my leaving is approved. It's quite a relief to know that if I really want to leave, which I do, they can't force me to stay.

Thanks again, you've helped so much!