Surrounding Yourself With People Who Are Good For Your Mental Health

Surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you is always important. No one wants a circle of people who drag them down and see the worst in every situation. But, when it comes to mental health and especially when you're recovering from a mental illness, the importance of having a circle of supportive, loving and understanding people cannot be stressed enough. It's so vital to have people around you who uplift you and encourage you to get better.You deserve to have people around you who care about your well-being and genuinely listen to you, not ignore your needs, brush off your problems as insignificant or continue with their toxic behaviour if you confide in them about something they’re doing making you uneasy. 
It'd be wrong to assume that all those around you will 100% understand what you're going through 100% of the time, especially as mental health battles are so deeply personal and unique, even if someone is in a similar situation to you, every illness presents itself in different forms depending on the person. But having people there who you feel comfortable opening up to can completely change your road to recovery, making it less bumpy and just a little bit smoother and more manageable as a whole. Sure, a friend may not be able to give you advice on how to handle a situation, but they can be a supportive ear and an outlet for you to unleash your darkest thoughts so you aren't just left with the burden of carrying them alone. They can be there to hand you a tissue when you need one, wrap their arms around you when you just want to be held and offer distractions and laughter when life feels like it's getting on top of you. You don't always need people around you who are going through the same things in order to have a support network, sometimes, you just need someone who won't judge and is willing to listen.

On a personal level, I recently had a light bulb moment of realising my relationship with food thrives more when I‘m with people who have healthy relationships with food, who talk of food positively and, actually, don’t really place that much focus on food at all because eating is just so naturally integrated into their lives. Why on EARTH it took me so long to understand this, I don’t know. It’s a daily battle, having a toxic food relationship and trying to overcome an eating disorder whilst essentially hating every inch of yourself, however, the battle just feels that little bit less terrifying and the road to self-acceptance seems like less of a long slog when I’m with people who don’t talk about calories or their diets or keep bringing up their weight. It’s such a freeing feeling to be in that sort of space. ⁣
So, if you’re in the same eating disorder boat, I know it’s hard, especially when every one of us have been conditioned to despise our bodies and be harsh on ourselves when it comes to eating, however, you have to protect yourself. Get rid of the energy that drags you down and replace it with one that lifts you up and makes you feel hopeful that better days with your brain and body are coming.

You don’t need permission to tell someone how they’re behaving is negatively impacting your mental health. You also don’t need permission to cut people off if they’re having a detrimental effect on how you view your worth. Life is too short to waste time in spaces that aren’t good for you with people who don’t bring out the best in you. You deserve relationships made up of love, empathy, understanding, support and warmth, not ones that have you second guessing yourself, questioning your worthiness of happiness, feeling miserable and like you can’t open up.

You are in control of every situation. If something doesn’t feel right, is making you uncomfortable or affecting your happiness, you have the right to walk away or change it. Whether it’s a job contributing towards your depression, a toxic relationship that makes you feel unworthy or merely a conversation between friends about a subject that triggers you.
For me, when diet culture enters a conversation, it’s a VERY difficult thing to sit through. I’ve spent my life surrounded by people who love to talk about weight loss, diets, dropping dress sizes, calories and working out, and I don’t BLAME them for that. It isn’t their fault. They too have been indoctrinated by diet culture and socialised in a society that prioritises thinness in them above anything else. However, that isn’t on ME. It isn’t on me to sit in those discussions, to participate or to make myself uneasy. If you struggle with body image, food or an eating disorder, know that you don’t HAVE to just sit in those situations with those people, no matter how much you love them. You don’t need to just “put up with it.” You are allowed to leave the conversation, challenge people’s opinions or, if you’re not brave enough for those, simply change the topic of conversation OR ask someone else to.
It can be tough, especially when these conversations are with people you care about and don’t want to offend. But your safety and well-being need to be priorities. And, if someone loves you, they’ll see things from your point of view and understand that your intentions aren’t to upset them, but that these are steps you must take in order to recover.
It can be hard too when you can’t just take that big step. You can’t just quit a job or shout in the face of an elderly relative that her diet is a load of rubbish. So it’s sometimes about taking small steps first and making small changes to alter these horrible situations.

Allow yourself to have authority over what and who you’re engaging with. You aren’t a bad person for not wanting to listen to your aunt’s diet plan or how many calories were in your grandma’s apple. You aren't a bad person for needing friends who care about you and accept you, regardless of your mental health problems. And you certainly aren't a bad person for needing to offload and talk about your feelings. Remember, it’s OKAY to protect yourself. It’s NECESSARY.

Learn your triggers, set boundaries, stay SAFE. 

Love, Emily

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