Now, before I start, this article is based purely on my own thoughts, opinions and experiences. Please don’t take anything I say to be gospel; different things work for different people, and if you can please get help from an actual professional rather than from people on the internet, regardless of who they claim to be.
Several years ago, when I actually started accepting that I needed help with my mental health, I joined a few eating disorder recovery groups on Facebook, hoping to meet people in a similar situation to myself.
I found it really helped me to be able to discuss my thoughts and feelings with a group of strangers and I also found it helped me to be able to offer advice to those who were struggling.
I went on to admin a couple of larger groups for a couple of years, and have made some lifelong friends from these groups. However I have since left the groups as it wasn’t the content I needed to be seeing at the time, if that makes sense.
I thought that if someone was at the start of their recovery journey or looking to meet people in a similar situation then it might help if I shared 5 of my thoughts and experiences when finding a group to join.
1. Make Sure the Group is Recovery Focused.
Social Media has gotten a lot better over the past few years with blocking out harmful content. Chances are, any group you find will be recovery focused rather than pro-ED, but have a little look before hitting the join button.
2. Find a Group That’s the Right Size For You.
Large groups and small groups both have their positives and negatives. In a larger group you will have a lot more people who will be able to contribute to your posts. However, with so many members vying for attention it can get a bit competitive and catty. If you don’t use Facebook that much, then it’s probably not too bad, but if you’re seeing it on your newsfeed constantly then it might get you down.
On the flip side, small groups aren’t always as active, but they feel much more close knit. You will be interacting with the same people on different posts and they have much more of a support network vibe.
I personally preferred the smaller groups in my later stages of my recovery as I had a particular group of people that could hype me up, but I’m sure a lot of people prefer bigger groups.
3. Read the Rules.
Most groups will have rules to protect the well-being of it’s members, such as trigger warnings. These rules will normally be listed on the ‘about’ section of a group. Familiarize yourself with them and try not to break them. If you’re looking for help, the last thing you want is to have your post deleted or a load of negative feedback.
4. Be safe.
Groups that cover mental health issues tend to be private, so your friends cannot see what you post (again check this before you join). However, people on your friends list will be able to see that you have joined the group. Bare this in mind before you join. If it can cause you trouble, maybe consider setting up a second account to join with.
You know your situation and the people around you better than anyone else. Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk.
5. Know When to Walk Away.
Again, this is just me speaking from personal experience. As I furthered my recovery I didn’t want to leave the groups as I wanted to help people out. Staying wasn’t helping me though. It might sound strange but once I was at a comfortable place, I felt that discussing how to get to that place with other people didn’t feel right.
I can’t explain it any other way, it just felt odd. I’m not a professional or an expert of any kind. I’ve just been running with what works for me, so it didn’t feel right staying and sharing that advice with other people when I’m no longer going through it.
You might be different, and you might find that partaking in or being an admin in a group is your way of helping the community and it helps you, and that’s wonderful! But if it starts to feel uncomfortable, know when to come away.
I hope that I’ve been able to help out. My emails and messages are always open if you have any questions.
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By Richard Francis