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Recovery blog

Conversations with People Who Don't 'Get It'

By: Martha Rawl, MAE, NCC, Primary Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Nashville

Posted on December 07, 2020

12.7.2020 blog headerThe holidays are going to look different this year. In fact, everything has looked different this year. Whether or not you're celebrating in-person or virtually, one thing feels certain: someone's going to say something wrong. In eating disorder recovery, that could be any number of things: appearance-based "compliments," diet talk, fatphobic remarks, etc.

While eye-rolling may be cathartic, it's not so effective in communicating needs. Even so, sometimes when we set a boundary, those boundaries get disregarded or invalidated (e.g. "You're being too sensitive," or, my personal favorite: "You know I don't mean anything by that!"). Then what? Well, you choose! Here are a few ideas for how to navigate conversations with people who don't quite "get it."

Use an I-statement: Yes, therapists LOVE these, but they're the best way to broach tricky topics. Start with: "I feel hurt/sad/angry/anxious, when you say/do___________ because _________. I request/prefer _________." This format gives you a jumping off point, but feel free to customize the verbiage to what feels authentic to you.

Give yourself permission to walk away: If you're able to leave the situation for a second, then do that! No explanation needed. Take a break, take a breath, anchor yourself. You're allowed to do what you need to do to care for yourself and honor your feelings.

Call in your supports: Identify someone who does "get it" and have them be your ally. Have them available in-person or via text/phone to help you out in tough moments.

Most importantly, remember your voice matters, even if people don't hear you. And your recovery matters, even if people don't "get it."


Want more tips and guidance on navigating the holiday season? Register for the 2020 Annual Alumni Winter Event, "Renfrew's Ultimate Holiday Guide: Maintaining Relationships & Connection in Recovery," held Tuesday, December 8, and Wednesday, December 9! Click here to see when your site is holding this virtual event and to register.


martha rawl headshot
Martha Rawl, MAE, NCC is a Primary Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Nashville. She has a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Western Kentucky University. Prior to working at Renfrew, Martha worked with children and adolescents in crisis. In her free time, she loves playing with her pup, Murphy, re-watching favorite TV shows, being outside, and playing trivia.
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