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SharED: Volunteer Rosie on supporting young people with eating disorders

I’m Rosie, and since early 2022 I’ve been volunteering here at Beat as a peer befriender, supporting Beat’s SharED network. That means I use my own experience of anorexia to help young adults (anyone aged 12 – 25) with an eating disorder.

One of the biggest challenges I faced when I was going through my eating disorder was not having someone who truly understood how I was feeling. So when I heard about SharED, I knew straight away that I could make a real difference here.

Maybe you feel like I did then.

I know how much it would have helped me if I’d had someone who could truly empathise with me as I fought an eating disorder. That’s what SharED gives you. It’s free and confidential, and works by pairing up people who are struggling with people like me, who’ve come out the other side and can relate.

We’ll chat via email over six months. (All through Beat, so you don’t share your details with me directly.) I’m here to support you and point you in the right direction. But I also give you reassurance that things do get better – you can overcome and live a full and happy life without an eating disorder.

The first email is very much about getting to know you and your current struggles. You can say as much or as little as you want, but you’ll get the most out of SharED if you’re open about how you’re feeling on each email. Come in with a fresh view – ShareED is such a unique service that it might not be like any support you’ve had so far. You might feel frustrated that people don’t understand and can’t relate to what you’re going through, but that’s what’s so special about SharED – we really do understand.

Talking to someone you haven’t met before may seem a little daunting at first. But as peer befrienders my fellow volunteers and I are here for you, and want to give you support that’s tailored to your needs. And Beat gets that everyone is different. They’ll pair you with one of us whose experience is most like yours, so you can relate to your befriender as much as possible.

I haven’t even been here a year, but I’ve got to see the progress in people’s thinking already – the shift in mentality as they realise it’s okay to leave the eating disorder behind. It’s okay if you have a setback in recovery. I don’t have all the answers, and I know from experience that ultimately you overcome an eating disorder as an individual. But I hope that by the end of our six months together I’ll have helped you tackle some of the challenges you’re facing. And I hope that I can show you it’s going to be all right. I am living proof.

Maybe you feel like I do now.

If you’ve recovered, you probably don’t need SharED. But like me, you might be looking to get into volunteering, and wondering where your knowledge and experience can most help others. And in that case, I’ve never done as rewarding a role in my life as being a peer befriender.

The greatest value I find from this role is that I wholeheartedly understand the struggles that come with an eating disorder. I know about the tiredness, the experiences you miss out on, the sheer desperation it leaves you with day after day. And I get to channel that understanding into helping other people who are where I once was. If I can give one person one tip about how to recover, I feel like I’ve succeeded in this role. I truly believe that had I had something like this when I was battling an eating disorder, I might not have gone down the destructive path I did.

So if, like me, you’d like to offer your unique perspective and support someone who’s struggling, I really encourage you to become a peer befriender.

Want to learn more?

The SharED network is phenomenal, and I can’t recommend it enough. If you think sharing experiences with someone like me would help you in your recovery, sign up for SharED support here.

Or if you want to join me as a volunteer, find out how you can get involved today.