Let’s talk about personal identity. Something that I noticed is that when the inches of your waist and number on the scale become the central components of your life, it is hard to stop from identifying solely through the frame of the disorder. You can find your identity being defined by traits that only surround your obsession with calories, weight loss, and trying to stay thin. I had a personality thrust upon me that my disorder created and I couldn’t escape her. I had become this quiet, introverted, thin, workout crazed, healthy eating “guru”. None of those were really representative of me, but they were who I had unwittingly become.
Have your dreams, hopes, fears, and attributes outside of the disorder been lost and forgotten? It can be all too easy to fool yourself into thinking that this new identity you’ve created is the “new you” and that you are no one else without it, but letting go of that falsehood is an important step out of the darkness.
When I was recovering I would refer to “sick Rachel” and “healthy Rachel” as if they were two different people completely. “Sick Rachel” was not the real me and in my heart I always knew it even though the voices in my mind tried to hide it from me. It took me a long time to rebuild myself back to “healthy Rachel”. As I recovered and my hair thickened up, my nails stopped breaking, my period came back, and my health returned to normal, my personality started slowly returning too. A lot of my pre-ED qualities came back (nerdy fantasy obsessions, inclination to party, social skills, a passion to work in TV, a more relaxed vibe, open heart, and positive outlook). However I also had new components to my personality that I was able to incorporate into myself. I had to re-learn what it meant to be Rachel all over again. I started realizing that “sick Rachel” was never me, it was who I became when I let the anorexia speak for me. During recovery I visualized “healthy Rachel” being locked in a dungeon in the deep recesses of my mind. All she needed to do was break free and defeat “sick Rachel” for my personality to be restored.
So, how do you separate yourself from a mental illness that distorts you view of reality? How does “healthy Rachel” vanquish “sick Rachel?” The first step is to stop moving and eat. Eat so much that it doesn’t seem right. Continue eating and living until one day you wake up and the fog in your brain has lifted and you start seeing yourself for more than your body. That’s when you’ll start being able to really piece yourself together once again.
Your own self is the ultimate reason to recover.
Your identity is such a tricky thing to pin down. What makes you, you? When recovering it is always helpful to write down a list of things you’re recovering for. I always put Myself at the top of the list. I wanted my life back, I wanted to be me again. If you have sacrificed any fragment of yourself to try and be thin over anything else then you have already wasted far too much of your own time. It’s time to let go of all that poisonous, culturally ingrained bullshit. It’s a new year and a perfect time to remember what a badass warrior princess you really are! Instead of worrying about a workout, go watch one of your favorite movies. Instead of counting the calories in a piece of bread, bake a 3 layer cake and cover it with glitter. Stop hiding behind an identity of thinness that a disorder has convinced you is who you are. Stop worrying, start eating, start living. It may not sound easy, and it isn’t, but boy it is worth it.
Stay tuned. In my next blog post I will be outlining the exact method I used to recover.