Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

What I Learned

I thought that once I gave up the eating disorder completely, things would be good.  I’m not sure who first told me this, or if anyone did.  Or if I just assumed that I would automatically have a great life without the eating disorder.  I mean, life with the eating disorder was horrible so, logically, life without the eating disorder had to be great.  (Gotta love black and white thinking.)

Here’s what I learned:  

Life is definitely better without the eating disorder.  

That being said, life is also real without the eating disorder.  And that means that some days, life just plain old sucks, and now that I don’t have the eating disorder to numb the pain, I feel it.  

They (doctors, therapists, etc.) told me I would have to give up the eating disorder identity.  They did not tell me that right after doing so, I would be identity-less, that I’d be thrown into this existential crisis of “Who the hell am I if I’m not an anorexic?”  They did not tell me that I’d face a fierce depression while I figured out the answer to that question.  

I wanted someone to just tell me who to be, what to do.  Give me an expectation, and I’ll live up to it.  It’s what I do best.  But no one could tell me who I was.  I was the only one who had that answer, and for a long time, I honestly believed that once you took away the eating disorder, nothing was there.  I know I’m not the only one to believe that.

I want to tell you that there is someone beneath the eating disorder, no matter how long you’ve had it.  And I wish I could tell you how to find that person, but all I can do is tell you what I did.

I went through the motions.  I was in the middle of a Master’s program and applying to PhD programs.  I almost dropped out of my current program and tore up the applications.  But then I thought, “I have no idea what else to do and I always said I wanted to do this.”  I think most of my desire to run came from thinking I couldn’t succeed at school without an eating disorder, that that was the only thing that made me successful.  But I went back to school and went to my classes, all the time thinking, “They’re going to figure out that I’m not supposed to be here.”  

Here’s what I learned:

I belonged there.  In fact, without the eating disorder, I finally was a part of my program.  I made friends.  I went to social events that involved food.  I went out to dinner.  I wrote better papers.  I didn’t fade off in class.  I filled out my PhD applications and got in.  

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was actually living.


July 5, 2009 - Posted by | Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hi girlie! I just found your blog by WordPress searching “ED,” and I am so glad I found it! First off, congratulations for fully recovering. You truly defeated the odds, and I know it took so much strength to get there. I am recovering from anorexia but am probably 2/3 of the way done with the recovery. Please keep on writing, hun. These words are so inspirational and uplifting, especially now because I’m at that point that you’re talking about: finding a new identity without the anorexia. You are a beautiful writer and I hope this blog continues. 🙂

    Comment by Okie | July 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. This sounds so much like my journey through recovery. I know you identify as “recovered” now as you mentioned in your other post…I’m not there yet but look forward to that day. I had the same struggle with identity, and invested all of my identity into school, which just brought on the same fear that the ED brought on — what if I fail at this!? Slowly slowly slowly as I began to become a real person again and experience real things in life, I began to realize that I love yoga, love cats (especially mine), love anything related to the beach, and feel really fulfilled when reading, writing, or doing art. These things, plus the TV shows I watch, the music I listen to, the ways I spend my day, my job, school, everything that I do and think and feel, makes me. And thankfully, everything I do, think, and feel is no longer related to my ED.

    Comment by Jess K | July 11, 2009 | Reply

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