Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Identity, take 2

I’m assuming they’ll be several posts along this topic, beginning with the first one, but I’m not good at coming up with synonyms. And really, this is along the same topic.  But it also comes from a question asked on my topics page.  

The question: What was recovery like, in the very beginning, and how has it changed for you as you’ve progressed?

I think I’ll only answer the first part of that tonight, or else I could be here for awhile.

After I finally made the last step in giving up the eating disorder and decided that I no longer wanted to be sick, that I no longer wanted to be called an anorexic, and that I no longer wanted to fall back on hospitalization as a safe retreat from the world, things got very ugly.

Was that what you were expecting to hear?  I wish someone had warned me about it.  And, granted, I supposed not everyone has this experience.  But I went into one of the worst depressive episodes I have known.  To the point where my therapist gave me the “what would happen if he thought I were in danger” talk, which I hadn’t heart in a very long time.  And I knew that the depression was not any chemicals out of whack or synapses firing at the wrong time; no, I was in the midst of an existential crisis that came down to the question (and I will word it this way, because you can see it in my journal this way, day after day after day): Who the fuck am I without the eating disorder?  

I’d been an Anorexic with a capital A for twelve years.  Yes, I did other things in that time period, but everything was fueled by the eating disorder.  I decided what to eat, what to wear, how much to run, whom to hang out with, and where it was safe to go all based on my eating disorder.  Could I be a successful student if I wasn’t anorexic?  My logic: I get nervous about school. So I numb all that stress away by not eating and drinking lots of coffee.  Then I can focus and get my As.  Did I still want to be a writer?  What if all my creative energy came from the eating disorder?   Would people like me if I wasn’t thin, if I wasn’t that reserved, studious girl in the library? 

Turns out, in the end, my malnourished brain wasn’t so good at pulled As.  A common fear among those with any mental illness is that creative energy disappears if the “madness” disappears.  My writing vastly improved once I had a brain to think with.  As far as people liking me, they liked me before.  But I just didn’t let them get close.  The eating disorder was a thick wall between me and the world.  Recovery gave them the chance to know me.  Recovery gave me the chance to know the world.

The first months of recovery were terrifying.  I didn’t know how to cope, I didn’t know who I would be in the end, I didn’t know how I should tie my shoes in the morning.

But I kept doing what I normally did, minus the eating disorder symptoms.  I went to work.  I went to school.  I talked to people.  I talked to my treatment team.  I kept working on recovery.  

And I settled into life.  Life, with all its rawness that can leave one feeling whipped at the end of the day.  

Life, with all its promises for joy that can leave one feeling loved and nurtured at the end of the day.

You can’t have the latter without the former.


August 2, 2009 - Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, feelings, identity | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for this post. I have been dealing with the issue of not knowing who I am if I am not sick. It is so hard to not act on eating disorder symptoms in times of distress. But every time I hold on and work through it without giving in I get stronger. Once I stopped numbing my emotions the flood gates opened. I thought I would never stop hurting. I have been able to prove to myself that with time the intensity does go down… I can hold on. And although I am feeling some really raw and painful emotions, I am feeling some really amazing positive ones too.

    Comment by amanda | August 2, 2009 | Reply

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