Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Identity, Take 4


Parts of Me as Seen on My Cubicle Wall

Parts of Me as Seen on My Cubicle Wall

I seem to be tackling Identity more often than anything else, but I think that was my intention with this blog.  Because I think a reason a lot of us hold back from making that final step towards recovery is the grip of fear behind, “Who am I without the eating disorder?”

(For my previous posts on Identity See Take One, Take Two, and Take Three.)

For a lot of us, we feel that the eating disorder has been there as long as we can remember and we can’t remember not having an eating disorder.  So logically, the next thought would be, “If I have always been an anorexic or bulimic, then if I give it up, there will be nothing there.”  

You were not born with an eating disorder.  You were born with an appetite, a healthy one, and you knew how to make that need known (crying) and when to stop eating because you knew and respected fullness.  Toddlers know when they are hungry and when they are not, and some days, despite their mothers’ pleas to “Eat something!” at dinner, they just aren’t hungry.  But maybe the next day, they’ll be hungry as hell and will let you know.  

As a child, you played and grew and went to school and interacted with other children.  You were not an isolated eating disorder bumping into “normal” six-year-olds as you passed through the hallway.  

For some of us, we can remember when we weren’t sick, but it’s just been so long that we don’t know if that person even exists anymore.  Some of us fear that it’s been so long and now we’re older, so even if that person did exist, the time and situation has changed.  What good would my 18-year-old self be to a 30-year-old body?  

Regardless of the situation, how long you had the eating disorder, or why you think there isn’t anyone inside you beside the anorexic or the bulimic or the compulsive overeater, life gives all of us–and not just those with an eating disorder–a chance to redefine ourselves every single day.  Each day is a chance to create or re-create a new you.  A chance to uncover what you buried for so long.  

So you don’t know who you were before the eating disorder?  Who would you like to be? Sit down and write out what would be a perfect day in your eyes. A day without an eating disorder.  Write down every single thing you would do from the time you got up to the time you went to sleep. Image where you’d be, who you’d be with, what you’d eat, where you’d eat, whether you’d have a pet, where you’d be working or going to school, what you would do for fun.  

What is stopping you from making all of that come true?  Nothing, except the eating disorder.

When I was trying to figure out who I was without the eating disorder, I thought I had to be one thing, because I was giving up one thing.  But nothing–nothing–was going to be able to fit that hole perfectly.  And I discovered that I didn’t want to be one thing.  That I couldn’t be just one thing.  The picture above is my cubicle wall at my desk at school.  It’s a fair representation of who I am.  There are pictures of my nephew (there will be pictures of my niece added in the fall), pictures of me and my friends, musician postcards, a TWLOHA postcard, a pin from the Eating Disorders Coalition, a postcard from Poet Lore, where I used to work.  There’s a Obama rally flyer from when he came to our campus and there’s a postcard of a photographer I like.  I enjoy all of these things.  And more.  I don’t have pictures of my favorite authors up there, or pictures of my knitting, or a pointe shoe hanging off of a push pin.  

These things are all part of who I am.  It’s a much more well-rounded person than I was five years ago.  I am free to enjoy all of these things in a way I wasn’t before.  I have time; I have energy; I have passion.  Everything the eating disorder took away.


August 16, 2009 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hey there,

    I really like this post.

    It inspires me to keep on finding myself.
    I know it is a very pragmatic question, and probably really superfluous, but how long did it take you to dicover yourself? I believe we are growing and changing daily, but I mean, I guess, I am looking for what shapes me, what directs me, what guides my thinking, like the true self deep down inside, that so many people seem to oppress. Have you really found that self?

    Comment by stopmyeds | August 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hmm, very good point. As I was reading through this entry, I was having a hard time really believing that I am much more than the ED. I have loads of ED books on the shelves and quite a few posters and art projects based on body image. But then I also noticed that I have tons of art and design books, Rosie’s We Can Do It! poster, silly pictures of me with friends, notes and postcards from around the world – all of which are totally not related to anything ED. So, there’s more there even when we aren’t sure.

    Comment by Jen K | August 18, 2009 | Reply

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