Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

How long did it take?

One of the comments from my last entry:

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?

This has had me thinking quite a bit.  It’s not exactly an easy question to answer.  

Yes, we are all growing and changing daily.  I really did used to think that you matured and were done working on yourself, but now I have learned that since life is always changing (oh and how I hate that fact), then I must change and adapt in response.  If I don’t, I’ll be stuck in the past.  I lived for too long in the past, and I just don’t want to do it anymore.

But I also believe that there is a core self, the essential part of who I am.  What drives me, what motivates me, what I love, what fulfills me.  “Losing weight” does not answer one of these characteristics.  

Honestly, I don’t think I learned who I am until I really let go of the eating disorder.  Which is a terrifying concept for most of us.  Not knowing what’s on the other side.  Of course it’s terrifying.  But while I was still clinging to the behaviors and mindset, I couldn’t see anything else.  It did take awhile, learning who I am. It was several months before I could write a conclusion to my manuscript about who I am in the present moment.  And since that time?  I have continued to learn more things about myself.  I could list these things, but they won’t help you.  You can’t appropriate me and feel fulfilled.  

In the Skills Training Manual, the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills book, there is a list of Pleasurable Activities.  I think there are about 150 different things on this list.  Obviously, not everyone will find every activity enjoyable, and there are plenty more than 150 activities.  But one of my assignments while I was in the Partial Hospitalization Program the last time was to do one of those activities (or one of my own) every evening. This had two purposes: it helped prevent me from engaging in eating disorder behaviors and also gave me time to figure out what made me happy, what I liked to do.  I knew I liked to knit, but really, aside from that, I didn’t have much on my list of “Things I Enjoy.”  I’d been too focused on the eating disorder and my academic career (which were closely tied together) to explore anything else.

So that’s what I did.  Explore.  A lot.  Things that had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the eating disorder.  On the DBT Pleasurable Activity List are things such as “enjoy a favorite meal or snack” or “go to your favorite restaurant” but those weren’t really options for me because they were triggers for the eating disorder rather than things I could enjoy.  

I started reading again–things that I wanted to read rather than what was assigned for school.  I forced myself to socialize.  This is something I still have to do at times.  I am a very strong introvert, and social situations exhaust me.  But they are necessary for breaking the isolation that can lead to depression, which can, of course, lead to eating disorder behaviors in some.  

Do I know exactly who I am right now?  No. I do know I am a driven individual.  I like competition.  I love research.  I like to create things.  I love my little nephew and niece, and I love teaching. 

I’m not an anorexic.  I’m not sick.  I don’t want to ever go back to having an eating disorder; that enticement is finally extinguished.  

But there’s still a lot of space between the “what I am” and “what I know I am not” that gives me a lot of room to grow and change and become.


August 20, 2009 - Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, self harm, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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