Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Discover Yourself


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(I’m considering this as part of my Identity series)

This is an older picture.  One year ago at this time, most of my hair was my normal color, with the undersides in the back dyed a deep purple.  Then around February of this year, I died the tips of my hair blue, as you can see here.  And this is a hat I made, which you really can’t see all that well.  The top is really textured and fuzzy.

I like this picture because it says a lot of things, at least in my head.  First off, I can change my hair any time I want and I am still me.  Right now it’s a really deep brown that borders on black, and it’s longer than before.  I think I’m going to add streaks of purple in a couple of weeks.  I’m not sure.  Or I may just let it fade to my normal color.

And the hat.  I used a pattern, but I think there is skill and creative energy involved in knitting or crocheting–with or without a pattern.

So the point of all of this?  Someone commented on my entry yesterday that for some people who will live with their eating disorders for the rest of their lives, in varying states of illness or recovery, the eating disorder remains a part of their identity and sometimes the humor needs to be there.  I do not argue against humor.  If I didn’t have this black sense of humor about what has happened health wise, I think I would have ended up in the hospital a lot sooner than I did two weeks ago.

But I do challenge the belief that an eating disorder has to remain a part of your identity.  I originally thought, when I got my cardiac diagnosis, “I am now a cardiac patient forever.”  That was pretty depressing for awhile.  But no.  I have to take certain precautions to keep me healthy, but I do not have to succumb to the idea that ARVD is who I am.  I’ve known several people with cancer and they don’t say, “I’m a cancer patient.”  They say, “I have cancer.”  There is a big difference.

So are you anorexic/bulimic/a compulsive overeater or do you have an eating disorder?

And even if you have an eating disorder, you can still be you. I know a lot of us lost sight of who we are in the midst of the illness, but what are you doing to find yourself again?  It’s not a passive process.  I worked my ass off to figure out who I was without the eating disorder.

Part of me is the creative person who loves to knit and crochet.  This is the part of me who is taking up sewing as well and just pre-washed and dried fabric to make a dress.  Although I can’t be Super Athlete anymore because I have ARVD, I can use some of that time and energy doing other things I love.

How do you find those things?  Just start trying different things.  Take an art class.  Or just buy cheap paints and see if you like it.  Go to the library and get a book about knitting and see if you like that.  Take walks with a camera.  Cook different types of foods.  Pick a topic you’re interested in and research it.  Marsha Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder has a list of 170-some pleasurable activities for adults.  Find a copy of that list and start checking things off.  You may be surprised at what you discover.

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October 29, 2009 - Posted by | 1, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. I think sometimes it’s easy to think “I’ll do those things when I’m recovered.” “…when I’m happy.” “…when I have more time.” etc. But it’s important to do those things when it’s not the “perfect” time because it does remind you that there are things besides the ED.

    Also, I’ve wondered why it’s common to be so determined to keep ourselves away from fun things. I convince myself a lot that it’s just too hard to have fun, or that I don’t really deserve to treat myself.

    Comment by Jen | October 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. “I’ve known several people with cancer and they don’t say, “I’m a cancer patient.” They say, “I have cancer.” There is a big difference.”

    I wrote something very similar in a paper on bipolar.
    There really is a big difference and an important one for people to realize.

    And I wish I could dye my hair fun colors like that, but I can’t while applying for and working at a hospital!

    Comment by Andi | October 29, 2009 | Reply

    • I was a little worried about having purple hair while teaching at a university, but compared to some, I’m rather tame! I am going to wait until I find a part time job and find out what they are okay with before I dye my hair!

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | October 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. I think this was one of the hardest things for me to learn…finding things that would identify me besides the eating disorder. But it was the most important thing to my recovery. First I was dancer, then a runner. Then I was only a runner when I was strong enough to run. Then the complete immersion of the ed took over and once I found my way out of that, I had no idea what things I liked or didn’t like. And because like most people with an ed, whatever I did, I thought I had to do it perfect the first time or I couldn’t do it at all.

    But it’s been a journey, and a fun one too. I found I love to crochet and don’t have to do it perfectly. I love running again, for fun, and not to lose weight. I love to collect antiques. I still love to write and teach. Finding myself will be ongoing as I think it should be. I dont want to be afraid to try new things…

    Comment by unknownperson | October 30, 2009 | Reply

  4. I just want to clarify what I meant. I meant that for me, and perhaps for some others, the e.d. and e.d. recovery will always be a facet of who I am. I do not mean that this will be primary or that it will be my identity. I do not mean that I would ever think of myself as “Eating disordered Say,” nor would I introduce myself as “Hi! I’m an e.d. patient!” Well, okay. Maybe I would. Under the right circumstances. As a hilarious joke. But not because I actually feel that that is who I am.

    I am so many things BEYOND my eating disorder. And, in my case, my eating disorder is one facet of a multi-faceted personhood. And I’m okay with that, and I think that it’s perfectly compatible with recovery. I can see I might nee to post a blog post about this.

    Comment by sayhealth | October 31, 2009 | Reply

  5. Interesting and thought provoking post. I think that I have an eating disorder, but I don’t label myself as anorexic. In a way, I think it is because the label sounds so harsh, and I would like to deny and distance myself from it. A cop out? Hmmmm…maybe. Anyway, I also color, and change my hairstyle a lot, and use make up to change my appearance. I have fun doing it, but my therapist thinks that I use it as a mask to hide who I really am, and in a way, that is true, but I do feel the need to hide or constantly change how I look. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I have an identity.

    Comment by Angel | October 31, 2009 | Reply


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