Who am I without my eating disorder?
I have been pondering this question the last few days. Junior year of high school my life was centered around my eating disorder as it developed. Senior year was centered around treatment for my eating disorder. Now as a freshman in college I can’t help but wonder, now what?
Sure, in my day to day life I don’t really question my purpose. I am kept busy with my classes, homework, orchestra activities, and work. But when I step back, I feel like there is now this void where my eating disorder was. Like I no longer have a life goal. For so long I had this goal of being “healthy” and having the perfect body. Then with treatment this goal was flipped on its head and became focusing on being truly healthy and having my own perfect body back. Now that my goal of ending my eating disorder is in my grasp, what is next? What goal am I working towards?
I know a lot of people feel like their eating disorder makes them unique and that is why they don’t want to recover. I can definitely understand that, but really your eating disorder wants you to conform to our culture’s normative ideals of beauty, taking away your uniqueness. My personality has come back through recovery. During my deeply ED months I cared so much about what other people thought that my individuality was lost. There is so much freedom that comes with not caring about what other people think. Confidence comes with being okay if not everyone accepts you because your own self-acceptance is enough.
I feel the best I have in a long time, which is great. But I still feel like there is a void left from all the time and focus I put into my ED life. Right now, a lot of that focus has been redirected towards sharing my story and supporting the ED recovery community. I love my @ended Instagram account and feel a strong bond there. The people I follow and who follow me have gone through the same tough fight I have. There is a sense of comradery because of that and I feel good knowing I can help others who are struggling with their recovery.
But I also don’t want that to be my life. In my free time, I often check my Instagram
account. Maybe more than I should. I don’t know. I want to help others, but I also need to help myself. If I keep re-reading the last chapter of my life how can I move on to the next one? I need to recognize the progress I have made, but the fact that I developed anorexia at age 16 should not be the defining moment of my life. I want to live free from ED, but I am conflicted because I still feel like ED is part of my life.
ED will always be a piece of my life because it is something I have gone through. I know that. I am still trying to figure out how much of my life it should define. Part of my healing process it reflecting on how far I have come. Part of it has been sharing my story. Part of it continues to be helping others in small ways. And I feel compelled to do this because I feel like I have been given this experience for a reason. Throughout my whole treatment process, I told myself this would not be for nothing. Maybe I am putting too much pressure on myself, but I want to use what I have been through it whatever ways I can.
Being in college has made me feel very distant in some ways from everything that has happened to me. I am away from the environment where I developed my eating disorder and went through treatment for it. It feels like a lifetime ago in some ways. It’s weird to think about how only a few months ago my life was so different. And only a year ago my life was almost unbearable. But that is no longer my life. I eat lots of food. Yes, there are still some foods I may have a slight hesitation about, but in general I know I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I loved that recently @fallingintoselflove posted on Instagram that “just because you once had an eating disorder, ordering ice cream now does not invalidate your past struggles, but instead it proves all that you have overcome.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. What she posted really spoke to me because I still feel like I want to be connected to the ED recovery community, but not have an ED myself. She validated that I can be recovered but still acknowledge my past.
I don’t know where life is going to take me. I don’t know what part my ED story will play in where my life goes. Right now, it still feels like an important piece of who I am. Will it be in the future? I don’t know. I could see it being so, but I also could see myself moving on with my life. I don’t have to decide today. I don’t have to decide tomorrow. A year ago I had no clue what my life would look like now. Today I have no clue what my life will look like a year from now. Life is constantly changing. I need to learn to accept where I am at, while reflecting on my past, and propelling myself into the future. I don’t know what will fill my ED void. Maybe activist work. Maybe a new hobby. Maybe nothing ever will. Granted, this is a good problem to have because it shows how far I have come. But it is still something I am pondering in the back of my mind a lot.
My actual eating disorder thoughts are no longer controlling my life. I am immensely thankful for being given the strength to overcome so much. Now my future is uncertain, but I do know this for certain: I want to EnD ED.