Recovery from anorexia nervosa involves so much more than reestablishing a healthy relationship with food (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again until everyone realises). It requires breaking old habits and learning new skills to cope with the inevitable ups and downs of life. It takes courage, dedication and patience. And, more than anything, it involves committing to finding yourself again, the real YOU behind the facade that is anorexia.
Anorexia gives nothing, anorexia steals, anorexia grabs and anorexia lies. It takes everything, including your identity. I know, especially in the depths of my disorder, that anorexia has stolen my entire identity until I am (quite literally) a shell of myself… until I talk as anorexia, until I think as anorexia… until I am anorexia and I am no longer Emma. I have (in the past) completely lost connection with myself.
Knowing what I know now anorexia’s identity was an illusion and a lie.
‘I am not anorexia’.
I have hidden behind anorexia for 11 years and, for so long, I have let her define every aspect of my life, every part of me. All my decisions, my reactions, my activities, my perceptions and my values are viewed through the eating disorder’s lens. The more it takes over, the less of myself has remained intact. Is this why it has taken me so long to choose recovery? Because without anorexia, I don’t know who I am anymore.
The simple truth is that eating disorders are opposed to a meaningful life; the two can’t coexist.
The process of rediscovering my identity continues with each additional day I spend in recovery. Likes and dislikes, values, personality traits, morals, even unknown talents are revealed through new activities and experiences. Every new revelation has great value because it contributes to recreating the whole – the whole person that anorexia sought to destroy.
Honestly, I am still discovering who I am without anorexia. I’m still unsure of exactly who I am, of all my likes and dislikes, of what I think or what I feel, of my opinions and my emotions… Of who Emma is. But, with each day that goes by I am finding out.
The truth is, I’m a 21 year old full of contradictions…
- I love fruit and veg but can’t think of anything better than sitting in front of the fire with a bar of chocolate and good book
- I don’t consider myself a ‘girly girl’ but I wear make up
- I have insomnia but I LOOOOVE sleep
- I hate social media but I kind of love it too
- I love nights out but, equally, there is nothing more satisfying than a night in my PJs with my family
- I love ballet but my feet look like they’ve been in a war zone
… the list goes on.
But actually, I’m okay with that. After all, I’m 21 and I’m not meant to know who I am yet, I’ve got the rest of my life to discover Emma, to find the real me. And, I WILL find Emma, I’ll peel back the layers that anorexia has left behind and discover who I am, regardless of how long it takes because, however long that is, Emma has got to be a whole lot better than anorexia, right?
But one thing is for sure, an identity and life free from anorexia nervosa is an identity and life I want.