Here’s the thing about life: we don’t get a do-over.
We can’t turn back the hands of time and redo a moment, a season, an era. Time keeps pressing on, and whether we like it or not, how we choose to live our lives is happening right this very minute, never to be relived again.
You see, that’s the dark side of an eating disorder that they don’t tell you. That season of your life, that was spent enslaved to a disease that was actively destroying you…you can never get that time back. You cannot undo the lost years that were spent chained to rituals and isolation and fear and self-abuse.
Because you’ve spent that destructive season — that for me, was years long — having completely lost yourself. You no longer know who you are without the disease. You’ve completely forgotten — or rather, it was beaten out of you by the eating disorder.
So the question becomes, how do you return to yourself in a recovered life, if you’ve forgotten who you were in the first place.
Which, honestly, seems like an overly dramatic question that is, “a little much.”
But quite honestly, that has been such a difficult aspect of recovery. Pre-anorexia, I was a girl with dreams and passions, silliness, and compassion. But after years spent obsessing over food, and exercise, and lying, and manipulating loved ones, and keeping this giant web of deceit spinning — by the end, you’ve not only become an emaciated shell of yourself physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially — you’re completely wasted away as well.
So how, then, did I find myself again?
Well, spoiler alert – for a long time, I didn’t. I was like a dandelion seed in the wind — flitting from here to there. I thought I wanted to be a Southern Belle, and went to college in South Carolina for a semester — only to fall back into the eating disorder. That was followed by a season of culinary school where I thought I’d be a chef. Followed by college in Colorado where I thought I would be a sorority girl. Which brings us to my current stage in New York. And during that time, I don’t think I really found myself again, until I was several years into life in Manhattan.
So – coming from the girl who has been trying desperately to find that life on fire that I knew before the anorexia – false starts are part of the process. As is patience, and perseverance. And courage.
But I think if there’s one piece of advice I could give: it’s to go back to your roots. And by that, I mean in a multifaceted sense.
- Surround yourself with your “corner people.” You know who these people are. They are the ones that, through thick and thin — literally for me — were always there for you, loving you, having your back, being “in your corner.” These people knew who you were before the eating disorder. And with their help, they can support you as you rediscover that person again. And on that note, if you’re so blessed to have “corner people” in your life, cherish them – they are a blessing of infinite value.
- Go back to your roots, spiritually. I’m going to come out and say something that is really an ugly truth: during the disease, the eating disorder becomes your god. You worship at the alter of ED. Idolizing thinness and emptiness, and self. To truly find yourself, you have to find your center again: God. You have to put yourself back in proper priority: under God. Because a life spent in worship of self is an empty, insatiable existence that only leads one place.
- Go back to your roots, passions-wise. Remember the things you loved to do, and then dip your toe in. For me, I was a singer before my anorexia. But I literally lost my voice in the ED. Everything about me became small and hollow, including my singing voice. So finding it again, and not being afraid to try was a huge step in rediscovering me. But whatever you loved doing — hiking, painting, volunteering with the elderly, cooking, making up stupid dance routines to Ricky Martin songs ((just me?)) — do them again. Listen to the music you loved before. Watch home videos. Try to tap into that emotional response of things you loved to do.
But here’s the most important thing: yes, go back to your roots to try to recall the person you were before. Do that, but then let it go.
Sounds counter-intuitive, right?
Yes…release yourself from the pressure of becoming her again.
Because here’s the thing: you are a new person. Whether we like it or not, we have emerged out of that pit of hell stronger, having seen and experienced something that – well, changed us. Changed our outlook. Changed our perspective. Changed our thinking.
So the task is then…how will we let that impact our going forward. Will we let that define us, or will we use it to propel us forward into a life of fulfillment and purpose.
We cannot get that time back, lost to the eating disorder. But we can choose to make the most of the second chance we’ve been given. And the more time and distance between you and that season, and the more you dive headfirst into chasing life again, little by little, you’ll slowly realize you’re becoming the “you” you used to be…only with a depth of soul that can only be found by overcoming something that tried to take you out.
You’ll slowly realize you’re becoming the “you” you used to be…only with a depth of soul that can only be found by overcoming something that tried to take you out.
Wherever you are in that process, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Believe in yourself. Lean on those “corner people.” But more than anything, depend on God. Give it all to Him and allow Him to breathe life back into your spirit.
Because dear warrior, you are worth it.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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