The worst part about an eating disorder – you lose your identity. You become the disorder and it engulfs the person you once were. Learning how to separate is by far the hardest part of my recovery. As people grow up they develop their own desires and passions. As I grew up, I grew apart from mine. People form opinions and begin to stand up for these opinions during a crucial part of adolescence and young adulthood. I became an empty shell just trying to get through school with perfect grades and was never assertive in the least bit. This is the problematic thing about recovery. How do you even begin to find a lost soul who has spent the past several years in disorder and never really figured out who she was in the first place? Eating disorder behaviors can be so comforting and easy compared to sorting out who I am and what opinions I hold. I write about this today because it has been a struggle. I have a lot of anxiety when asserting myself on any level, but I am finally realizing throughout this whole process that I am worth something and so are my values and opinions. It is a healthy thing to disagree with people and it will not be the end of the world if someone doesn’t like what I have to say. I am slowly but surely discovering my core values and the next step is to be able to express them without apprehension about how I will be viewed by others. Deep down I know who I am and what I want out of life, but the hard part is uncovering myself under all the years of passiveness. The easy part of recovery was stopping behaviors. I don’t say this to discourage anyone at that point in recovery, but I have found this to be true. It isn’t easy to quit behaviors, but it is easier than trying to find your lost identity. All I can say is start small. What is your favorite color? Favorite book? As you begin to piece together some of these easier questions, they begin to tell a story about who you are and why you like some things versus others. It may sound odd but taking a sort of inventory of your favorite things helps put things into perspective. I have learned in some wellness courses the value of asking yourself why things are important to you multiple times to really get to know yourself and I do find it helps. For example:
What is your favorite weather? Rain
Why is rain your favorite? It is calming
Why is it calming? The sound it makes on the roof and the smell in the air
Why do you love that smell? It reminds me of camping in the mountains and being surrounded by nature.
Just by asking why several times after an answer you can begin to tell that I love being outdoors and the sights and smells of rain are very calming to me. This may not seem like a lot, but doing this exercise reminds me how much I love camping and hiking and this makes me realize oh I do know what is important to me. I do value spending time outside and soaking up all the surroundings from my senses. It is just another way of checking in with myself that I find helpful.