This morning I just got to thinking about how when some people consider themselves recovered from an eating disorder, they want to forget that whole part of their life and move on to the “new person” they have become.
I can’t imagine that for myself.
Not only do I have permanent reminders on my body in tattoos symbolizing three stages in my recovery (a lotus symbolizing new beginnings when I left inpatient, a dove symbolizing freedom that I got when I was at a really good place in my recovery, and finally I will be getting a hamsa symbolizing strength, protection, power and blessings now that I feel that I am recovered), I know that this eating disorder, no matter how terrible and malicious it was, has shaped me into the person I am and has brought amazing people into my life, has pushed bad people out of my life, and has made good friendships stronger.
This eating disorder opened up all my insecurities, anxieties and control issues that I may not have even known were inside me and forced me to deal with them head-on. An eating disorder at any stage in life is a terrible, life-threatening thing, but I am glad that I dealt with it at the age I did and while I was still at home with my parents there to support me every step of the way.
In treatment I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can lean on my loved ones for help; that it’s okay to not be able to do things by myself sometimes. I learned how to put behind me what that one terrible girl did to me, even if I neither forgave nor forgot.
When I was under control of my eating disorder, I temporarily lost sight of my personality. I didn’t socialize; I didn’t want to. I spent time only with my mom and pretended like I was happy. Sometimes I even fooled myself into thinking I was happy. But I was still Erin. I was still me. I can’t just forget that. Can’t move on like those whole two+ years just never existed. Yes, an eating disorder is a dark time, but one have to remember it and recognize it because there’s always going to be the risk of it popping back up some time later in life. I recognize that and I am aware of the risk that I have to keep under control.
If my family and friends won’t forget the struggles I went through, I owe it to them to recognize the pain that I put them through so it doesn’t happen again.
A good side to remembering my past is the continued support that I get from people, sometimes even complete strangers. I am pretty open about my eating disorder. At work, I mentioned to a coworker that I may be interested in helping eating disorder patients because I am recovering (or recovered) from one myself. Her first reaction was that she was so proud of me. I barely even knew this woman, but I guess I was inspirational. Inspiration is also another good aspect of recognizing one’s past. One will never know who he or she can help by being open about past struggles. I may be helping someone to come to terms with the fact that they have an eating disorder or that they need to go get help for an eating disorder or that they need to get back on track with their recovery. I am what I consider a success story. I feel that I give hope to the people who think that they will die living with their eating disorder. Also, I may help someone who has a totally different sort of problem, unrelated to eating disorders.
A good part of my time is trying to find a new identity for myself. I had attached “Eating disordered” to my name for so long. At some times, it took more power and hold over me than my true name. As I was freeing myself from my eating disorder, I didn’t really have much meaning or direction. I knew for a long time that I wanted to do work in the fashion industry, but that seemed shallow, with the contradictions of skinny models and articles on loving your body.
Once I pretty much ruled that out, I didn’t know what to do. I then thought working with eating disorder patients would be rewarding until it seemed like my friend was going down that path herself. It was just too hard and triggering to try and help her.
It’s so important for someone in recovery to find something else to compliment their personality and lifestyle to motivate themselves and give their lives meaning. Recently, I think I have found some sort of an identity.
I have a new job that is working at an Inn that does weddings and banquets. I absolutely love my job and I love seeing the true love between the bride and groom each time I work and the sincere appreciation from all the guests. I love getting recognition of a job well done from a coworker or supervisor.
Without something to identify oneself with, I believe it would be dangerously easy to slip back into the patterns of an eating disorder. I think that everyone needs to plan time for a healthy activity that will keep their mind off something triggering.
That’s really all I can think of writing for now. If you have any opinions/personal experiences, please feel free to share 🙂