Sometimes, we get so caught up emotionally in something, that little bits of us break off, and when the storm blows over, we’re left feeling fragmented and cracked.
When we are open to it, those cracks heal, and eventually, the efforts of recovery are tangible. That might mean weight gain for some. For others, it might mean a total overhaul of their mental thought processes, like being able to accept their bodies and tune out the negative internal monologue. Those victories are huge. It takes work, painful work to overcome those barriers, and once we’re there, often we feel discouraged because there isn’t the resolution we expected.
We feel empty.
Even in the joy and success of recovery, emptiness is a common feeling. Think of it this way. The eating disorder held a king’s throne, and when we take away its power, we don’t know who to turn to, who to follow anymore. One day, we wake up and realize our mind is free to devote energy thinking about things not related to the eating disorder and disordered thoughts. Oceans of space, for us to use as we please, open up, and initially, it feels a little overwhelming. Often, this is what people mean when they say they miss their ED. It gave them purpose, a pseudo sense of meaning and purpose.
What I’ve personally struggled with most, is rediscovering my identity. What do I like to do, outside of food related activities? What am I passionate about, other than nutrition and healthy living? I asked myself those questions and realized I didn’t have an answer. That scared me. Without my ED, I felt lost.
To avoid relapse, it’s important to recognize that these feelings, unwanted as they may be, play a vital role in recovery. It feels uncomfortable because you’re growing. I encourage you to seek out answers about the genuine you. Don’t be discouraged. You have time. Even people who haven’t had an eating disorder will tell you that figuring out who you are and why you’re here is a lifelong process. Here are four things that helped get the ball rolling when I was feeling lost.
Try new things you might not like.
Go fishing. Take a hike. Paint a picture. Heck, re-tile your bathroom. Do something that stretches you. Something that you aren’t familiar with and would need to learn about.
Rediscover things you forgot you loved to do.
Who were you before your ED? What did you like to do? Pick out a few things and give them a try. The worst thing that could happen is that you dislike it. That’s another thing. Your ED will change you. That’s okay. Welcome the change and utilize it on your path to find the genuine you.
Get fired up about politics, the environment, people.
Ask yourself what topics spark a response. Often, those areas will develop into the ones you intrinsically feel connected with.
Meet with a friend for coffee.
Make an intention to let this time together be about building a healthy relationship. Other people can help you find your genuine “you.” They might notice a characteristic or quality that you can’t see or revive a buried part of your spirit. Don’t look for the genuine you in other people, but do allow positive influences to compliment your character.
My genuine me isn’t fully uncovered yet, which is okay! I don’t expect to know myself completely even by the end of my life because I’m always changing, growing, and learning. What I have learned so far is this:
I like: singing obnoxiously loud in the car, hiking on cold windy days, running in every season(even the wet ones), baking when it rains, laughing at poop jokes, reading meaningful literature, learning from teachers, snuggling babies(especially my nieces), writing
I dislike: arugula, blank white oppressive winter afternoons, conflict, uncertainty, feeling insecure, being laughed at, one-sided conversations, my high school gym uniform, hairless cats
I am passionate about: environmental protection, sustainable farming, travel, holistic wellness, education, ending mental health stigmas
I am devoted to: my relationship with Christ, a global family that encompasses every human life, recovery
It seems simplistic, but it’s that easy. What do you like? What do you dislike? What are you passionate about and devoted to? Start small and expand your list from there. As always, remember your body is fearfully and wonderfully made, and your life has a distinct purpose.