Image: @henrimeilhacI can’t say I was prepared for the anguish I felt when recovering from my eating disorder. Especially the unforeseen emotion I was hit with- grief.
Grieving for my eating disorder?
It likely sounds weird, and maybe even a little trivial in respect to the traditional concept of losing a loved one. However, we grieve more often than we realize: that perfect job we were laid off from, that disenchanted relationship, that child who grew up, that dream we realized would never come true…and our identity that seems inexorably attached to our eating disorder.
As I recover from my eating disorder, I am left with a sense of emptiness- a loneliness- all while being encased in a hollow shell of who I used to be.
Have I completely lost me?
I so desperately want to cling to the eating disorder, just to catch one last glimpse of who I used to be before I go…but I refuse. At times I feel vacant, down, broken, and like I have no idea who I am anymore.
I may have lost the me that I used to be but I’ve found the me I long to be in so many unexpected places.
Art. Writing. Visiting. Laughing. Reading. Dancing. Relationships. Working. Learning. Cooking. Knitting.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a renowned psychiatrist for her work on understanding death and grieving, explains, “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. There will be healing and rebuilding of yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same. Nor would you want to.”
Although Dr. Kubler-Ross was referring to death of a loved one, I see many parallels in terms of eating disorder recovery.
A loved one, by nature, is there for us through thick and thin. The eating disorder becomes this loved one by default when we depend on it to cope with life’s ups and downs. The good news is that we can cope just fine without the eating disorder.
Rebuilding ourselves requires walking through our sorrows to another (sometimes uncomfortable) realm in which we recognize that we still have sorrows. It’s here that we choose to grow from our experiences; which takes persistence, patience, and self-compassion. I can’t tell you the exact formula for how to gain your sense of self- that’s for you to create. But, I have faith in you.
For myself, I hang on by encouraging myself at each meal, saying,
Woman! Look around you. This is freedom you are tasting.
And with each bite I get closer to the me I want to be.