Identity is something I’d rather avoid thinking about. But I think part of the eating disorder recovery process is finding out who you are without the eating disorder. Maybe its creating an identity outside of rules, restrictions and numbers.
Identity is a grouping of attributes, qualities and values that define how we view ourselves, and perhaps how we think other people see us.From speaking to friends and from reading blogs online it seems identity is something a lot of teenagers and young adults struggle with. Who am I? What do I want to do with my life?
There is quite a lot of pressure to decide early on what you want to do with your life. At 16 you narrow down the the subjects you study to 3/4 A-Levels. Perhaps based on what you enjoy. Perhaps based on what you want to study at university. Then at 17/18 you apply to Uni. remember this time last year submitting my application and being so stressed about making the wrong choice.The reality is you can always change courses, universities e.t.c and if you did make the wrong choice its not the end of the world. Some people know what career they want to pursue from a young age but if you are unsure it can be hard to know what degree to choose.
Maybe its much easier when you are uncertain about who you are to begin to define yourself by numbers and how much you weigh and how much you eat.Then that becomes your identity and you don’t have to worry about who you really are. When you lose weight you also lose yourself. But if you don’t feel like you have an identity in the first place then it feels like there isn’t much to lose really.
Identity can be formed from the labels we place upon ourselves, the roles we undertake, the activities we complete. At the moment I feel I don’t have much of an identity.When we lose our identity and sense of self, we are likely to seek our sense of self-worth from others. It becomes very important how others view us, as our sense of value and self-worth, our feelings of confidence, are dependent on external factors. How do people define themselves without the external validation of others?
The other day at work I said Hi to someone and they replied “I was going to say Hi skinny girl but I can tell you have gained”. I know they meant it as a positive thing but it made the disordered voices in my head go a little crazy.I’m no longer a low weight,.no longer a runner, or a student or anything really. Literally nothing.Its been four years since I started struggling with an eating disorder and when I think of life without it, I am terrified.I feel like I cant sepperate the real me from the eating disorder me as they are just merged together. I still don’t feel like myself and I don’t feel free. Looking healthy on the outside is one thing but feeling heavy and bad on the inside is another.I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or conceited. I know I am really lucky in life.
The thing with identity is that we can create it.It changes during our lifetime and its not defined by just one thing.I am grateful that I have the chance to regain my health and control from the eating disorder. When I go to university in September it is quite freeing to think that no one will know me and its a new and fresh start. I just hope I don’t take the eating disorder along with me.
At the moment I still feel certain about becoming a nurse.It’s pretty much my motivation to not relapse.Maybe it is what I will be good for .Despite feeling lost at the moment I know that I want to help people and take care of them.
An eating disorder identity is like a mask. You fear you cannot live without it but you know you cannot live within it.It feels like a safe cocoon but really I know its just a cage that keeps you trapped. I want to give it up and its frustrating.
I read this article which was really quite helpful in thinking about what role the eating disorder can have for a person and why it is so hard to “just stop” and let go of that identity.