Getting to know YOU
An eating disorder can take over all aspects of your life. It can become your personality. People define themselves as ‘Anorexic’, or as ‘Bulimic’. Individuals question who they would be without the eating disorder. There is often a huge fear of being no one, of being nothing, of being worthless. The fear of having no idea who you really are can be overwhelming. Recovery, for some, is a process of building up an identity and developing confidence in that identity. Removing the eating disorder may be terrifying, but if you can build up a personality that doesn’t include the eating disorder, this process is somewhat kinder!
Have you ever started a hobby or a sport or something and had the desire that no one watch until you’ve had some practice; no one likes to look a fool. Well I was very good at this anorexia thing and the world wasn’t going to go away while I practiced being something new. People were watching. Recovery took so many leaps of faith, every word of encouragement helped and every criticism or unkind laugh set me scurrying back to anorexia. Other people’s judgements don’t matter when you’re good at anorexia; you are playing on a different pitch to them. So, what helped in recovery was encouragement and acceptance. When people commented positively on the music I was listening to or the book I was reading, it reaffirmed that this new identity, independent from anorexia, was okay.
If you are supporting someone with eating disorder you can have a really important role to play here. It is important not to give the eating disorder too much attention; remember who the individual is and direct your attention towards them and the positive things in their lives. The risk of directing too much attention to the eating disorder is that it shapes your relationship; your relationship becomes about the eating disorder and this reaffirms your friend’s identify as ‘the one with the eating disorder’. While you are likely to find arguing with the eating disorder unproductive, you can really help someone build a personality without the eating disorder. You can take time to find out more about your friend, what they like and what they are interested in; talking about life beyond the eating disorder helps. You can encourage your friend to engage in activities they enjoy and show an interest in their interests.
Eating disorders often have dramatic effects on romantic relationships. Being close to someone else, or letting someone else love you and your body when you hate it and have such a dysfunctional and destructive relationship towards yourself can be very difficult.
You may find it helpful to take a look at this article from Eating Disorder Recovery Today: http://www.eatingdisordersrecoverytoday.com/what-are-romantic-relationships-like-when-you-have-anorexia-nervosa/
Anorexia was one thing. Thinking about letting go was another entirely. I was anorexia. If I were not to be anorexic, I would be nothing. Logical. Recovery was an identity crisis. I had to define myself in new words. But who the f**! was I? The more I thought, the more I decided that no one in their right mind would be me because I didn’t really exist. That made the eating disorder seem terribly comforting. At least it existed. Something had to be better than nothing, or so I told myself. Starting with nothing though, you can build something new. I needed the confidence and courage to do this, to let go and build something new.