Most of my young adult life, as is the case with many adolescents, I felt as if I was constantly searching for something. I felt like I was grasping for something non-existent. My life drastically and unexpectedly changed when I was a teenager, leaving me crippled with fear, buckled over in pain, and utterly and completely lost in my life.
Struggling with my feelings of self-worth, I let what began as a lack of appetite morph into something greater.
It became a monstrous eating disorder consuming my every thought.
No matter what I did or who I tried to become, I felt worthless, used, abused, and lost.
I felt as if my identity had been stolen from me and I was left not knowing anything about who I was. Because of this, I desperately fought for my eating disorder to become both my identity and my companion. Ironically, I felt as if my eating disorder was who I had chosen to become. It left an even bigger void in my life, one I could never figure out how to fill.
I was not only empty from my lack of nourishment, but I also felt like a shell of a person.
Fast-forward almost ten years later: although it has been a slow and quite painful process, I am finally finding myself. I do not doubt recovery from an eating disorder–or any mental illness–aids in the process of discovering who you are.
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When you are consumed by something as powerful as a mental illness, you become somewhat of a slave to it. You see little except the eating disorder itself.
If I couldn’t figure out who I was, I would not be able to move forward with my eating disorder recovery. Figuring that out meant getting past the thing I was holding deep inside. I kept something a secret for a long time from those who thought they knew me best.
I kept it a secret because I was scared.
Deep down I had hoped my eating disorder would take my life before I had to unearth the painful secret keeping me from being who I truly was. I was ashamed and consumed by what people would think of me.
So often, it is the fear of what people think keeping us imprisoned in our bondages. However, when you reach the point where you can let go and not care what others think, it is as if a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
It was the first step for me. I had to let go of the fears holding me captive such as the fear of what others would think, the fear of losing people who once meant a great deal to me, and the fear of being me.
I needed to let go of fear and allow myself to accept love.
It was through this process of coming out to friends and family that I discovered who I was. Doing this — in addition to allowing myself to fall in love with my (now) wife –I began to change. The void in my life was beginning to fill and instead of feeling lost, I felt found.
This first step catapulted me towards recovery from my eating disorder and continues to teach me to accept and love myself. People so often say in order to love someone, you first must love yourself.
But, when I found love and accepted who I was, I, in turn, began to love myself.
Just as I came to terms with finding myself and telling others who I am, I came to terms with accepting myself in recovery as well. I began accepting my body along with its changes. By choosing recovery I wasn’t going against everything the eating disorder had brainwashed me to believe. Instead, I was choosing health and happiness for myself.
Finding yourself and knowing who you are is a journey and a process. It takes time. If you are feeling lost in your life, with no idea who you are or what you are doing on this planet we call home, be patient with yourself.
Allow yourself to break some rules. Be bold.
Learn from mistakes and move forward with the knowledge you are capable of living your life on your own terms, and you never need to apologise for it.
“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” –Dr. Seuss.