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Whenever we struggle in life, whether it’s with depression, an eating disorder, or alcoholism, we tend to lose ourselves. The mental illness or issue we are dealing with takes over our lives, our relationships, and unfortunately, often our personalities. This makes recovery even more daunting. When we start the process and begin shedding the illness, we are left with a gaping hole, a hole we aren’t quite sure how to fill. Our identity was so wrapped up in our illness we no longer know who we are without it.
Finding our voice again can be difficult but it can also be a time of learning and growth.
We are given the chance to reinvent ourselves as improved versions of who we were before.
First, you have to separate your true voice from the voice of your disorder. Whenever you have negative thoughts, stop and reflect. Ask yourself “is this what I think or what my disorder tells me I should think?” Try to challenge the disordered thoughts to get a sense of what your true voice sounds and feels like.
Once you are able to recognize your genuine self, you can channel those thoughts and feelings towards discovering your hobbies, passions, and goals in life. Try new things, travel to new cities, explore new places, meet new people. For every activity you find you don’t like, you’ll find another to spark your interest. Learn to say yes to every opportunity and don’t be embarrassed if something just isn’t for you. All that matters is you gave it a chance!
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Another good way to find your voice is by journaling.
Set aside some time (even just 15 minutes) in the morning when you wake up or in the evening before bed to write. You can use prompts to guide you or simply let the thoughts flow.
Journaling is one of the most authentic forms of self-expression and can help you uncover who you really are outside of your disorder.
A similar exercise is to create a vision board.
Visualize what you want your life to look like outside of your recovery. What is your dream job? Where would you like to travel? What kinds of volunteering do you want to do? Get creative with this and don’t be afraid to include “reach” goals.
Nothing is impossible on your vision board. The point is simply to begin brainstorming what your new future could be and inspire you to continue working towards it.
If you’re still stuck and aren’t sure what your interests are beyond your disorder, interview your family and close friends.
Ask them what they think are your biggest strengths or natural talents. Their answers just might surprise you and lead you down a path you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
Sometimes when we are so mired down in our disordered thoughts, we can’t see ourselves clearly the way the people around us can. Turn to your loved ones for guidance if you’re feeling especially lost. You don’t have to do this alone!
Recovery, while not an easy journey by any means, is a great opportunity for re-discovering yourself.
It’s a chance to not only restore your former self but also to create a new self, a self who is free from disordered behaviors and who is following her passions and dreams. Your true voice has always been inside of you since day one. Let it out, let it be heard, let it guide your recovery.
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