A few years ago, I started to reconsider whether telling my personal story of recovery is productive to the effort to reduce the social stigma and shame that has been problematically linked to eating disorders.
TRIGGER WARNING: the following material may be triggering for some individuals - please read with caution.
A big part of finding myself during my recovery was developing a personal style. I had always liked clothing, but had never really identified what I liked to wear. I knew I loved colour but I never knew where to shop for it and, more often than not, I was too scared to wear the things I liked because I feared the judgement I would or would not receive. Oh how times have changed. Now I dress for me and only me and I love every single item I own.
Photo bySam MannsonUnsplash
Ten years ago I began to see signs in a different language–signs that I ignored. However, even though I disregarded them, they persisted in ever growing intensity. Was I a traveler exploring this vast world of ours? No. I was just a mom who held down a part time job while homeschooling my two daughters full time. So, what were these foreign signs? They were the signs of my youngest daughter’s journey down the rabbit hole we call eating disorders.
Identity is such a hard concept to grasp. Who are we? Why are we here? What defines us? What defines me?
What defined me for so long was a debilitating illness known as anorexia. Anorexia was me. I was anorexia. That was my identity.
Photo by Cooper Smith on Unsplash
Starting my recovery was the hardest decision I ever made, but I was thankful to have a supportive and trusting person by my side. My partner was the first person I ever opened up to about my eating disorder. Before them, like many, I was very secretive and ashamed of my disorder. Recently, that relationship has ended and as hard as it has been, re-entering the dating world has proven to be even more difficult.
When I started eating disorder recovery five years ago, I thought—or, really, hoped—it would be like an escalator. You hop on, and whoosh, straight up from there. You decide to recover, then you do it, then you’ve done it. Simple.
That’s not quite how it went.
Today, I feel good. Strong. If not confident, at least less unconfident. Disordered thoughts are few and far between.
The holidays present a lot of challenges for people with eating disorders. Not only is there a heavy focus on food, body image, and “healthy” new year’s resolutions, but often there are interactions with distant family members or friends—people you don’t necessarily see on a weekly or monthly basis.
This doesn’t affect me as much anymore, but seeing distant relatives used to be a trigger for me because many of them didn’t know about my gender identity.