Who Am I Without An Eating Disorder?

Who will I be -what will my identity be, without an eating disorder?

This is a question I’ve asked of myself & one I see asked by many others in recovery from an eating disorder.

I’m fortunate that I had an adult life & sense of an adult identity before I developed an ED, but it’s still now well over ten years that this illness has plagued most aspects of my life & identity.

For those who became ill in younger years, I can imagine that visualising a future as an independent adult without the illness forming part of who they are is terrifying.

I think, though, when we raise this fear, it is just one more sneaky way the eating disorder tries to use anything to hold us back from taking steps forward in recovery….

I’m too scared of an unknown future without the illness so I’ll keep to what I know.”

Also, when this fear pops up, are we applying too much black & white thinking to the issue (what’s that – an ED mindset being black & white?!?).

In raising this fear we are seemingly thinking that we shake off the eating disorder one day and overnight take on the brand new ‘recovered’ identity, with no time to grow, learn & adapt in between.

We are also implying that our entire personality, identity & values today, within the illness, are ED and that we have no sense of a non-eating disordered self buried within who just needs to be nurtured & allowed to step past the illness, to evolve.

Eating disorder recovery is long & the food is just one part of the process.

The recovery process is also fluid – it’s like a winding river, of twists and turns and as we move along, we evolve, learn, adapt and very slowly we become who we are going to be, shaped by the experiences we have along the way & the values we hold deep in our hearts.

Asking who will I be in recovery is a bit like a 20 year old asking who they will be when they are 60!

Nobody can tell them & nobody can tell us: but that’s ok – we don’t need all the answers now – the answers will come if we just keep plodding along the recovery path.

With time we will gradually become a person without an eating disorder, as life takes over in more precious ways and we will realise our identity is far from one of an illness… Plus if we don’t try, we will never know!

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