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When You Lose Your Identity in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Everybody talks about losing the eating disorder identity once you get into recovery, but nobody really talks about what happens if you lose the “you” identity you have. What happens if you lose your personality, the parts of you that make you who you are? What do you do if you lose your signature giggle? That wide grin, your special sense of humor? Yes, losing your eating disorder identity is hard. It’s hard to figure out who you are again, who you want to be, what you want to be known for now. But it’s even harder to think you’ve found that person already, and now you have to go out and do all that work you already did, all over again.

I went through the losing the sense of my eating disorder self, but I didn’t expect to lose my true, usual self. It hit me out of nowhere like a ton of bricks and I was not ready for it. It left me feeling empty, lost and directionless. For a long time, I didn’t even really care to find myself again. I kind of just sulked around and went about my life with no goals, ambition or striving for anything. I lost everything I was. My sense of humor was gone. I didn’t laugh anymore, smiling was hard and it felt like everything that came out of my mouth was a lie because I didn’t know who I was anymore — I didn’t know if what I was saying was what I truly wanted to say or not.

This is usually the part when people talk about when they lost their friends, but I honestly didn’t have any friends to lose at this point. Everyone had already left me, which made losing myself the icing on the cake. I had nobody to vent to, nobody to go to or turn to. So, this was the hard part, and the part that sounds the cheesiest — but this is where I picked myself up from the dirt, dusted myself off, told myself to start putting my life back together and I started to recreate myself from the ashes of the girl I let burn.

I began making friends by talking with people who I usually would’ve been way too shy to say “hi” to before, and hung out with people who got me out of the house. I joined clubs at school for causes I was passionate about. I got a job that could eventually lead to a career I wanted post-graduation. I set myself up for things that would lead to further success down the road, and I kept up with all of my mental health appointments even if I wanted to cancel them and not go.

Eventually, the more I got out and did stuff and the more people I met, the more I found myself. By doing new things, I found what I liked and by meeting new people, I finally met friends who I could confide in so I didn’t have to feel so alone and isolated all of the time. I did lose my eating disorder identity, and I lost that first. I thought that would be the only part of me I’d lose. So when I lost the “whole me,” I was really taken aback and it took me a while to gather the strength and motivation to go out there and create myself again — but I did it. I am not the same person I was before I lost myself, and I think that is partially due to working on recovering from my eating disorder — but also because I have just evolved as a human. I am not recovered yet, but I am so much closer, and this version of Melena is much more in tune with herself and knows so much more of who she is and what she wants out of life and recovery and I think that by going through this process, and by having to find myself all over again, I’ll have a stronger recovery for it.

Getty Images photo via Dreya Novak

Originally published: April 6, 2018
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