Do you want to hear the worst lie I’ve ever told myself?
I am an anorexic/EDNOS and an exercise addict.
I told myself:
I am my sickness.
Even when I was lying about it and hiding it and denying it, I believed that I was my sickness and my sickness was me.
Which is why it took me 13 years to start the process of recovery.
Do you want to hear the worst part of recovery?
Realizing that I am not my sickness–and losing my identity and having to meet myself all over again.
When you start doing the work to excise the tumor that has grown on your personality, you realize that you have let the tumor become your personality, and, once it’s gone…you won’t have a personality at all.
That may be why so many of us continue to work in fitness and nutrition and recovery, but then relapse and struggle and relapse again: because we are so invested in being sick, in being the person we were when we were sick because we felt like ourselves, because we have no other self-concept except ED.
The same thing happens for cancer survivors and people with MS and chronic pain and any number of non-mental illnesses too. We become our sickness, I am a “survivor.” I will wear the colors and do the research and proudly add it to my LinkedIn bio. It’s my acquired skill and my topic of conversation. It’s my drama, my abusive lover, me.
But what happens when we get better?
I often wonder if my ankle didn’t get worse because I so wholeheartedly embraced being injured. If I didn’t, in some small part, will it into inflammation and allodynia because I loved the bittersweet pain, masochist that I am, of being injured. Of having to sit out. Of telling the story—Oh, I can’t, because I am…
Obviously, you can’t will a tendon tear into being–a physical injury, which I definitely had. And I know I can’t blame myself for my chronic pain any more than I can blame myself for my eating disorder. It’s a cancer, a mutation, the fallout of an unfortunate exposure to the right toxins and triggers.
But I can’t help wonder if I haven’t clung to the story I am ED and I am in pain because I was afraid of the void I would have to fill once I could no longer tell it.
What do you mean I have to stop reading fitness blogs and talking incessantly about my body weight? What do you mean I can’t stay home from the party because I’m biohacking my food and sleep? What do you mean that I have to give up my excuses and just be? How can I be when this is who I am?
Except, that’s not who I am. Yes, I love fitness and nutrition, and I get a kick out of screwing around on PubMed after hours…
But who else am I?
I’ve spent so long addicted to the sickness and the drama of being sick, that I neglected to ask myself who I actually am.
When I talk to some of the women who reach out to me, they’re often in the same place: I’m studying nutrition and I work in fitness. I don’t really like doing anything but those two things. I only date men who workout too. I can’t go out to eat with my family because they don’t get it. I’m not sick, but I’m not feeling well. What do I do?
I have deleted nearly all of the nutrition podcasts off of my phone and replaced them with stand up comedy, sex positive call-in shows, marketing podcasts, and a couple of body positive/mindset shows as well.
I went back to school, so at least six hours of my week are spent out in the world, learning new things while I interact with different people outside of my comfort zone and community.
I found a couple of novels I want to read—thrillers, dystopian fiction, that sort of thing, and I’ve got them on hold at the library.
I’ve looked up the schedule at a local comedy club, and I’m recruiting people to come with me.
I’ve started taking private voice over lessons, and I’m hoping to add in an improv class here or there.
I take breaks at work and am learning to make time to ask about my coworkers’ lives. I want to start dating again.
I want to laugh, I want to be entertained. I want to create and perform. I want to experience the fullness of me and not me with ED.
My personality is full of emotional stem cells, and I get to guide their growth in the direction that I want, or else the tumor will grow again. ED is a reality for so many people, but ED is not who you are. It’s something you have, and you have to separate yourself from it or else it will engulf you.
In today’s amazing, amazing, amazing podcast (did I mention that it’s amazing?), Ito and I had one of the best conversations with Diane “V” Capaldi, the PaleoBOSS Lady who has actually overcome multiple sclerosis through food and movement.
She is not her sickness, and I am not mine, and you are not yours.
You must, must, must go and download this podcast right now (and then go outside and find something fun that YOU and not your sickness would like to do…):