Who Am I Without My Eating Disorder?

            As you begin taking care of yourself and letting go of the behaviors that your eating disorder dictates, you may find yourself wondering who you are. You may suddenly realize that you don’t know yourself very well. You might even feel pretty lost and lonely. Many people say that because they have identified themselves with their eating disorder for so long, when they begin to let go of their food and weight obsessions, they feel as if they are losing themselves. It’s a pretty frightening and disorienting feeling. But if you look beyond feeling lost and search through your fear, you’ll find that this time in recovery is actually brimming with opportunity. It’s the perfect time to discover who you really are. It’s the perfect opportunity to find and reclaim pieces of yourself that were lost, buried, or stolen…It is even the perfect time to recreate yourself!

Start by making the commitment to get to know yourself and who you are without active eating disorder. Get to know yourself as you would a dear friend. Do you remember the very first time you met someone who later turned out to be one of your good friends? You really didn’t know very much about that person at first, did you? But as you spent time together, you began to learn important details about your friend and his/her life. Over time you discovered what makes your friend laugh and cry. You figured out all of the little things that make her feel angry and irritable and you probably know all sorts of ways to make her feel playful and silly, too. Even though you’ve known each other for a while now, you still discover new things about each other all the time. In the course of going for a walk or shopping together a new piece of information reveals itself to you. That is exactly how relationships develop. All relationships require time and nurturing to develop, and the relationship you have with yourself is no exception.

Make the commitment to spend time with yourself so you can learn about your likes and dislikes. Take time to discover what warms your heart, pay attention to what brings tears to your eyes and what makes you laugh. Look for the things that make you feel like dancing! Figure out what stirs fury deep within you. Acknowledge all your little flaws and imperfections and embrace them with loving acceptance. Identify and celebrate each of your strengths and successes. In doing all of these things that you will come to know exactly who you are.

Maybe you feel unsure of where or how to begin your quest of getting to know yourself. Below are some suggestions that will help you learn a little more about who you are. You may have done some of these things many times before, but chances are if you did them in the midst of an active eating disorder, the activities were colored by your disorder, which prevented you from fully experiencing them. Sometimes the voice of the eating disorder is so loud and keeps us so preoccupied that we miss some of the little, but most beautiful moments in life. Choose to do all of the activities below or choose to do only a few. Expand the individual items on the list or expand the list itself. Do this at your own pace and take as much time as you need. If you have not been out for a while you may find some of the suggested activities frighten you. Be gentle with yourself and take your time. However you choose to do it is up to you… enjoy your journey!

Activities Just for You

Let go and have fun…

  • Visit an amusement park. Go alone or take a friend or two along on this venture and play! Just let go and have a ball! Ride a rollercoaster, put your arms up in the air and shout with glee as you zip downward. Smile and laugh! Ride the carousel. How do you feel? Do you remember doing that when you were little? Is it a warm memory that you cherish? Experiment with all sorts of rides, especially those you have never been on before. What do you feel drawn to? Go there! This is your adventure; this is your day. Give yourself permission to kick up your heels and have fun! Play a few of the games. It’s okay, you  deserve to have time to play on your life…remind yourself of that often. If you struggle feeling deserving try this first, then revisit this activity.
  • Take a walk in the rain. Feel the rain as it catches in your eyelashes and bounces off your nose. Listen to the sound of the raindrops as they pelt the leaves on the trees and drive into the dirt. Hear the rustling leaves as the wind sweeps through them. If you are in the city, notice how the raindrops spring off the sidewalks and windshields. Pay attention to how the wind feels in your hair. Look for a rainbow. How do you feel? Do you feel peaceful? Do you feel mischievous? Do you feel comforted?
  • Hike a mountain and indulge in the majestic view from the summit. Drink in the deep blue sky; fill your lungs and energize your whole being with the fresh mountain air. Lift your eyes up to the sky and feel the sun warm your face. Dance with the sun’s rays. Feel yourself come alive in the midst of the wilderness. Listen to the soft music of the birds. How do you feel? Do you feel free? Do you feel invigorated? Do you feel serene?
  • Visit a playground. Swing on the swings, slide down the side, ride the merry-go-round, do a cartwheel, and play in the sand! You are still a playful child at heart, set that kid free! Are you unsure of how to play? Are you unfamiliar with the child who lives in your heart? Get to know that child again! Start by watching how the children on the playground laugh and play with each other. Observe how they talk together.  Notice their vulnerability, their innocence. Can you see how much love and protection they both need and deserve? If one of them happens to fall and bump a knee while you are there, pay attention to how their caregiver cuddles and soothes them. How is the adult letting that child know that everything is okay? How do the adults play with their children?  Do they get excited with their children? Investigate. Watch all of the interactions. Appreciate how special each individual child is. Children are so precious, so innocent. Tell yourself that you were that precious and innocent as a child… you still are. Get in touch with the child that lives in your heart and tell that child how much you love him or her. Play with that child. Talk to it. Comfort it. Tell that child that you are there for him/her.  Close your eyes and envision spending the day with together. What will you do together? Will you go to a playground like this one? Imagine your child swinging on the swings, laughing gleefully as you push the swing high in the air. What does that tiny laugh sound like? Get to know this precious child: nurture, cuddle, protect, and love this child in you…Feel it transform you in ways you never imagined!
  • Go people watching. How much fun this can be! Go to a nearby mall, beach, or café. Walk around for a little while, taking in important information about the people who are there with you. Are the majority of people there alone or are they in groups or pairs? How do they seem to be acting? How many look like they are having fun? Sit down and relax for a while. Watch the people as they go by. Is there anyone in particular who captures your attention, anyone that you think you might like to meet? What draws you to that person? Is there anything about the way that person carries him/herself that you admire? Does s/he appear confident and self-assured? Does s/he look like a person with a jovial sense of humor who could make you laugh easily? Do you generally admire people who are leaders, who make their own paths in the world? Or are you more inclined to befriend someone who is more apt to go with the flow? What about you? Are you someone who is a natural leader unafraid to go against the norm? Are you a trendsetter or a trend follower? Are you confident or more self-conscious? How do you want to be? What can you do to be more the way you would like yourself to be…?
  • Spend time at an animal shelter. Romp with the dogs, frolic with the cats, feed the horses, and talk to the birds and any other little critters they have there. Which do you most like to be with? Do you like the compassion the dogs can offer you? Can you see the innocence and love filling their eyes. Can you feel the unconditional acceptance of you that so naturally spills out of them? Can you feel your own love for them flowing out of you? Are you feeling sad? Try hugging a dog. Dogs have an uncanny way of making you feel loved. Let them comfort you. Are you feeling playful? Take a piece of string or a belt and snake it around on the floor so that a cat can pounce on it. Let the cat chase the string, noticing the eagerness in the its eyes. Are you feeling calm? Let a cat curl up in your lap for a quick afternoon nap. How does its content purring make you feel?
  • Window shop. If you had all the money in the world, what would you buy and why? Go to stores and look around. What catches your eye? Which things would you like to have? Why? Which things would you fill your home with? What would you buy for yourself? Would you buy jewelry, clothing, hair accessories, shoes, a purse, or what else?
  • Go to a bookstore or library. Choose a book for yourself to read for pleasure. Which section are you most drawn to? Do you like fiction novels? Autobiographies? Psychology and self-help? Mysteries? Thrillers? Not sure? Take out one of each!
  • Go to the Circus. Have fun and watch the show!! Do you feel like laughing with the clowns? Do you marvel at the daring skill of the aerial artists? Do you gaze in awe at the courage of the lion trainer? Listen to the music of the circus orchestra. Do you like it? Do you feel like snapping your fingers to the beat? Go ahead! Ride an elephant! Have your face painted! Do anything and everything that you feel drawn to!
  • Spend a day at the ocean or at a lake. Dig your toes into the sand. Build a sandcastle or two. Run down the beach, feel the wind in your hair. Notice how the soft summer breeze feels against your face. Sit on the water’s edge where the sand just begins to get wet and dig a hole with your hands until you reach water. Do you remember doing that when you were younger? Walk along the beach with your feet in the water, splashing as you go. Collect seashells, look for sand dollars and sea urchins. Inhale deeply letting the fresh air vitalize you. How do you feel? Do you feel refreshed? Do you feel tranquil?
  • Take a walk through a field. Feel the grass brush against your legs. Does it tickle? Stop to smell the wildflowers. Pick one for your hair and several more to take home with you. Lay on your back and gaze up at the puffy white clouds as they drift by. What do they look like to you? Chase a butterfly or two. If you go at night chase fireflies and dance with moonbeams.  Lay in the grass and watch the stars dance against the black blanket of night.  Is there any one star in particular that stands out and looks unique? Do you see any constellations? How do you feel?
  • Go to an art museum. Explore the paintings and look at photographs. What kind of art do you most appreciate? Which artist is your favorite? Why? Is it relaxing for you to do this? What new things have you learned?
  • Visit an aquarium. Watch the dolphins play. Find the sharks and watch them swim. Does the aquarium have penguins? What is your favorite attraction in the aquarium? Why?
  • Go on a schooner ride. Notice how the sun sparkles on the water as you glide across the top.  Listen to the sweet song of the birds. Will the captain let you help steer the boat? Would you like to? How many seagulls are flying over head? Do you see any fish? How do you feel? Are you enjoying yourself?
  • Write a letter to yourself. Write it the same way you would write it to a friend or to a new pen pal. Ask yourself the same questions you would ask a pen pal. Tell yourself about your life. You can even mail it if you like. When you receive it write a reply

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You will have to try things, test the waters, and discover which things you like and which things you do not like. If you find things that you do not like, that is okay too, it’s just more information about yourself.  Doing things that you find you do not like is not a waste of time, rather it is an experience that provides you with valuable pieces of information about who you are…it is part of the process of getting to know yourself better. Recovery is but an opportunity to recreate yourself! Have fun with it!