Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Identity and the Eating Disorder {{ GUEST POST }}

Today's guest post is brought to you by the letter E. Which in this case stands for Emma, rather than eagle as Elmo here would have you believe.


Hey everyone. Hanna asked for a break from posting this week, so I’m filling in for her today. I’m thrilled to be doing a guest post for this awesome little blog that I love so much. My name is Emma, by the way. I couldn’t quite decide what I wanted to write about so I apologize if this rambles a little or gets slightly off topic.

I think it’s fair to say that pretty much everyone living with an eating disorder considers their ED and their “identity” to be tied up and mashed together. (And by identity I mean: who are YOU as a person?) I know that it’s still one of the first things that comes to mind when people ask me, “So, what’s your name? What are you like?” I find it incredibly difficult to write any of those “about me” portions of a profile or something because the only thing that comes to mind is “EATING DISORDER! EATING DISORDER! EATING DISORDER!”

And that’s really sad, you know? I struggle to think of who Emma was before the eating disorder came into my life, and sometimes I don’t have a clue who I am without it. I remember the very first therapist I saw told me to constantly separate, separate, separate; question my thoughts; ask myself “Is that an eating disordered thought, or is that mine?”

It sounds easy, but it’s not. For so long my eating disorder was my world. It was my best friend, my lifesaver when I was drowning, the one thing I could rely on when everything went to shit. But it was simultaneously my worst enemy, an abusive boyfriend, and when it came down to it all – the one thing that actually made me feel worse about myself.

It took me a long time to realize this. I’m not proud of who I was when I was immersed in my illness. I lied, I deceived, I manipulated everyone in my life. I broke my parents’ hearts. I scared and worried my friends and family because I was hell-bent on killing myself. It was a huge factor that led to my incredibly supportive boyfriend breaking up with me. He once asked me, “Why do you listen to the abusive boyfriend in your head, instead of the honest, kind one in real life?”

I had no answer for him.

Eating disorders are sneaky. They sing you a song so sweet it’s damn near impossible not to listen. They coax you into believing their lies, they promise you happiness and everything you want from life if you’ll just lose one more pound, or skip dinner that day, or go exercise for an hour, or eat everything in sight only to throw it all back up again.

But in the end, it’s all bullshit. All of it. Complete and utter bullshit. Because I WASN’T happy when I obeyed my eating disorder. For a long time I thought that losing weight was the only thing that made me happy. Pfft, friends? Family? My entire future to look forward to? Hah! That won’t make you happy, only losing weight will. And I believed that lie for a long time.

And I used to pride myself on my intelligence and rationality!

It’s bewildering to think of how much I changed (not just physically) when I was really sick. My whole perspective on life changed. I lost hope for the future even though I had no valid reason to. My parents were horrified at what had happened to their daughter – my mom said it was like I was possessed. My boyfriend at the time told me it was like dating two different people.

As I became more immersed in my eating disorder, my values and beliefs changed. I stopped caring about being a good person and helping others, and I only cared about myself and how much weight I lost. My perspective on myself changed, and subsequently my identity, who I thought I was, did too. I used to view myself as an intelligent, genuine, slightly quirky girl, but then I started seeing myself as the thin girl, the anorexic girl, the one who has “problems”. I still think of myself that way, but it’s changing. Slowly. I have recently rediscovered how much I love being by water, and how calming I find nature. It’s the little things that make recovery worth it.

And to be blunt, recovery is terrifying. Suddenly you are without your crutch that you’ve leaned on for so long, and you fall. But, shakily, you get back up. Recovery isn’t solely about normalizing your relationship with food, gaining weight if that’s what you need to do, or even dealing with the underlying issues that caused you to develop an eating disorder in the first place. It’s about rediscovering yourself. It’s about figuring out who you are when you’re not hiding behind the ugly ED mask. It’s about remembering the little things that you used to enjoy before your thoughts were consumed by calories and weight. It’s about having the concentration to read a book. It’s about being about to be in the presence of others again instead of being caged in your own little world.

And for me, recovery is about freedom. I think it’s what I’ve been searching for my whole life. I just tried to find it all the wrong ways.


  1. Emma, this was an inspiring and heartbreaking post. Very well written though, and I hope that each and every girl that is struggling with her weight/body image/an eating disorder of any kind gets the chance to read this blog entry. I wish you all the best of luck with your recovery AND I will see you on Friday!

  2. Beautifully & powerfully written Emma.

    Thank you so much for sharing this today..... I'm glad to have left today in your wonderful hands....

    Freedom is already yours.

    You're an angel <3 xx


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