Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Did I Become Me?

Disclaimer: I do love my parents. I do love my family. I do not abide by the belief that parents/families can cause their child or family member to develop an eating disorder.
That said, I would like to share some thoughts pertaining to how the environment in which I was raised may have played into my difficulties as I approached puberty and adulthood.

I was asked a few days ago how I determined what I wanted for my life after being ill for so many years. This is a very pertinent question, because for anyone who had an eating disorder, letting go of the eating disordered identity is very frightening, but it's necessary for full recovery to be possible.
So I began to think. From a very young age, I was 'taught' who I should be. All around me I saw and heard the rules about what being 'good', 'right', and 'safe' were. I was constantly reminded of what was and was not acceptable, but I realize now that it was never explained to me why I had to be accepted. I am not referring to basic respect and practical kindness. I am referring to issues like racial prejudice, sexual orientation, political opinions, and some personal values. Even 45 years ago, criticisms about weight, mine and others, with a very derogatory tone, were frequent. I grew up terrified of what being an adult, and the responsibilities involved, looked like.
Upon finding myself at a place in recovery where I was stable physically, I realized that I was in total chaos in terms of knowing what I wanted for my life, or knowing who I really was. I didn't have to follow anyone else's 'rules' anymore, I didn't have to believe a certain way, avoid certain people or things, or strive for some unattainable ideal. I was lost.
Because I was literally beginning at 'ground level', divorced and having relocated to a city where I knew only those people I had met during recovery (and many had moved on), I was given what I can now see as a gift. The gift of freedom to define myself and decide for the first time in my life what I believed, sans what others wanted me to believe.
I have to admit that for a time, my journey of exploration was very sloppy and somewhat careless. I discovered many things that I DID NOT equate to who I am. For a while I frightened myself and others with my somewhat reckless impulsive decisions.
However, I discovered some things about myself that I really do love. I was relieved to find out that I don't have to hate others who are not 'like' me. What does that mean anyway?
I can now embrace the opportunity that my life offers, that allows me to be involved with a culturally diverse population. My world has grown from a very narrow, unhealthy, and frightening place, to a wide open space where I am free, healthy and not afraid of facing life and the world anymore.
Happiness is no longer something that indicates laziness. I am free to choose whether I WANT to clean my house or see a movie with a friend-or by myself. Each day continues to be an adventure for me in many ways. I continue to learn more about myself, what I believe, and what about life I missed for so long. In some ways I have come full circle. I have always been a loving and compassionate person, and I always will be. The difference? I now know it.
For as long as I live, I will continue to define who I am. The difference now is I base those definitions on MY values and choices. Without apology....

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