Identity Crisis

My brother (he's almost 5 years older than me) had an identity crisis in high school. He used that picture-in-picture feature on the TV and would go from The Real World on MTV and "Emeril" on the Food Network.

This should have been a huge bright red light that there was something seriously wrong with the boy. But, alas, along with other red lights, that one was missed.

At any rate, I'm going through my own identity crisis. It has nothing to do with TV channels, though I have been hooked on the Planet Earth documentary that's been airing on the Discovery Channel.

My identity crisis has to do with learning to live without Ed.

I am used to being "that anorexic chick" or "the girl with the light yogurt in the fridge" or "she who has Diet Coke." Things like that. The one who never ordered fries, who always bought low fat. The girl who both the ER staff and the gym staff knew by sight.

That girl.

Sometimes I wonder if we are the same person.

It's hard for me to grasp the fact that this girl, the one described above, was ill. She was sick. She was suffering from anorexia. Her mind was not wholly hers.

Yet it was. Those memories, those experiences, were mine. I was living them. That was my ankle that was shattered and repaired, in a modern day Humpty-Dumpty experiment. Those were seven years of MY life. I still have trouble learning when it's Ed or when it's just me.

Can it be both? Can it? Or am I deluding myself? What if Ed says "Order a salad," and I think about it, and I feel like a freaking salad? Should I order the salad?

I have simply forgotten how to live in this world without an eating disorder.

My choices were dictated by my fears around food and eating and fat. It became a habit, a routine. Always doing or eating the same thing calmed my fears that I would eat the wrong thing at the wrong time, or weigh the wrong weight, or do the wrong workout. I had to be perfect. I couldn't eat cheesecake because it was called 'fattening.' And I couldn't miss a workout because we were all supposed to exercise for an hour a day. No, only 30 minutes. Or was it 90?

Rules, though annoying, also made me feel safe and secure.*

One of my friends from treatment, E, told me she was extremely sensitive to noise, movement, etc. That the outside world was overwhelming. That was me. I don't like large crowds. Pictures of traders on the New York Stock Exchange encapsulate the absolute worst nightmare for me. As such, my brain relentlessly focuses on one thing to the detriment of all else, known in the psychiatric world as "impaired set-shifting." By not eating, my brain could better deal with the cacophony of input and the anxiety it caused. Why? If it didn't relate to eating, my brain just tossed it in the 'slush' pile. Thing was, the longer I was starving, the increasing number of facts entering my brain had to do with food. So I ate less, increased my rituals, and...well, you get the idea.

Now I have all of this information being flung at me, information I have no idea what to do with. Carrie-as-anorexic knows how to deal with it. But Carrie-as-Carrie doesn't. My eating disorder has made all of my decisions for so many years, that I'm having trouble wresting back control. Ed has rules, strict rules, rules that must be followed. I don't remember how to live without them.

And the prospect of doing so is really wigging me out.

A part of me does want to live without them, the part of me that eats, that laughs, that thinks. There's also a part of me that is still controlled by Ed, a part that says I'm lazy and non-productive and worthless. These two versions of me seem so polarized that I can't think of how (or if I should) try to join them.

'Course, spending all of your free time on the treadmill, reading cookbooks, or sleeping isn't exactly the epitome of productive, either.

I know there's a real me in there. There was a me before the start of the AN (and the depression and the OCD), even if I can't remember it. There will be a me after.

*These were only my rules for myself. Other people's rules were a different creature entirely, though I rarely broke the rules. I might not have always liked them, but I usually went along with things. And if I didn't, I just did my own thing and didn't make a fuss over it.

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10 comments:

Jeanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeanne said...

Carrie,

There will absolutely be a YOU. There's a you now, beneath all the friggin' rules of ED! And I like that you. 8-)

This post resounded in me - because I could have written it each time I reached a fork in my recovery road. The path on the one side was dark and overgrown, thorny and rocky, and inclined like Mt. Everest. The other path was equally as dark, but flat and covered in thick smooth vines. Neither path looked promising and yet, one could not just stay in place.

The road to recovery is the first thorny path and while incredibly scary, it does reap the most rewards.

So having said that, how do you make it through?

For me, I took many breaks (relapses if you will) as I continued to dig into "why" I develop an ED. Once I found the roots, exposed them for the world to see (namely, telling my husband that I was molested as a child,) I was able to deal with ED on a more equal footing. [For me, the shame I felt about what had happened to me, and my keeping it secret gave ED power.]

The last few months, I've been better equipped to resist ED. And I've lined up more tools to beat him.

The real trick in recovery is to be gentle and patient with yourself. It's a trick that is worth all the practice it takes to master.

You are doing an awesome job, carrie!!

jeanne

PS
Sorry about the deleted comment - I clicked the publish button unconsciously, before I had finished my thoughts. [blush]

mary said...

LIFE SHRINKS OR EXPANDS IN PROPORTION TO ONE'S COURAGE . Anais Nin~

You've shown great courage! Life promises to expand....be gentle with yourself as Jeanne said and patient too!
You've got the rest of your life to be. So be.
/****

Sarah said...

Having the chance to reinvent, or reclaim, if you will, your life is both a wonderful and a terrifying thing. Who am I without my disease? Without my old behaviors? I don't know, but I'm trying to find out. One day at a time.

Faith said...

1st - Jeanne - I love referring to relapse as "breaks". It doesn't sound so horrible.

2nd - Carrie - I too have been facing an identity crisis. Who am I if I'm not that girl? Bulimia (for me) gave me something to hold on to. A secret identity, that was mine. Now, I am in the process of finding out who I am without the secret identity of Bulimia Girl (although she's been having a few starring roles this week).

Here's to both/all of us figuring it out.

Alex said...

Hey, landed on your blog, nice stuff. I found a cool new tool for our blogs... www.widgetmate.com It helps get latest news for our keywords directly on to our blog. I added it on mine. Worked like a charm.

ms. em said...

So, minus the different words (and other important details) we kinda wrote about the same thing today:) How Twighlight Zone of us?

If you want to chat about it more, you know how to reach me.

xo,
em

carrie said...

Jeanne,

I do like the idea of referring to relapses as 'breaks.' I kind of think of mine as hibernating, shutting down, if you will, to make it through the winter until spring, when things will be easier again.

Mary,

/******
That's all. ;)

Sarah,
I'm glad that we're all going through this together, in a way. It's nice to know that there's someone who gets it, without having to explain everything.

Faith,

The ED is something to cling to, or hide behind. I almost lived inside this hollow shell of me and let the ED do all the talking and thinking for me. It was safe in there. Damn those risks!

Alex,
Thanks for the link. I'll have to check it out.

Em,
Do we really need to communicate? Or should we just rely on good ol' telepathy? Seems as if we're doing it already!

RioIriri said...

"Impaired set-shifting"?!?!?!

I didn't know there was a name for it. I do this too--it used to INFURIATE my family. I'd be focused on whatever I was doing to the point that I couldn't hear them yelling my name when they were two feet away from me.

Thank you.

carrie said...

Rio,

Hilarious story to go with yours: I was looking at these little knick-knacks in a store in Toronto and I was so obsessed with the little fingerprints in these handmade animal clay figurines that the store clerk started talking to me in French because she didn't think I understood her in English.

Glad to know (in a way) I'm not the only one!

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About Me

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

Drop me a line!

Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com



nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote



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