I never used to be much of a TV fan. As a kid, I was always far more interested in books. Once I moved out of the house, I never had the money for cable. Since moving back in with my parents a year and a half ago (has it really been that long?!?), I've gotten hooked on the show House. I bought Seasons 1-5 on DVD--half price in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble--and will pick up Season 6 for $15 at Target as soon as I'm no longer snowed in.
It's been nice, too, as I've gotten my dad hooked on the show. Which has been a nice bonding experience for us. We're too damn similar and have historically butted heads. But a TV show is a nice opportunity for us to spend time together.
So. To the actual point of this post.
My dad and I were finishing up Season Two of my House DVDs, and Wilson said this (I totally forget the context--I've seen too many episodes lately):
HIV testing is ninety-nine percent accurate, which means there are some people who test positive, who live with their own impending doom for months or years before finding out everything's okay. Weirdly, most of them don't react with happiness, or even anger. They get depressed, not because they wanted to die, but because they've defined themselves by their disease. Suddenly, what made them 'them' isn't real.And so it goes with recovery. Not because the ED wasn't real, but because it's hard to go from defining yourself (or being defined) by an illness or set of behaviors to being out there in the wide, wide world with nothing to anchor you.
The AN gave me a sort-of script to get through life. My fear of food and eating ruled everything, so I always knew how to respond. If the situation might involve eating, say no. If the situation involves exercise, say yes, and then skedaddle before people suggest food. And so on. My life was carefully calibrated by these rules. It was miserable and lonely, but it did provide me with some manner of direction.
I never really thought of myself as "an anorexic," but everything I said or did was filtered through anorexia. My friends didn't necessarily know about my ED, but they were aware on some level that I didn't eat in public, or I was always at the gym. Things like that. My illness was my identity--it was how I defined myself and organized my life.
I wasn't proud of that label. I never joined websites proclaiming their "Ana Pride!" because I was very ambivalent about the whole thing. I did view some of the behaviors--how long I could go without eating, how long I could workout--as successes, but they were very much internal things. It never occurred to me to share them with others. I also didn't want to see myself as being ill, because that would take the air out of some of the seeming "benefits" of AN. If I was starving myself because I was sick, then I couldn't use that to feel good about myself. If I was starving because I had lots of willpower, then, well, that was something.
Recovery means letting that go. Recovery means cutting the anchor and redefining yourself. An ED consumes everything in your life--friends, family, free time, hopes, dreams, you name it. Without ED, it seems, you have nothing. Where was my script? Where was my ability to self-soothe? I'm supposed to leave behind the one thing that made it easier to be me?
Faced with that, it's not surprising that I initially said "Well, hell no!"
As time passed, I began to realize that my fixation with this label, this definition, was killing me. I felt that the AN did make me me, and yet I didn't like that me anymore. The one who lied and cheated. The one who didn't call friends back because it might interfere with my workout schedule. The one who was snappy and waspish and depressed and never wanted to get out of bed except to make the pilgrimage to either the treadmill or the scale.
I'm still working on redefining myself. The ED identity isn't totally gone--it was a part of me for such a long time that I can't just forget about it. I'm trying to make peace with the stage of "figuring it all out." I would like an answer, but searching and seeking is nonetheless a valid place to be.