WHO AM I?: Self Rediscovery after an ED
Vanessa is sixteen years old and has battled an Eating Disorder since she was twelve. Armed with a passion for writing, the environment, and the power of coffee, she is preparing herself for the last two years of high school before she moves on into the real world.
"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future!" The motivational speaker chanted across the gymnasium as it burst into applause. Raising his hands, he made the statement again, this time with more emphasis on his words then before, his eyes scanning across the crowd. A thirteen year old me stood up with the rest of my peers and continued the applause. His eyes locked with mine. A standoff, a battle, and inside my stomach started to churn.
And I knew why.
It was at that year in my life that I made a new friend. His name is was Ed, and he was much less a person and more a horribly opinionated side of my own personality.
The end of seventh grade was when I could distinctly remember my first time facing an eating disorder. I had always been a slim child, and my towering height only accentuated this. However, seventh grade was the year of changes and entering that tween and early teenage phase brought changes that were neither in my control or to my liking. And I couldn't handle that. I needed to control myself and all of my actions. I had to be perfect. And that caused me to search for a method of control.
This is when Ed first entered the picture. He taught me about calories and what the proper measurements of a female should be. He taught me that I needed a tighter waist, more prominent bones, and a flatter stomach. He rewarded me when I remained in control, and abused me when my instinct tried to turn back to proper behavior. Our relationship was destructive, dangerous, and would ultimately be terminal. But Ed was my friend when I'd started to lock the rest of the world out. Ed listened to my feelings and taught me ways to cope with them. Ed and I were roughly becoming one.
"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future!" I'd wanted nothing more to be just like Ed. Slim and sophisticated. Sarcastic and witty. Brave and mysterious. He was was idol, my mantra, and everything I'd been looking for. Yet, what I soon realized was that all of this had started because I was desperate for control, and once again, I'd lost it to somebody else. Something else. An eating disorder.
The best friend that I'd kept for over two years had begun to consume me, every moment of my waking was filled with thoughts about what I was going to eat and when I was going to eat and how much of it I was willing to put into my body. Eating became less of a social experience and more of a consistent battle with Ed. Ed knew better, but my body fought harder. I would viscously restrict and then binge out of desperation for food. My weight dropped, Ed was pleased. My weight moved back up, and I refused to do more than lick peanut butter off my sandwich at lunch.
One day, I decided I'd had enough. I managed to loosen Ed's grasp for a short while and confessed to my mother about my behavior. Ed hadn't wanted me to speak. Our friendship was a secret. We shared a pact. If I started to save myself, his control would be lessened. He would lose me. But I was tired of fighting, and in my last act of strength, I told Ed I was finished. Our friendship was ending here.
Gradually, we found help. Gradually, and with the right medications, I start to function with Ed instead of fighting him. His voice was growing quieter and my own was beginning to reemerge.
And at this point, he remains present, but a whisper that I somedays go without noticing at all.
"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future!" But who was I now? Ed's voice had been the only one I'd listened to for so long, without him, I almost felt incomplete. What was I supposed to think about now? Who was I supposed to be? Recently, mental illness and other various health related issues have become some kind of social trend among the general public. As a species, humans love to label things. We crave organization of our environment and of our surroundings. We've developed a culture where our labels give us something to feel honorable about. But often, when we move past these events in our lives, we are left with a feeling of emptiness as we try and rediscover our own voices after silencing them for so long.
We have to ask the question of: "who am I?"
And it's not easy at first. There are quite a lot of broken pieces to sort through in order to make the mosaic of ourselves again. Without Ed, I felt lost. The biggest part of my personality had suddenly been uprooted, and I was left with a blank canvas.
However, I soon realized that what I'd once considered to be a situation I'd have to struggle through, gradually became somewhat of a gift. Without Ed sitting on top of me like baggage, I was now free to explore new and original pursuits of my own. I rediscovered my love of writing. My family and friendship ties became stronger. Exercise became less about an obsession to be thin and more of an activity I performed to stay healthy and maintain a good form. I started to draw (though not very good). I let my personality start to relax again, becoming who I knew I was before Ed had started to interfere.
In short, I was starting to rediscover myself again. And I was starting to enjoy it.
"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future!" So where does my future go from here? I've got a family that loves me and friends that support me. I've got passions and dreams and things that matter a lot more then a calorie count or a waist measurement or even a number on a scale.
The world isn't always a perfect place, and sometimes it isn't even a happy one. But I've learned now that I can move through the bad times towards the good ones. Life isn't perfect, but life is beautiful.
"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future!" If this is true, I'd like to think I'll be pretty happy.