I always thought the idea of finding oneself was cliché. I mean, how hard can it be? To some extent, I thought people just needed to figure themselves out and move on. In retrospect, this was naïve, and probably my way of coping with the fact that I had no idea who I was.
Growing up, I felt like the black sheep. I was an introvert surrounded by a family of extroverts. Instead of finding my own way and forging a nice little introverted path for myself, I spent my time thinking how irreversibly screwed up I must be to be so different from everybody else. I often didn’t enjoy the things my family was doing, but I tagged along anyway because I figured I was the one with the problem and I needed to learn to fit into their lives.
One of the best things I’ve learned in recovery is that this concept is complete bullshit. I’ve learned that I’m my own person. I don’t have to like watching movies, I don’t have to enjoy crowds. I can love my family and still own my differences from them. And this realization is incredibly liberating.
Anorexia stole a lot from me. It stole every thing that made me unique as well as everything that made me similar to people around me. It has been hard for me to acknowledge that a middle ground is possible for me – that I don’t have to choose between being overweight and dangerously thin. Looking through old pictures today, I realized that I looked genuinely happy in some of the pictures where I was overweight. And I looked genuinely miserable in the pictures of me at my lowest weight. I looked like a shell of a person. And, if I’m going to do recovery to the best of my ability, I have to believe I am capable of being my own, happy person, at a happy weight, confident in the individual that I am. I’ve been me all along, but my disorder has led me to believe I am only worthwhile at a low weight. In fact, the opposite is true. I was lifeless at that weight. I felt nothing inside and I looked frightened and hollow outside. I’m finally beginning to get my life back, but that means accepting where my body wants to be rather than forcing it into a shape that is unnatural for me. It means giving up the diet culture that I have believed in for years. These things will challenge me, but they are what I need to move through in order to find myself, no matter how cliché that might be.