Rebirth

I fell off the radar because to be honest, I’m struggling to visit here as I’m not sure it’s doing me a great favour. When I think about my blog – and most of what I write in it – I think about mental health issues and food obsessions.

Writing has been very cathartic and helpful in identifying underlying thoughts and emotions I can’t otherwise recognise. But writing about my issues all the time, keeps me firmly focused on my issues all the time. I have been vaguely cognizant of this for a while, but after seeing my psychologist I need to do something about it.

In fact, since my appointment I’ve had a lot of thoughts running through my head.

I emailed her some posts about relapse, and asked if she was sick to death of going round and round the same old stuff with me. I was sent this beautiful message,

My role is to support you, hear you, and give you guidance when you need it. You are worthy of my time and I would love to see you this week if you would like to attend.

So I went along and we chatted and discussed progress and where I’m at compared to 15 months ago. It was very reassuring. As we finished, I was given an out. She gave me the option not to return – it’s never been compulsory but there was an easy out. It was all up to me. My psychologist is fantastic and I have never known anybody so patient, understanding, knowledgeable, and prepared to change tack if things don’t work.

We both know if I stop going, I’ll stop trying to recover. I’ll just get worse – which is what happens if you ignore a problem.

I considered her question for a while and decided I’m not a quitter. I also don’t like wasting time and money so if I keep having therapy, I have to keep plugging away and trying to recover. I won’t be dishonest, nod politely, then go home and deliberately ignore her. What’s the point?

So I made a commitment to keep turning up and keep trying.

I titled this post “rebirth” for a reason. It is clear having an eating disorder is a really strong part of my identity and letting it go is a big obstacle.

I’ve been wondering, what IS identity. What does that mean? It used to be obvious – I was a mother and musician. I identified very strongly with both, and I loved them. I was proud to say, I’m a mum and a musician.

Now? Well obviously I’m still a mother – once you’ve birthed a baby you’re a mother, no matter what happens. But mothering a 23 year old man as he traipses through Europe on a gap year, is quite different to mothering a three year old learning to potty train, ride a bike, and read a book. And that’s okay – I was raising adults, not children. Now I have three lovely young adults in my life.

Musician? Well I could have been a musician forever but elected to leave it behind. The reasons are many and varied and walking away brought strong, mixed emotions. I was totally ready. I desperately miss it. I’d never go back. Absolutely the correct decision.

Now? Now I have no identity – not one I strongly identify with. I’m an office manager, gym enthusiast, writer, wife, friend, sister, daughter – but none of these are strong identities.

Do you have a strong identity? If someone asks what you do, what do you say?

I used to say, I’m a musician! Now… I have no idea. I love my job and I’m a great office manager. But it’s not an identity – it’s an awesome job with great hours and great people – but not my identity. Wife, friend, sister, daughter are a list of relationships. Gym enthusiast and writer? Hobbies.

Bulimic? I hate the word – it sticks in my throat – but I identify with it. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, but women often stay with – or return to – an abusive partner. It’s familiar. There are incredibly strong emotional ties. The abuser twists realities and makes promises those outside the relationship recognise as lies. But the woman at the heart of the storm? She’s played like a puppet on a string.

I feel my identity with an eating disorder is like that abusive relationship. From the outside looking in, it seems idiotic. To be so self destructive when there are many better, healthier options, is just plain unfathomable. But what will replace it? That battered, abused, socially isolated woman will be homeless and bereft if she leaves her abuser. She has nowhere to go and relies on the kindness of complete strangers and government or community services. The courage, strength and resilience required to walk away is phenomenal.

I don’t mean to diminish others’ experience of abuse by comparing an eating disorder to a violent partner. They are not the same thing. But to an outsider, clinging to destructive situations must look ridiculous. It’s not.

I know I’ll walk away from my eating disorder. Will it be today or tomorrow or next year? Next decade? I have no idea. I need to be reborn. Start again. Find the new Simone – not with hobbies and relationships, but with purpose and meaning.

My psychologist this week talked about the importance of not just picturing my future, but feeling it. Emotions are powerful and whoever I am going to be, will experience emotions. My picture of freedom needs to visit that – to ground the freedom with feelings. This concept is parallel to the writing course I’ve just completed. All good writing returns to emotional connections – if you can’t connect with the reader emotionally, you’ve lost them. I have written about pictured futures before – how freedom from food obsession might look in my life. But I haven’t written how it would feel. Perhaps that’s the next step in my rebirthing process. Finding a future with three-dimensional freedoms.

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