Identity: Discovering the ‘Self’ in Recovery

Who am I?  It seems to be ever evolving, especially in the process of recovery.  I have always been my self and known my self, but I have also had other identities that have seemed to linger.  These other identities have been one of mental illness and EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

I have carried the identity of mental illness since childhood when my issues started.  My EDNOS identity did not creep in until college when I become ill with my eating disorder.  Both of these identities seem to have been “stamped” upon my forehead as truth.  This was especially true when I was in treatment and my awareness of being ill was at the forefront of my mind.  How could I forget these identities when the focus of my day-to-day was nearly solely about them?

As I have moved forward in recovery, I have discovered these identities are not so fitting anymore.  I am out of treatment and there is no expectation/reason that I shall ever return.  I am stable on my medications and have been consistently for many months.  To put it plainly, I am at a better place in my life than I ever have been before.

So, who am I now?  I am still my self, but these identities are not part of that anymore.  Recovery has given me the chance to change that.  It has given me the opportunity to discover that I am not my eating disorder any longer but someone who is strongly in recovery.  That former definition of “EDNOS” does not fit me any longer.  Though I will always be, for example, OCD, I am not my OCD and I am not that former identity.  It is a part of me, but it is not who I am anymore.  I do not have to be either of those definitions any longer nor was I ever truly either in the first place.

Recovery, whether it is from mental illness(es) or an eating disorder, begins a re-definition of self or maybe a discovery of the true self that has been lost or unknown.  It gives us all a chance to be more than the label/definition of “eating disorder”, “OCD”, or any others we may have.  We can begin to discover in this process that we are not those identities and were never really those things, we are so much more and have the ability to be so much more.  It is in recovery that the possibility exists to free ourselves from those negative definitions and find the true definition of who we are, who we are going to be, etc.  It is in recovery that we come to find out that those definitions of “eating disorder”, “OCD”, etc. were only ever definitions were gave to ourselves rather than true definitions of who we truly are as a person.

Without my EDNOS and mental illness identities, I am free to be the self  I am.  I am also free to create new definitions of who I am.  I am still trying to figure out exactly what that entails, but with recovery, I have the ability to discover those things and redefine my self in positive rather than negative ways.  I have the opportunity now to truly think, ‘Who do I want to be?’, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’, ‘What kind of life do I wish to live?’, etc.  The answers to those questions are still pending.

What about you in your recovery?  Who are you outside of your mental illness(es), eating disorder, addiction, etc.?  What have you discovered about your self?

2 thoughts on “Identity: Discovering the ‘Self’ in Recovery

  1. I've been in recovery Since mid-October. Suffering from anorexia and depression is most definitely hard work, and you do lose yourself in it. Sometimes it's easier to define yourself through the illness, afterall, you've been diagnosed, and it almost feels as if that's how the world views you. “oh, there's Heather, an anorexic”.

    I am already beginning to break free of my disorder in many ways. From working toward relinquishing the rigidity and meal planning to reclaiming the things that used to make me happy, lie art, music, and exercise… I have discovered that I can be far more assertive and that I deserve to make decisions that concern my well-being, as well as be selfish from time to time.

    I am proud of you, even though I don't know you personally. People lie you inspire me to keep fighting toward a recovered life, no matter how scary it is.

  2. That is wonderful to hear Heather! And isn't it so freeing even early on to see those glimpses more and more of life in recovery and the person you truly are on the inside, that self that has been underneath the illness? I am so proud of YOU!

    And thank you so much for your comment and compliment! You have no idea how much it means to me. People like you inspire me!

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