Who Am I Without My Eating Disorder?

I was around 8 years old when I developed binge eating disorder symptoms. Those behaviours continued for 40 years, sometimes with purging, and with varying levels of restriction. Sometimes I went for a while without bingeing. But basically, BED (and all the other stuff that goes along with it) has been a constant throughout my life.

I grew up with it. I went through puberty with it. I took it with me to all the places I’ve lived. It was there through my successes and failures. It was the hidden third wheel in my relationships. It was there longer than almost everything else in my life. It’s still there some days, like an old friend I’ve outgrown but still see out of nostalgia for what we once had.

BED is such a massive part of who I was that I’m still a little lost. Who am I without it?

I found myself going back to childhood me. Me before BED. Who was she? A bookworm, fascinated by language. An introvert who loved acting in school plays because she got to pretend to be someone else. A perfectionist who got good grades.

The perfectionism had to go as part of my recovery. After 40 years of living a lie and pretending to be someone I’m not, I’m tired of acting. It was exhausting.

So that leaves language, or languages. That love stayed with me. I studied them at university, I made them my career. They were the other constant until a few years ago. Or to be more precise, other people’s language, other people’s words. I didn’t feel that I had anything to say. Or if I did, I was too ashamed to say it.

Then one day in recovery I wrote something. Then a year or two later, I wrote something else. And gradually I realised that maybe I finally have something to say. That I don’t have to be ashamed any more. And if I write and speak about my experience, and just one person gets help as a result, it will all have been worth it.

So who am I without my eating disorder? A writer (well someone who writes stuff) and a campaigner against mental health stigma. I still have no idea what else I am, but it’s a start.

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