Sunday, July 17, 2011

letting go of the ed identity

“Sometimes a part of us must die before another part can come to life.”

I have been thinking a lot lately about this quote. I think it is a very powerful, freeing, yet terrifying thing. I think one reason why I held onto my eating disorder for as long as I did was because I was afraid that if I let it go - I would disappear. I would be nothing. That there was nothing to me except my ed identity. I felt like as the years went by, and I fell deeper and deeper into the ed - all of the other parts of me were slowly falling away. It consumed me, it was how people knew me ("the girl with the eating disorder"), it became me...

But throughout my years of struggling to recover. Through all of the ups and downs, the successes and relapses. Letting go of the ed identity and finding "jenn" again was always one of the main goals in my treatment. I would start to let the ed go but then I would get scared because people would ask me... "what does jenn feel?" "what does jenn like?" "what does jenn think?" And I rarely had an answer for this. I got so used to letting the eating disorder dictate and answer those questions for me. I felt lost without the ed. So naturally, I would run back to the ed and let it continue running my thoughts, my emotions, my life.

I felt like I would never be able to have the courage to truly let the ed go. I thought I would forever be wrapped in it's deadly arms. I felt like I would never be able to find "jenn" again. I thought I had lost her forever. She was too far gone, she was too entangled in the madness. But I had to find a way to let it go. I was running out of "second chances" with this illness, and with my life!

"There had to be a death of that persona before I could emerge from the disease and achieve full recovery. There also had to be a lot of pain and struggle because I was ultimately attached to that persona – it WAS me.

But ultimately, the pain that comes with the letting go of the eating disorder, the confusion and disorientation is absolutely necessary. It is a signal that a major shift is taking place. It may happen to us many times over, during different stages of our lives, as we say goodbye to the identity that we formed in order to survive through that period of our lives."
And then about a year ago, while on vacation with my family up in Park City, Utah. Something happened that I will never forget. I was in a pretty horrible relapse at the time. And my behaviors were pretty out of control. I remember one day, I was outside by myself sitting in a park area. It was quiet. Up in the canyons, away from the world, from everyday life. Just ME and the peaceful mountain air, the trees, the sun, the stillness & quiet. And something inside of me woke up. I felt a surge of calm rush through me. I felt a peace I hadn't felt in so long. A peace I never thought I would be able to find again. I remember feeling love (not sure where at the time where it was coming from, God maybe?) and I heard a voice saying over and over "It's okay. You can let go now. You are safe." I will never forget those words. They just kept repeating over and over in my thoughts. And I believed them. For the first time, I believed those words. The love and comfort I felt at that moment brought tears to my eyes and I just sat there for a while. Allowing it to fill me. Allowing it to give me the strength I so desperately needed.

I honestly feel like that was my turning point. Finally, after nearly 16 years of living a life entangled in the eating disorder, I was starting to believe that I might actually be able to let go and move forward in my life. That was the moment that I starting to really believe that it WAS possible to let go of the ed and find "jenn" again. That she has been out there the whole time, waiting for me to come find her. I did still have my hard times in the year that has followed that day in Park City. Really hard times. But I never let go of that moment and how I felt. And it was a big part of what has helped get me through and up to this point in my recovery.

Letting go of the ed, truly letting it go has been very difficult. The process has brought fear, sadness, anxiety, doubt, so many emotions - but it also has been freeing! And it has also brought strength, love, courage, determination, and so many other things. I am still working on finding out who I am without the ed. I am still on that journey. But I can honestly say that "jenn" is more in the driver's seat now then the ed. And that makes me feel truly grateful.


  1. This is so awesome! I have struggled not only with the way that being sick defined me, but also how it defined my life. I had a fear of the unknown, and life without an ED was a HUGE unknown for me. Sometimes I feel so lost. Prayer and trusting in God is the thing that is getting me through. I know He would not lead me to recovery and then be like "ok, you are on your own now". Even if I cant see what my future without Ed is like, God knows all, and I know he has a plan for me (and you)!

  2. It sounds like we are in very similar places right now. I know that joy you feel.

    I am so pleased I bumped into your blog.

    I can tell you one thing that Jenn is - an incredibly wise woman.

    :-) Pixie

  3. Maybe its weird to see this, but while you saw yourself as that eating disorder, I never did. All communication with you was about other things, maybe related to the eating disorder, but other bits and pieces of Jenn, weaker parts and stronger parts that were fighting for who she was. I wish you could meet her because she's pretty amazing I think and it has been a privilege knowing her in the bits that I have. I'm glad that you've been able to take steps forward because maybe you'll see her and meet her and the fear will go. You're an amazing person miss, no matter what you think.

    Love ya xo

  4. You are fighting so hard and seeing how it pays off, is just wonderful.
    YOU are just wonderful <3

  5. Hi Jenn,

    I am so appreciative of your lovely message (on my blog). Your kind words certainly warmed my heart – so thank-you! It is very comforting to hear that others may often feel the same way as I do and after reading this post I was astounded by our similarities. I agree with you that we all need to keep going and reaching out to others to get ourselves through the journey. You write so honestly and beautifully and I find you to be an incredible admirable person.

    Sending you best wishes and much love all the way from Australia xo

  6. I wrote a similar post ( )not too long ago, so reading this post of yours really hit home for me.

    It's so hard to walk away from something that has really come to define you. It's scary as anything! I often had the same thoughts and anxiety as you when people started to ask what MY thoughts and opinions were about things. I never trusted myself to have thoughts or opinions, and it was so much easier to just rely on everyone else's. Now, having to learn to think and process and decide things on my own is so scary! But so, so worth it.

    Thanks for sharing this. Wishing you all the best in your recovery :)