Monday, February 13, 2012

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 a couple of years 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 couple of years that have 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.

These past couple of years (especially this past year) there have been other things/people that have helped push me (and helped me push myself!) further away from the grasp of my eating disorder. My boyfriend is one of those people. He is, without a doubt, the person who has helped me the most. I feel grateful every single day for meeting him because he truly did save my life. He has helped me to believe that I am beautiful and "enough" just the way that I am. I never felt that way before I met him. I never felt like I was "enough." But with him, I am starting to believe that. He is my best friend. He is my heart. He knows me better than anyone else. And I thank God everyday for bringing him into my life.

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. I am so proud of you, Jenn, and whether you know it or not, you're quite an inspiration. I hope that I can someday have a "moment." I hope we all can!

  2. I needed to read this! Letting go of the identity is something I am really struggling with. I am not sure who I am without an eating disorder. it has been so long! I think right now, I am trying to have both.....the ED and the recovery. It is not working. You are doing great. I think I am going to read this over and over and over!

  3. :) i'm so glad that you are feeling in control, that is so important. because it's your life, and you deserve it to be amazing. xox

  4. What an awesome feeling! I've recently just discovered a new ME, a new FEELING, a time to let go and be free. It's awesome! I think it's def. important to hold on to moments like those so when in time of need you can look back and experience it all over again! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Wonderful explanation of the very personal and intense moment that is letting go of ED and finding your self. When that time comes it is truly an amazing thing. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I can completely relate to the fear of letting go of the eating disorder. I have been trying to maintain both the ED and recovery simultaneously, and obviously that isn't going to work. It's so true that you really need to let the ED go and accept that eventually you will be okay without it. What I like most about your post is that you emphasize how you have become better without the ED. I really needed to read that. Somedays it's hard to maintain hope that all of the hard work I'm doing will pay off. Thank you for the inspiration.