Who the heck am I, anyway?

August 4, 2022

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JL Keez

Have you ever walked into a room and instantly felt at home, yet upon further scrutiny you acknowledge the clientelle and wonder how you could possibly feel this way?

During my recovery, I recalled this experience many years ago. At the time I was still in the grips of anorexia nervosa. I found myself walking into a home where all the family members were creative actors/singers. They were actually preparing for a drama play they were to perform that evening. I immediately related. I did not wish to leave!

At this stage of my life I was so underweight it was no longer funny, AND, I was swinging in and out of personas depending on the company I was with. I did not have a defined character. I had become a chameleon. And boy, was I good at this! So why, in this case, did I not simply morph into the person I felt I needed to be to be accepted in this space? Unusually, I fell into a ‘quiet’ not experienced before. I was overwhelmed with an excited emotion. I wanted to join them … BE them. As the visit came to a close, I left puzzled by what had just transpired.

It would be many more years before I understood this.

Fast forward to meeting the psychologist who brought knowledge and understanding to the life I was living, I remembered this time. I now know that this experience was a gift of sorts – but not realised until my healing years. You see, somewhere deep inside was ‘me’ desperately trying to break free of the trap my eating disorder had placed on me. As a child of abuse, I carried an extremely compelling fear of not being liked. With this overriding thought dominating my perception of life, I had cleverly created a life where I assessed a room full of people very quickly and became the personality I thought would see me liked!

This is the power words have. As the abuse took place, the words, “No one will like you if you tell”, cemented themselves into my belief system. They remained there creating havoc for years to come. By the time I turned fifteen, and without ever being given a different dialogue, I slipped into anorexia nervosa as a way of seeking acceptance.

It did not work by the way!

These words contributed to burying ME deep within my being. I was lost to a fabrication of self played out until I was thirty-eight years old. As I began to ask the question, “Who the heck am I, anyway?”, I struggled with any sort of definition. Confusion laced with fear kept getting in my way. In addition to the original words deciding who I had become, I had added so many other fears. I first needed to identify all the fears and then tackle each head-on for truth. This was no mean task! Through excellent guidance, patience, and care, I gradually released my fears, replacing each with a new understanding. I changed my thinking which had taken me into darkness for 9 long years of an eating disorder followed by far too many suffering associated mental illnesses. Time would be the healer.

I listed down my ideas regarding who I felt I was in reality. I worked toward this list. Along the way I redefined it; rewrote it. I tried ‘me’ on for size. I let go of pleasing everyone and stopped morphing every time I entered a room. I connected back to that excited emotion – after all this was the real me ‘yelling’ at me to take note and for goodness sake BE THAT PERSON! I gave myself permission to be me and not the definition I had adopted all those years ago.

Was this easy? It was not! But it can be achieved. In fact, it needs to be achieved if you are to release the hold of an eating disorder. The eating disorder is a disguise worn for whatever reason you put it there in the first place. One question I ask clients is, “If the eating disorder was correct with how you need to be, then why are you suffering?” Your eating disorder is your body’s way of letting you know that something is not right. It is actually an ally. Uncomfortable, unwelcome, and downright annoying – when given the opportunity this eating disorder will inform you. Listen to the messages it freely shares. Resolve them. The eating disorder wants to leave you as much as you want it to go! Know this!

For this is what I came to understand regarding my eating disorder. It was my body’s way of communicating with me. It was my body’s way of pushing me into the dark in the hope I would one day turn the light on and recover.

And why is it so important to recover? Because life is a precious gift wanting you to enjoy all it has to offer you, not waste it in fear, doubt, and unhappiness. You owe life to yourself. You owe it to us to know your beautiful self. We long to connect with you.

So, who the heck are you, anyway? This is the task of recovery. Identify those fears with someone who has lived this life before you. Turn restricting thought patterns into triumphant collections ready to support you. Give yourself permission to exist as YOU. The chasm between not being you and being you is begging to be closed …

Step 1: Write a list of words that describes who you currently are.

Step 2: Write a second list describing who you know you are without the eating disorder.

Step 3: Sit back, look at your lists and now be really honest – write a description of who you know you are. This is the description you write without halting, without being restricted by pleasing others. This is indeed the real you that no one sees, the one you hide in fear.

Step 4: Close your eyes, quieten your mind, Visualise the real you, feel this you, design thoughts that support this version, imagine what you would be doing when being you. What would your physical appearance be?

Step 5: Begin to live the description of you. Take tiny steps. Try one small aspect. When you have mastered this one, add another. Over time you will transform into you.

The steps above are a brief outline of how we approach the tasks of releasing the false you. Do understand this requires assistance from a credible person who can guide you and support you. What I hope this blog has achieved is that you are now creating some awareness of what needs to be undertaken. The question I now pose is, “Are you ready to learn from your eating disorder, grow from its messages, and transform into that wonderful person hidden beneath the tears masking your life?”

Where your answer is “Yes!” … reach out should you feel I may be the one to guide you.

We are waiting, longing to meet you …

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