It was nearly ten years ago now when I underwent the greatest personal revolution of my lifetime. It was during this season that, by some divine miracle, I was able to overcome the sinister and manipulative tactics of the eating disorder which had held my life in bondage for the past seven years, and begin to walk through life in a new kind of freedom.
All of a sudden, several months into the journey, one day I realized that I was becoming my own person again. No longer enslaved by mental illness and addiction, I was beginning to find my own personality, my own passions, my own worldview. It was liberating. The following excerpt, taken from an email I wrote to Ryan on February 3, 2008, tells the story of this radical self-discovery.
“It occurred to me this evening…
that for the first time in my life, I feel like I kind of know who I am.
It’s both exciting and scary for me to say that. For as long as I can remember I have been on a desperate search for self. And, paradoxically, even though I have always considered myself a non-conformist, I have always looked to others to find my identity. It’s no wonder I developed an eating disorder and a plethora of destructive addictions. Anything to not feel like “me.”
Today, I am overwhelmingly grateful to God for finally helping me to feel like “me.”
In two months, my life has been made new. For the first time… ever… I can embrace who I am. I feel free in spirit and soul. I am happy, every day. I have bad days, but they don’t interrupt my progress. I walk around with my head up and a smile on my face, and burst out into fits of laughter for no reason. I no longer attempt to drown out my uncomfortable feelings—I accept them as a part of who I am, and understand that they will pass.
I love food. I love making food for other people… but also for me. I love the way my body operates when it is properly fed. I value my body, and I am comfortable living in it. I am comfortable in my own skin. I believe that in, and through, this body, God will do wonderful things.
I have an overwhelming desire to serve and support others. I have an overwhelming passion for… passion. I am passionate about music, and art, and words, and revolution, and being an auntie, and being a friend. I have come out of hiding. I have become a social person. I make daily efforts to step outside my comfort zone and talk to people I wouldn’t normally talk to.
I have learned to trust. I have learned to commit. I have learned to believe. I believe in faith and prayer. I believe in love. I believe that God has blessed my heart with an abundance of love—His kind of love. I am willing to learn, and to wait. I am willing to let go. I am willing to wear my heart on my sleeve. I am willing to go anywhere God asks me to go. I am willing, and ready, to be the person God has created me to be.
This is what I know about who I am.
Or… this is who I am.”
In a way, I feel I am in a similar place now. Towards the end of 2016, I was feeling like I had once again completely lost my sense of self. I was adrift on a sea of fear, anxiety, and grief, and I couldn’t see any hope on the horizon. But then, one day, something changed. If you have read my first post, A Story and an Invitation, you will know how something woke up inside of me and gave me the spark of courage I needed to fight again.
And since that time, throughout the course of my Braver Than Before journey, I have experienced so much personal growth! In yesterday’s post, I was able to reflect on some of the measurable progress I have seen in myself in this past week alone! It is so encouraging, so exciting, so liberating.
And once again, I am starting to feel like “me”. I feel like I know who I am. I am not my mental illness. My fear and anxiety no longer define me. They are a footnote. And just like I wrote over nine years ago, I still have bad days, “but they don’t interrupt my progress.”
I am a woman on a journey to become braver than before—not because I am not currently brave, but because I am. I am brave. And just as I have continued to grow since overcoming my eating disorder all those years ago, I am on this journey today because I believe that I can and will continue to grow beyond this point in my mental health recovery… every day… for the rest of my life.
This is what I know about who I am.
Or… this is who I am.