The Missing Self: The Importance of Self-Connection in Recovery

February 27, 2017 • Eating Disorder, Mental Health, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, NEDA, Recovery, Self Care • Views: 2157

In the depths of my 6-year battle with my eating disorder, I had completely lost myself. The true me was missing, tucked away behind carefully constructed walls and thick layers of self hatred and fear. I had turned my back on my true self, choosing instead to look outward instead of within. Outside of my self felt safe, yet I couldn’t seem to escape the weight of my truth, which I felt was stuck to me like a backpack of bricks. I kept trying to outrun it… I was busy, always VERY busy and consumed with a never ending to-do list. I tried to avoid it by being what everyone else thought I “should” be, how I “should” look, or saying what I “should” say. I was the ultimate people pleaser –  so tuned into others needs and feelings and wants that there wasn’t any room for mine. Mine got stuffed aside, behind those layers and walls, yet they were still there, waiting to be heard, to be seen, to be tended to.

I did not want to hear them or see them. I was on a mission to numb out all the pain. To not have needs or desires. Not even food or rest. I felt safety in the not needing, the not asking, the not using my voice. In this space I was neither not enough nor too much. I felt that only if I could stay in this place of selflessness would I be able to be loved. And so I based my worth on a number on a scale, not what was deep inside of me.

Yet because her needs and yearnings are real and pressing, she must find some way to express them: she puts into body what she cannot yet put into words. Her eating disorder serves as her voice, her attempt to express and meet her needs and desires without directly asking for anything.  Sheila M. Reindl, Sensing the Self: Women’s Recovery from Bulimia

When I finally ended up in recovery, sitting in a counselor’s office, I was numb. I had become so purposely disconnected from myself that I didn’t know who I was at all anymore. I felt like a shell of a person, buckled under the weight of my stuffed away feelings and needs. The ability to need and want and express felt oceans away. The real me was adrift, somewhere, long lost, and I felt I would never find her again. And I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to.

We are so ruled by what people tell us we must be that we have forgotten who we are. ― Leo Buscaglia

In recovery I discovered a profound truth about self love and self care. These concepts that had always seemed so foreign to me, so outside of my grasp, were actually SKILLS that could be learned. I had always thought they were somehow just “for others” and not “for people like me.” But what I came to realize was that no one had ever TAUGHT me how to love or care for myself! That there were steps and tools that could be learned and practiced so they grew stronger. All that was missing was the willingness to try! And to show up for myself. But to show up for myself, I had to put down that bag of bricks and stop running. I had to open it up and face myself. Because what we often don’t realize is that our relationship with ourselves is a relationship like any other. It needs attention and time and nurturing for it to thrive. We have to spend time with ourselves so that we can get to know who we truly are. Our feelings and our needs are not our enemies but instead our friends, trying to point us in the direction of happiness and peace. And the soft voice of our inner self is always whispering to us – we just have to make time to listen, and to let her know it’s safe to be heard.

When I first started practicing self connection it felt almost impossible. I didn’t know how to be with myself in a quiet, nurturing way. I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from doing something to distract away from my thoughts and feelings. But over time, through quiet time, journaling, meditation, and practicing using my voice, I began to find my long lost friend. My self. And in this process of re-discovering her I found that the boogie man in the closet – all my feelings and needs – weren’t so scary after all. I had been running so aimlessly from these “demons” of feelings of shame and self hatred. But by shining a light on them, giving them space to breathe and be heard, they dissipated. This conscious effort to re-connect with my truth and my inner blueprint was what got me through and has kept me in recovery. I no longer look outside of myself for validation or strength, but within. Your inner self is wise and strong, and always there to help you. Healing happens by itself when you are open to it. When you have the willingness to open up to your long lost self.

Recovering is a process of coming to experience a sense of self. More precisely, it is a process of learning to sense one’s self, to attune to one’s subjective physical, psychic, and social self- experience. These woman’s core sense of shame and their difficulty tolerating painful emotions had led them to avoid turning their attention inward to their internal sense of things. In recovering, they ‘came to their senses’ and learned to trust their sensed experience, in particular their sense of ‘enoughness.’  Sheila M. Reindl, Sensing the Self: Women’s Recovery from Bulimia

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4 Responses to The Missing Self: The Importance of Self-Connection in Recovery

  1. Stephanie says:

    This is so gorgeous!

  2. Marianne says:

    This post was helpful for me today..I have been doubting myself a lot lately and it resonated with me.

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