I am twenty-years-old and I do not know how to drive. That is why I don’t have a car; I would not buy something that I don’t even know how to use. Sure, autopilot exists now, but even so, I would have to know the rules of the road and have navigational skills for back roads and emergencies. I do not, so I don’t own a car. Recovery is sort of like this. My eating disorder was autopilot. It directed me through life and made most of my decisions for me. My eating disorder dictated my every action whether I was fighting with a friend or choosing what college to attend. My eating disorder is combative, so I was aggressive towards my friends. My eating disorder is also competitive, so I had to go to the most prestigious school possible.
For the most part, I grew up without the same sense of freedom my peers seem to have had. Although I technically had choices, in my mind, everything was already set in stone. I had to be the best, the smartest, the hardest working, the most disciplined, and the skinniest no matter what I sacrificed for it. Yes, it was a lonely, monotonous existence, but it was structured; there was no sense of an unknown.
With recovery comes the freedom of choice, but with freedom comes responsibility. I have to form my own decisions now. Sometimes my decision is trivial like what I want to eat for dinner, but other times it is more important like whether or not I want to study abroad or breaking up with a boyfriend. These decisions are undeniably hard for any twenty-year-old–one seemingly insignificant decision can change the course of lives, but for someone who has little experience in decision-making, it is harder.
I realize now that I am not my eating disorder–I am a twenty-year-old woman. I do not know, however, “who I am,” or what that phrase even means. Maybe I never will know. I do know, however, that I cannot rely on autopilot for the rest of my life.