By: Mariah Harris
During the beginning of eating disorder treatment, I kept hearing eating disorders being referred to as ED. I thought this was just an acronym but realized it was more of a nickname for the inner voice/personality that is our eating disorder. After feeling like I needed to find a name better-suited to where I was in life, I named my eating disorder EDNA. This was a better name for my eating disorder than boring old ED which sounded like an old man to me. I also felt my eating disorder was feminine for whatever reason, so I chose a feminine name.
During treatment, we were asked so many different things about ED/EDNA regarding what it looks like, how it acts, and how much of a hold it has on us right now. Realizing how much EDNA had a personality and identity of her own was scary. During a group session one day, the leader went around the room and asked us about our personal identities. I froze and had no idea what to say. Before treatment, all of my energy had gone to graduating from nursing school and becoming an intensive care nurse, so I talked about how being a nurse was my identity. I was quickly told that’s not my identity--it’s my career. So I pondered this question. I couldn’t help but think, who am I? This was very discouraging to me! How did I forget who I was? After a while, I realized that my eating disorder had taken so much time, effort, and energy away from me. It had become its own identity. My personal being was so exhausted, and every ounce that EDNA could take from me, she would. HOW SELFISH?! After many long conversations, journal entries, and prayers, I finally started figuring out who I was once again, slowly but surely. After all of this soul-searching, I realized that yes, I have an eating disorder that I named EDNA, but she doesn’t have a hold on me. My life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, but I do have a few qualities I have started to cherish about myself. Learning who I really am has been a process and a challenge, and has come with some harsh reality checks.
After I left treatment and went back to work as an intensive care nurse, reality hit me. I wasn’t in the “bubble” of treatment anymore. Nurses around me were talking about the latest diets, shakes, and exercise programs. My mind was in a healthier, different place, but I felt so alone. My eating disorder prior to treatment had consumed so much of my time and energy that I didn’t know where to begin finding myself. All I knew is I didn’t want EDNA to be an identity thief again. As I struggled as an ICU nurse, feeling like no one understood what I’d been through, I slowly started blogging. I blogged for myself. Being asked if you're pregnant by co-workers because you have some extra weight from re-feeding is embarrassing and I needed an outlet! During my blogging journey, I have come across some amazing people and know that my journey through recovery will continue as long as I live, so I hope to learn more about myself each day.
Mariah Harris is a wife, dog momma, nurse, and mental health advocate from Oklahoma. She has struggled with mental health issues including an eating disorder since a young age. She understands the struggle and thinks it's time for her voice be heard! Learn and grow with her at www.mariahharris.org.