Thursday, March 1, 2012

This week, one of my friends posted a link to an article on her Facebook page that I really wanted to share. I was just mentioning in my last post how difficult it can be to report on eating disorders or share recovery stories without triggering others, or providing 'how-to's' and new ideas for people to engage in eating disordered behaviors. This particular article was written by a Duke student who struggled with an eating disorder- and she does such an amazing job of sharing her recovery journey in such a sensitive way. You can read it here. It is also posted below for your convenience.  

If you or someone that you know is struggling with an eating disorder, consider seeking help. It might feel like a scary step, but like this student shares below, keeping your eating disorder a secret will not help you heal. For more information on eating disorders, you can check out the National Eating Disorders Awareness website (here), or to find eating disorder professionals in your area, you can check out this link.

A Duke Student Shares Her Story – National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2012

So I’m your typical premed student right? I follow doctors around, do research, volunteer at my favorite nonprofit weekly, have taken 10 times the required NS courses, and watch House religiously.
Well, wrong. I have life experience that you won’t find on any resume- I recently overcame an eating disorder.
It began for me in 10th grade, for reasons I can’t explain. I started taking a higher interest in how my body looked and began to experiment with how I could change it. My mom also noticed this and would bring it up when we were alone, but of course I told her she was just overanalyzing things as usual. I just wanted a “beach body” in time for summer, like the magazines promised, that was all. In my head, I told myself, once you look toned, you can stop. Just for bikini season…Bikini season lasted much longer than I had planned.
Teachers and coaches commented that I was looking thinner than usual- but that wasn’t saying much. My teacher’s own daughter was on the heavier side and my coach wanted me to move into the post position, so I thought they were just biased. I ignored them… Then, that summer I hit my lowest weight since 6th grade.
Sure, I noticed that I would get tired quickly in basketball games, but just attributed it to the summer heat. And that’s how it went for another year- if someone commented on my weight; I would just brush it off.  After a car accident, I gained a lot of it back and became very unhappy. My mom took a big interest in what I ate, and started to make me sit down with the family for dinner since I could no longer go to practice. It’s funny how if you told me to do one thing, I would do the opposite. I had to get in shape!! I was going to college in a matter of months- and you know, freshman gain a whole bunch of weight. The harder she pushed, the harder I pushed back. And that brings me to Duke.
I’ve never been one to care what other people think. It was all about what I thought of myself really, and that was my biggest problem. For me it was never about a number or a size, it was some idea in my head that I just had to keep pushing towards. You could say that’s what got me into Duke in the first place- I always did what I set out to do. Now that I lived in the same room as another person, got even better at hiding my secret- so good I had even convinced myself that nothing was wrong…I probably would never have stopped, but I dove right into rock bottom. One day I found myself hiding in the last bathroom stall with a lap full of junk-food, hating myself and my habit. That was the day that I decided there was, indeed, something very wrong and I needed help.
It wasn’t just what food I ate, it was how rarely I would eat in public, how much time I put into working out, how much I had to lie to keep my secret. I was isolating myself, while still being surrounded by people. I began to see a psychologist, nutritionist, and physician to help address every aspect of my disorder- how I felt about myself and food, and what had done to my body. After building these connections for almost 4 years, it was hard to just let them go. It’s like any abusive relationship- despite the tears and pain, this is what I had grown close to. But I knew if I wanted to have a true relationship with someone, if I wanted to have faith in myself, if I wanted to serve others, if I wanted to live out my life, I had to stop.
It took a lot of courage and pep talks in my head before I could my friends, but what came next was shocking. After telling my story, I heard a string of quiet “me too’s”. Some of my best memories are at Duke, but so are some of my worst ones. My biggest mistake was thinking that I was alone. I was never alone in my struggles; my friends gave me strength without even trying, and some even carried the same battle with them. Everyone knows somebody like me. And if you don’t think you do, you probably just aren’t paying close enough attention. If you are that somebody, please, please don’t ever feel like you are alone. Talk to your friends, talk to CAPS, talk to anyone. But believe me, keeping it a secret will not help you heal. What defines us is how we rise after falling.
I no longer check out my belly in the mirror every time I walk out of a bathroom.
I no longer do math in my head to figure out what I can and cannot eat.
I no longer see pictures of other women and think “I wish I looked like that”
I no longer feel guilty about specific foods, nor do I battle with cravings.
I have forgiven myself and have healed mind and body. I was only able to do this because I finally admitted that I had a problem and asked for help.

Something that has stuck with me is the ability to pick up mannerisms and attitudes like my own. Duke is no stranger to eating disorders and something needs to be done about it. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and say, “me too”.

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