It’s one thing to bear my past online, but a whole different thing to share my story with the 30,000 people I’m surrounded by every day.
Yet, that’s just what I’m doing.
The whole front page of today’s University Daily Kansan is a story about dealing with eating and psychological disorders. I spent the whole semester researching, interviewing and writing to pull it all together.
That isn’t what scares me. Where it all really hits home is on a page in the center of The Kansan that features my story — pictures and all.
It’s putting some of my lowest, private moments out there into the public. My professors, peers and friends will read it.
Why would I do this? Honestly, I’ve wondered that a few times, but it always comes back to a simple answer. I am doing this to help. I hope that by putting my name and face on a serious issues, more people will be willing to addressing their own disordered eating.
That’s all I ask.
Now, for your reading pleasure, here is my column. (Follow the links above to see the rest of the story.)
It was five in the morning and the dull pain of hunger in my grumbling stomach wouldn’t let me sleep. It didn’t help that my protruding hipbones painfully jutted into the mattress.
Restlessly, I went downstairs. With pride, I avoided the fridge and resisted the temptation to grab one of the carrot sticks I had sliced the day before. The 15 calories weren’t worth it.
Instead, I pulled on my shoes and went to run two miles — or more.
Just as it often did when I turned down invitations to hang out with friends or made up excuses about not being hungry, my anxiety had gotten the best of me — which, I later learned had really gotten the worst of me.
At 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 100 pounds, I was 30 pounds under my healthy weight range. I knew this wasn’t a “good thing.” I also remembered doctors telling me that because of my weight, working out would put my heart at risk.
But, at that pre-dawn moment, all that mattered was getting to run more and eat less. Why should my weight really matter when I looked at my skinny legs and instead saw fat on my thighs?
That was my life just more than one year ago.
It’s still hard for me to pinpoint where my “turn around” was. It could have been when my mom considered taking me out of school.
It could have been when my dad looked at my arms, which were as thin as a broom handle, and said he was worried for my life. Even though I couldn’t see my true self in the mirror, I could see in his eyes he was telling the truth.
But, most likely, it was when I finally began meeting with a therapist who specialized in eating disorders.
By talking with her, as well as meeting with my nutritionist and doctor, I was able to address the excruciating sadness I felt at my cousin’s sudden death the year before. I was able to recognize my anxiety about gaining weight and not being as beautiful as my mom. I was able to heal and I was able to move on…
That’s not to say it was easy. I still have to make decisions about what to eat every single day.
When those feelings of anxiety creep back, I look at the big picture and realize that life is so much better now than when I was both skinny and depressed.
Back then, I lost sight of who I was. Instead of reaching out to my friends and family, I withdrew into myself, shrinking inward just like my body.
It didn’t take long for the depression I felt inside to show on my face. I vividly remember a time I took the bus from the gym to class and caught a glimpse in the mirror of a sullen girl with sunken cheeks. It wasn’t until I did a double take that I realized it was my reflection.
Since committing myself to recovery, I’ve gained so much more than that desperately needed weight. In the past year, I ran three half-marathons. I spent eight weeks studying in Germany. I even got engaged and learned how to really love another person.
I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anyone else, but I am grateful for what I learned. Dealing with both an eating disorder and depression gave me perspective and it gave me a cause. I’ll do whatever it takes to prevent anyone else from going down that same path. Writing this article was just one step in doing that.