I have a secret. It’s something that I keep very close to myself; I’ve told no one on this campus, not even my sorority sisters. My secret is that I used to have an eating disorder.
For a long time, I didn’t believe I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t believe that harming my body. I convinced myself that what I was doing was okay. I wasn’t stick thin, even at my lowest point (mentally and physically)—I was actually pretty average. I certainly didn’t fit the stereotypical picture of a girl with an eating disorder. I thought having an eating disorder meant never eating and subsisting off diet coke, or always eating and throwing up. I didn’t do that. My habits ebbed and flowed, always evolving in order to appear to my friends that I was “fine.” I didn’t think I had a problem, because I didn’t fit into the neat little boxes of what an eating disorder “looked like.”
Because of my crazy eating habits, so much of my life suffered. I was wary of going out with my friends because of they might suggest going out to eat. My relationship with my parents and siblings became extremely strained as we fought over what I would and wouldn’t eat, how much or little I had to eat. My academics suffered because I couldn’t focus on anything else. I had no ambitions or goals other than to lose weight. Instead of looking back on my time high school with nostalgia, all my memories are clouded by the internal struggle I was dealing with at the time. Working through those issues took even longer, after years of emotional digging and recovery.
It’s no secret that eating disorders and disordered eating are a huge problem in this country. Disordered eating behaviors plague women of all ages, and especially on college campuses. This is an issue that affects millions of people across the country and across the globe. As someone who is recovered, it’s my personal mission to raise awareness for more research and funding for treatment. During NEDA Awareness Week, HerCampus chapters, including our own, did a fantastic job of posting articles about eating disorders. By posting about the different aspects of mental health and eating disorders, we can begin to destigmatize them and allow those suffering to reach out for help. But it can’t stop there.
We as a generation, and as a campus, are huge activists. We fight for causes and we fight for awareness. Awareness isn’t confined to just one week of education; it’s a continuous process. As someone who deals with recovery every day, I hope that people use NEDA Awareness Week as a way to spark awareness and conversations about eating disorders and mental health issues not just for one week, but every day.