How I Conquered My Eating Disorder In College

By Sydney Fitzgibbons, Eating Recovery Center alum

“Chronic.”  “Caught in the cycle.” “Too far gone.” “Non-compliant.” “High risk.” “Near death.” So many hopeless words. Plenty I could hide behind; plenty I did hide behind for so many years. Amidst it all, I learned that there is one thing not to do in the midst of chaos: underestimate the resilience of a human soul.

My struggle with an eating disorder was one of the most painful tests of resilience I have ever been through. I struggled in this time with an eating disorder that manifested itself in many different ways. I had points where I struggled greatly with anorexia, bulimia and diabulimia (where a type 1 diabetic withholds lifesaving insulin in a desperate attempt to lose weight). I spent many days in ICUs and treatment centers with professionals desperately trying to save my life, and ultimately, trying to save me from myself. During this time, I saw no light, no way out, and surely, no future that could be mine.

My story doesn’t end there though. I write this today living a life I never imagined I could, with a capacity for my heart to feel love, joy, belonging, vulnerability and connection. My life today is a vast difference from what I imagined it would ever be. In the midst of my struggle, I never thought I would see my 21st birthday. Today, at 22, I live on my own, I am a paramedic and most days, I chose to own and be courageous with my story. Today, I have the privilege and responsibility of saving lives in the same city that saved my life many years ago when I sought treatment at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver.

My journey to this life, to say the least, was no small feat. After struggling and going through many treatment stays, I decided to start my first year of college. I figured that being busy and invested in something would distract me from eating disorder thoughts that swirled about my head at every waking moment. I would soon learn, despite my greatest efforts, that the eating disorder can and will follow you if the core issues at the heart of it aren’t dealt with.

Soon after starting my first semester of college, I found myself engulfed by the eating disorder once again. I was going to class dizzy, lightheaded and with a racing heart. Really what I felt was my body begging me to treat it just a little bit kinder. By far, one of the hardest decisions I had to make at the time was to drop all of my classes and return to treatment. I thought I failed. I thought I would never have a career or go anywhere in life. Reflecting on that thought now, engaged fully in the career of my dreams, I can assure you this isn’t true. This proved to be the most pivotal decision I could make. Pivotal for my recovery, and pivotal for the future and career I so desperately wanted. Easy? Of course not. Worth it? So very much so.

If I could offer a small piece of advice to those in college struggling with an eating disorder, I would ask you above all else to show yourself some kindness, some understanding, some forgiveness, and some grace. In my experience, you will fall, some days many times over, but you will also get back up. The world, your classes and your career will be there when you are healthy enough to engage fully in them. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, you may not be. Despite how much darkness may be blinding your view of a future free from your eating disorder, I can say with conviction in my soul that recovery is possible. Resources, hope and help are waiting for you. College counselors can likely point you in the right direction of the resources you seek, and Eating Recovery Center also offers a free assessment to help you determine the level of care you need and how to access it. If I can leave you with one thing, I want to promise you that life gets better. Make sure you’re there to see it.

For additional information about Eating Recovery Center, call 877-789-5758, email [email protected] or visit eatingrecoverycenter.com to speak with a Masters-level clinician.