OPINION: My mental health doesn’t define me

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Editor’s note: This column contains vivid references to eating disorders and alcoholism and may be upsetting to some readers.

I’ve been debating on whether or not I was ready to share my story with all of you. At times, mental health gets swept under the rug. We tend to ignore what’s really going on in our minds by putting on a brave face.

However, I decided now was the time because as a Kansas State community, we strive to represent that we are family. So, here’s a story about my own family. The more we hide our feelings, the faster we hit our breaking points.

My mental health hit its breaking point in March 2017 during my second year of college. I came home for spring break to see my family in Dallas.

My mom pulled me aside and told me that my dad had an affair and they were getting a divorce. She had asked me not to tell anyone about the divorce. It had to stay between us.

For some time now, my parents had not been getting along. I knew things were bad between them, but I always hoped that things would get better. Well, they didn’t.

They drifted further and further apart. Soon, I went back to college and began to pretend that my life was going great, when in reality it felt like it was falling apart.

I became my mom’s main support system. I was the one picking up the pieces when she and my dad had gotten into an argument.

Imagine that you found out your family was falling apart and you couldn’t tell anyone. What would you do?

Well, here’s what I did.

One night, I was having a really hard time coping with everything between family, school and work, so I decided to go to the Recreation Complex. As I began to run on the indoor track, I soon forgot everything that was going on around me, so I decided to start running miles and miles on end.

Every day, I would go to the Recreation Complex and work out for hours. Since I started spending most of my time there, I began to skip meals. That’s when an eating disorder entered my life.

As time went by and things at home began to get worse, I dove deeper and deeper into my eating disorder. I began to pick up other eating disorder behaviors such as taking laxatives and diet pills as well as purging. My eating disorder became a part of me — it became my best friend.

I never thought I had a problem until friends began to try to talk to me. All I would do was push them away. It got to the point where I would make up excuses to not go out to eat with friends because I was too tired or I just wanted to be alone.

When my eating disorder became not enough for me, I decided to turn to alcohol as well. As much as I could, I would go out drinking with friends and I would make it my goal to get drunk enough to black out.

This was when I finally began to get scared, and I knew I needed help. I decided to drop out of college to receive help because my mental health came first. It wasn’t an easy decision, but deep down I knew it was the right decision.

On Jan. 2, 2018, I began residential treatment at McCallum Place Eating Disorder Center. I was in their program for a total of eight weeks.

I then transferred to Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center in Lemont, Illinois, where I did their partial hospitalization program for four weeks. After that, I transferred to Eating Recovery Center’s intensive outpatient program in Oakbrook, Illinois, where they noticed I needed a higher level of care.

I transferred to their residential program in downtown Chicago, and then six weeks later I stepped down to their partial hospitalization program, which is where I am now.

I am determined to make this my last treatment facility. I am ready to fight this disease. I am tired of it taking over my life. I will not let it define me.

The reason why I am being so vulnerable to all of you and am sharing my story is because I want you to know that it is OK to ask for help. It’s OK to put your college career on hold to receive help.

I may not be graduating with all my friends, but I will graduate. It will just take me a little bit longer than everyone else, and that’s OK.

If you are struggling with any kind of mental health disorder, I encourage you to reach out for help. I know it may seem scary, but I promise it will be OK.

You are not alone, we all have a breaking point and we all need to turn for help at some point. Life will get better, and when it does, it’s going to seem unreal.

Just keep on being you, because there’s no one better. As Winnie the Pooh once said, “promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Gabrielle Albertson is a junior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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