OPINION: What my eating disorder taught me

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My eating disorder has taught me so much.

Surprising, right? How could a disease that almost killed me teach me something?

It taught me how to live and be me again.

But first, it took so much away from me: my happiness, my energy and my willingness to live. I began to isolate myself. I didn’t want any friends in my life and I didn’t want to make any new ones. My eating disorder invited depression and anxiety into my life.

Before my eating disorder, I was a happy person always wanting to make those around her laugh. However, deep down I was suffering and I didn’t even know it.

Dianna Schalles, registered dietitian at Lafene Health Center, co-chairs the Kansas State Eating Disorders Team and said eating disorders often stem from anxiety.

“Many people struggling with disordered eating may also show signs of an anxiety disorder several years before the start of their eating disorder,” Schalles said.

We push down our emotions to show those around us that we’re perfectly fine, but in reality we’re not. We think we’re protecting the ones we love by doing that, but we’re actually just hurting them even more.

When I found out my family was divorcing, I thought I had to make everything in our lives good again. I thought I had to be the protector and mediator, but I was wrong.

I began hurting myself and would push down more and more emotions until soon my eating disorder entered my life along with anxiety and depression. I tried hiding my emotions behind perfection, but it got harder and harder each and every day.

“Eating disorders become a sort of body language to communicate pain,” Schalles said.

I wanted so badly to be open about what was going on in my life, but I knew I couldn’t because I had to protect the image of my family. I was known as the girl who lived a “perfect life.” Yes, that is one hundred percent false, but it was part of my identity and I didn’t want to lose that part of me.

In a way, my eating disorder was a way for me to show those around me that I was struggling and I needed them. It wasn’t because food scared me; I just didn’t know how to ask for help.

My eating disorder became an addiction. I allowed myself to act on eating disorder urges such as purging, restricting and over-exercising daily. Little did I know I was slowly killing myself.

Did I care? Honestly, no.

I wanted life to get easier. I soon saw the fear in my loved ones’ eyes and decided to reach out for help.

I began seeing a therapist, dietitian and physician. I know that I’m not the only one struggling with an eating disorder and if you are struggling, I encourage you to reach out for help.

Schalles said “a student may undergo initial assessment for disordered eating at K-State by contacting any treatment team provider.”

Those may include a mental health provider from the Counseling Services, an off-campus therapist, a medical provider at Lafene or a registered dietitian at Lafene.

“Most importantly, take the first step and reach out for help,” Schalles said.

I know it can seem scary, but in the end it will be worth it. Recovery is worth it. Live a life worth living — one full of purpose.

Gabrielle Albertson is a senior 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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