By Corrin Bond
I stopped believing in coincidences at 6:15 pm on a Thursday. Or, at least, I like to tell myself that. I was sitting in a Starbucks by a frosted window. With the building nearly empty and snow gently drifting through the air, the world felt quiet and cold around me. There was a kind of solace in the solitude of the night that made me wish I could stay in that moment––in a calm, warm place, scrolling aimlessly through Facebook and not worrying about the rest of the world.
My eyes glossed over the screen, one post after another, until something caught my attention. It was a post by one of my best friends, an unassuming reminder about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I paused on her message––simple, to the point, enthusiastically punctuated––with my fingers frozen on the track pad. The vanilla latte I was nursing was the first thing, aside from water, to sit undisrupted in my stomach all day. It was the reason why I found myself at the coffee shop in the first place––I had purged less than an hour before in the Starbucks bathroom, and then felt bad for misusing their facilities, so I ordered a latte. I didn’t know National Eating Disorders Awareness Week existed. It didn’t, in my limited and more than slightly delusion scope of thought, occur to me that people were talking about eating disorders outside of health classes and magazines.
That night I went home and sat down to dinner with my family, the post in the back of my mind. After three years of bulimia and far too many years of on-and-off calorie restriction and episodes of anorexia, my disorder had reached a fever pitch. Sometimes I was lucid, but mostly numb. On good days, numb. My father had taken me in when my original plans for college fell through after I graduated high school, and I had spent the first six months deteriorating into a shell of the person I used to be––slipping farther and farther into the clutches of a disease I had spent my senior year trying to overcome alone. I sat at the table a ghost. I had become a master at isolating others and as per usual, decided to incite an argument to go with our lentil soup.
I sipped on the soup and took in their angry voices at my flippant remarks, and sometime around the fourth spoonful of lentils, I thought of her post, her distinctly concerned message sent out to no-one in particular, and that was the moment I decided that I was done. I was done with the body image issues that had first crept into my psyche as early as ten years old. I was done suppressing my own emotions, lying about how I felt and passing it off as patience. I was done feeling sick and tired and numb. I was ready to live again. That night I finished all of my soup, kept it down, and told my parents. The following day, I visited our family practitioner, the next week I began counseling, and I haven’t looked back since.
Counseling came as such a surprise––something I will forever be grateful for, but that was quite possibly the most difficult thing I have ever motivated myself to do. I was surprised to learn that I was a “textbook” case––from the broken family to the tumultuous parental relationship, to the compulsion for praise and approval. A full year has passed since I first got help, a full year since my friend’s Facebook post.
There are days when the guilt is strong, when I’m sad for my body and all of the damage I once did. I don’t always feel as strong as I’d like to, as people assume I am, but it’s all a part of the process. I’m proud to be a part of the upcoming week, to share my story, and to encourage others to do the same.
A couple of months ago I was sitting at the table while home over winter break, listening to some of the neighbors crack jokes about purging and anorexia. I was hurt by how cavalier they were about the subject, but mostly infuriated that these were men with bright young daughters, treating something so serious as if it were not something their daughters, that all children, will be susceptible to. When I think of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I don’t just think about the progress I’ve made, but of the importance of beginning these conversations, of making others aware that change begins in small ways, like being mindful of the comments and jokes we make.
This is to emphasize, always, the importance of awareness, but it is also a testament to all of those who have helped me along the way––to my family, who sacrificed so much to make sure I received the help I needed, who are still there to support me every day; to my friends, to the number of health professionals, strangers, and colleagues who have always shown nothing but kindness and understanding; to the people who work hard to raise awareness all week and ask the important questions.
My hope is for society to embrace this week, to reflect upon it; to be cognizant and mindful of what we say and we how we act, to be aware, to know that it’s okay to talk about eating disorders. It’s okay to approach others, to show interest, to be concerned. It’s okay to start conversations about this, to know that you are not alone.
This week, the University of Idaho will be showing its support for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and has a number of events around campus which not only aim to spread awareness but are also geared to encourage others to reach out, seek help, or to share their own stories. Vandal Health Education and the Women’s Center have partnered to inform students about possible information and health resources as well. In addition to the Vandal Health Education Office, the Women’s Center, and the Counseling and Testing Center, informational and support resources can be found on the National Eating Disorders Awareness website as well as the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.