It starts small.
“I have to get to class, so I’ll just grab coffee for breakfast.”
“Right now I need to study, I don’t have time for lunch.”
“It’s been a long day, I’d rather just go to sleep than make dinner.”
You skip one meal one day, another meal the next, and before you know it, you’re on the floor with the teacher staring down at you because it’s been almost a week since you’ve eaten and you fainted during class.
Before you have time to wonder how you got there, everyone seems to be shoving food down your throat. This only prompts you to shove your own finger down your throat as well.
It hurts. All of it hurts.
Not just the part where your stomach is wracked with hunger pains and your throat burns from vomiting.
It hurts when you come home from school for the weekend, and your mom has to pretend she doesn’t know that the bathroom sink has been running for so long to cover up the sounds of bulimia.
It hurts when you go to family dinners and your grandpa cooks all of your favorite things, and you have to look him in his sweet eyes and pretend you enjoyed every last bite even though half of it is already down the drain.
The moment when it finally hits is when you have to say the words “eating disorder” out loud for the first time. Until then, you can pretend it’s not true, and that you’re just too busy or too stressed or too tired to eat.
There are a lot of excuses to hide behind in college—trust me, I’ve used about every single one of them. And there are resources, too. University employed people will tell you that counseling and psychological services are everywhere to help you get through anything.
But how do they expect me to tell a stranger that I feel betrayed by my own body when I can barely even admit that to myself?
College campuses are filled with walking examples of why I’m not good enough: beautiful sorority girls with perfect bodies, free access to the gym where I spend hours every day and somehow never lose a pound, and dining halls and restaurants reminding me of all the things I can’t have if I want to look like them.
It’s crazy. It’s all sad and maddening and scary and exhausting and just crazy.
And then you wake up, which is the craziest thing of all.
Because you say, “I need help,” and for the first time, you mean it. It feels like you’re being weak, but once you’ve survived the first few days of putting food in your body and actually keeping it there, you somehow feel stronger than ever.
There are school resources, sure, but there are also friends and family who love you and see you and want to give their all to help you.
They say that the key to more self love is acceptance. I used to think it meant accepting your body, and I could never do that. But now I think it really means accepting help.
And that… that I think I can just about manage.