Disclaimer: eating disorders and other mental health issues are mentioned in this post.
Hey everyone! So it’s national eating disorder awareness week, so I decided that I would post something about my experiences to help bring awareness to the topic, since it is not frequently talked about in FIRST. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for a number of years, and have struggled with anxiety and OCD related symptoms as well. This past summer, it led me to being fully hospitalized for about 2.5 months, partially hospitalized for about a month, and in another intensive outpatient program for 1.5 months.
EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT CHOICES. Just like no one chooses to have any other mental or physical health issue, no one wants an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not jokes; in fact they have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness, and are exhausting to live with. They are not glamorous like the media often makes them out to be. They are also almost never truly about appearance or food. Many times, people with eating disorders feel the need for control, which they may be lacking in other areas of their life. (This is something that I relate to.) They can also affect people of any background. They affect people of all genders, ages and races. (This year’s NEDA week theme is “Come as you are” to highlight this.) People also don’t need to look like they have an eating disorder to have one, because there is no one size fits all.
I know that struggling with an eating disorder has made me miss out on a lot of fun times. Our team went to Detroit last year, and I honestly couldn’t remember a lot of it because I was thinking about food so much, and tended to be very withdrawn. I’ve also missed out on a lot of fun times with friends and special life events when I should have been able to have a good time with friends or family.
I was afraid to tell anyone about my struggles, because I was afraid of being judged or rejected, but I think that the past year many of my friends have shown me support that I didn’t think that I would ever get. I’ve got a ton of support from my team in the past year, and a lot of my teammates came to visit me while I was hospitalized, which I really appreciated, because it helped me to feel a lot less alone. I’m far from being recovered, but I have got a lot more support from my team, and I know I’ll be able to enjoy experiences in the future.
If you think that you or someone you may know may have an eating disorder, or another mental illness, talk to someone such as a mentor, teacher or other adult to try to get them help. Smiles can mask a lot of pain. If you yourself are struggling, know that you’re not alone in this battle. Living with any type of mental illness is exhausting, but can get better with professional care. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. In FIRST, we often focus a lot on the robots, and often don’t talk about mental health, but it’s a huge issue for many people in middle and high school, and even a large number of adults.
If you’re looking for more information on eating disorders, here’s a link to the National Eating Disorder Association’s website: