National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

As we walked into class, my friend looked up from her phone and delicately said, “It’s up.” I knew exactly what that meant. I ran to the back of a packed law school classroom and glued myself into a chair, gripping the sides of the seat in horror. All of Humans of New York’s 18 million followers were about to learn about my eating disorder.

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You push the door open and walk into the tiny room. You hang up various articles of clothing and close the door, trapping yourself in that enclosed space with just yourself and a mirror for company. You take a deep breath and manage to look at your reflection, totally vulnerable to the fluorescent lighting and stark head-on image.

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National Suicide Prevention Month is a time when we mourn the loss and celebrate the lives of those who have been taken from us by suicide, as well as raise awareness for the various precursors to suicide: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. 

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Recovering from an eating disorder is a process that not only affects the ones struggling, but also the people around them, such as family and friends. The recovery process may be frustrating at times—especially during the back-to-school season—because family members or friends may not fully understand your journey or the additional stressors brought on by returning to school. Even when they have the best intentions to help you, they may not always know the right thing to say or do. Here are a few ways you can get the most support out of your loved ones as you start the school year.

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My childhood and adolescence were marked with milestones of self-destruction.

Content note: Descriptions of self-harm, eating disordered behaviors, substance abuse, and suicide. 

When I was 13 years old, I swallowed a handful of pills; when I was 16, I did the same thing again, but this time an even larger dose, chased down with mouthwash. The first time I was sober; the second time I was drunk. Both of those incidents lead to me being hospitalized, and the latter lead to my spending month of inpatient rehab for substance abuse. 

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Going back to school can be filled with anxieties. For young adults, anxiety is common as they ready themselves to beginning a new chapter in their lives at a university. However, these concerns double for people with eating disorders because not only are they now faced with changes in their mealtime routines and times that they would go see their treatment team, but going away to school is a major transition. Students with eating disorders may try hard to get the perfect grades and put extra pressures on themselves, unleashing unwanted eating disordered behaviors.

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Control.

We all want control.

Control over our lives, finances, friends, family, day-to-day tasks.

Control begins with us, with our bodies.

When everything else in our life is out of control, we seek control of our body.

My addiction to control began in 2014.

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Just like every other human emotion and experience, eating disorders are full of color, chemicals, and different combinations. No two experiences are the same.

I am a self-described overachieving perfectionist, who has cared far too much about everything my entire life. The expectations of my generation are that you’ll be brilliant at everything and it’s terribly important to look wonderful. I have always tackled numerous projects and tasks that would prove me worthy of respect and admiration amongst my family, friends, acquaintances, and society. 

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My adolescence and teenage years were rocky, to say the least. 

On the surface, I fought to project an image of a person in control, a person who strived for perfection: I was the valedictorian of my high school class, I studied at Brown University, and I maintained plenty of friendships. 

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Yes, eating disorder treatment involves all the wonderful things that are delicately spelled out in pastel pamphlets. Yes, there can be yoga mats and Rumi and more gentle nodding than the normal neck could take. 

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