Learning to seek out help in shared experiences

Vicky Smith
Student Life Editor
@pinkwritinglady

Though some are borderline petty complaints, problems are experienced universally, even if they are hidden. Whether self-inflicted or induced from an outside source, struggles need to be shared with someone somewhere, even if the problem is believed to be selfish or wrong.

I know a person who has struggled with an eating disorder. At her discretion, I will not release her name. She told me her disorder remained secret for nearly three years, until she finally shared the unspeakable to a close friend.

She said her desire to lose weight was sparked by accident and was initially fulfilled innocently. When she was thirteen-years-old, she lost nearly seven pounds in two days because she was sick.

When she returned to school, teachers and students alike noticed the weight loss and offered compliments. The attention given to her thin physique made her feel beautiful, validating her worth.

And so the obsession began.

At first, she said the “thin” lifestyle was easy. She simply ate light and exercised daily. Eventually, though, she noticed changes in both her emotional and physical health. Her hair began to thin, and she experienced mood swings that depended upon not only how hungry she was but also how much she weighed on a given day.

After almost a year of borderline anorexia, she began to lose control – in the opposite direction.

Food invaded her thoughts, forming a damaging cycle of binge eating, which settled into bulimia. She overate, consumed diuretics and then exercised, trying to shed the excessive calories.

Her failure to lose weight resulted in isolation characterized by guilt, shame, pity and anger.

Although she said the disorder still haunts her at times, she has silenced the demons that distort her perception of self-worth.

Functioning as a productive student today, she said each day she intentionally pushes to live a healthy lifestyle; and one day, she will share her story with her name attached.

Bad eating habitsAccording to National Eating Disorders.org, “In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.”

Eating disorders are just one of many struggles that students bring to class with them daily; struggles, even if they are unspoken, linger in the backs of minds.

Whether you are trudging through financial shortcomings, cancer, depression, substance abuse, family dysfunctions, pornography addition, educational challenges, laziness, divorce or self-condemnation, don’t give up.

When we struggle with issues that appear bigger than ourselves, there is no shame in seeking help from others, including guidance of professionals.

Striving to live beyond the struggle, I approach each day with a thriving purpose as I write my own story.

In the song “Hope in Front of Me,” Danny Gokey sings, “I’ve been running through rain that I thought would never end/ Trying to make it on faith in a struggle against the wind/ I’ve seen the dark and the broken places/ But I know in my soul …There’s hope in front of me … I might be down, but I’m not dead/ There’s better days still up ahead.”

I believe we do not suffer in vain; we endure struggles for specific reasons – reasons that could help others.

Share your story. Someone might need to hear it.

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