Chances are, you only clicked on this if you think you’re battling an eating disorder or have a mental illness. And if you are, you made sure to click on this in the privacy of your own home or on a phone screen where no one can see what you’re reading.
Because it’s a taboo subject. No one wants to admit that they’re fucked up in any way, shape or form.
Least of all me.
I’d struggled with depression, but ignored it until recently. I was battling (am battling) an eating disorder, but I didn’t even realize that until recently. I have bipolar II disorder, but I didn’t even know there were two types of bipolar disorder until recently. I didn’t know anything about myself or about my issues, and that was a problem in itself.
Whether that’s because of society telling us to keep hush hush about it or whether it’s because of Chinese culture to pretend like nothing’s wrong and that mental illness doesn’t exist, I don’t know.
I do know that it’s something I’ve lived with and didn’t even realize that it wasn’t normal. I didn’t know why I cried in the shower without meaning to. I didn’t know why I dropped hundreds of dollars on an impulse buy and felt no guilt. I didn’t know why I exercised to the point of collapsing, why I felt powerful when my stomach ran on empty, why I felt an out-of-body experience and profound guilt after eating more food than should be humanly possible.
We like to pretend we don’t have problems, but the ones that shine the brightest are sometimes also the ones that fall the hardest.
As someone who is outwardly successful — I get good grades, have various internships under my belt, hold various leadership positions, work out regularly and eat healthy — I can say that my life is more of a shitshow than you can ever imagine.
Sometimes I wish that I could go to sleep and never wake up. Sometimes I feel like I will collapse from sheer exhaustion and want to, because that means I don’t have to deal with the daunting endeavor that is life. But sometimes I feel on top of the world, so there’s that.
The issue with this up-and-down roller coaster is that you think you don’t have a problem. You don’t want to believe you have a problem. You’re not like the classic depressed kid who doesn’t leave his bed and you’re not that bone thin anorexic girl who eats two pieces of celery the entire day; you can still function, so you must be fine, right? You don’t need help because you’re not sick enough, right?
If there’s anything I’ve learned; it’s that eating disorders, depression and other mental disorders do not come in concrete shapes. Just as every person is different, everyone person’s struggle is different.
There’s no simple way to generalize it; nothing is black and white.
That, combined with the taboo factor of talking about these things, as well as the general lack of education, make it so easy for so many people to accept this as their life, and take it as it is.
And who knows? Maybe this is my life. Maybe I never will stop being some level of depressed, some level of anxious about what I eat, when I eat, how I eat… Maybe my life will continue to have upswings and downswings, but at least now I know why.
For everyone who’s stuck through with me to the end of this very long train of thought, I just want you to know that you are not alone. I can’t say that I’ve experienced the gamut of mental illnesses, but I can say I understand what it feels like to have one.
And for those of you who are reading this and are living a fairly normal, mentally healthy life (is that even a thing?), remember that everyone is fighting an inner struggle that you may not know about.
So before you judge that boy who looks a little too chunky, before you scoff at that girl who seems to disappear every so often, remember that there’s more to a person than meets the eye.
I know I’m putting myself out there with this, but I’m also asking you to not judge me as a person. I’m asking you to not pile more food on my plate if I look like I don’t have enough. I’m asking you to not give me concerned looks when I reach for a second brownie. I’m asking you to not say, “Oh you’re exercising too much” if I go on a run after the gym. I’m asking you to accept that I am who I am, that I’m getting help as I go and that I’m trying to learn how to become a better me.
I hope that my voice will allow others to find light. I hope that they will also be just a little bit brave and realize that they too have a voice that can be heard.
We all have our own personal demons, and this is mine.
If you or anyone you know might be struggling with disordered eating, please contact the number on the National Eating Disorders website.
If you need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention/Crisis Line at 1 (800) 273-TALK.
For non-urgent services, including general information on mental illnesses, referrals and support, you can call the information helpline at the National Alliance for Mental Illness at 1 (800) 950-NAMI. Trained volunteers are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.