1 in 200 women suffer from anorexia and 2-3 in 100 suffer from bulimia. 10% of college women suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their education. Mental illness surrounds us.

As a sophomore in college, my weight is something that I consider constantly. For someone who is such an avid lover of food, it’s difficult to be so precise about my weight—but I am. I care about the number on the scale although it is not a considerable measurement and (very secretly) beat myself up about avoiding the trip to the gym or eating that slice of Reese’s peanut butter pie.

This is not because I am unhappy with my body now. I am content (enough) with the body that I live in. I do struggle with my weight sometimes but not to an excess, however that small struggle now stems from a large struggle in my past.

In the eighth grade, I began to lose weight exponentially. I had always been thin, but due to severe depression and an eating disorder I refused to let be diagnosed, my obsession towards my body became intense.

I can remember the hunger pangs during lunch time, and I can remember happily fueling my way through them. I can remember being fed cupcakes because they were, of course, the only food I would indulge in.

In the ninth grade, I weighed my lowest. I skipped breakfast and lunch and amounted to a cupcake, a scoop of ice cream, or Annie’s parmesan mac and cheese for dinner. When I was craving a Costco vanilla cake, my parents jumped up and down at the opportunity to hear I wanted to eat anything at all.

There were girls who were taller than me and weighed less than me, but this is not about comparisons, it is a story to help people out there understand the effect that their words might have on others.

As a person who has dealt with many of the words that people throw around first-hand, I think it is important that people understand the effect of these words. When people jokingly giggle “this essay makes me want to slit my wrists” or disregard comments about how shitty I’m feeling about my body some weeks, it generally makes me feel worse.

There are several people around me that struggle with or have struggled with these same problems but keep quiet about them. So saying “OMG I’m gonna kill myself” because you have a lot of homework or “I wish I was that thin” sometimes requires a second thought. Sometimes you don’t comprehend the magnitude of your words.

I myself have said many of these things before. But many of the girls that you look at with stick-thin legs don’t just have a well-balanced diet and good exercise habits, they have eating disorders.

In fact, there are several things that we as people say in response to people–even those who are struggling–without really knowing what effect these words can have. Depression and eating disorders can stem from dozens of different things in a person’s life. Sometimes, this thing is as simple or as complicated as a hormone imbalance.

Sure, it may be difficult to understand how this could work. “I’m feeling depressed today” may be a way for you to tell someone you’re having a shitty day. But to someone who is depressed, these feelings are not just one shitty day.

Understanding this idea might help you understand the effect that your words might have to someone who is depressed, struggling with an eating disorder or struggling in a variety of other ways.

As someone who struggled with depression for a long period of time in my life, there were several phrases that people would throw around with me that are understood differently in my mind.

Depression and other mental illnesses will do that to you.

Someone might say “well just go for a run, you’ll feel better!” but it isn’t that easy. Saying that makes us feel like the little things that we try incredibly hard to do (like getting out of bed) mean nothing. Something that seems pretty simple to you might seem incredibly personal to the person next to you.

Consider your words. By telling people that their behavior or words are making everyone around them feel bad, you might make them feel like they are being selfish or that they have to pretend to be happy (and therefore bottle their feelings up even more).

Or even when you ask someone “why?” Quite honestly, there isn’t a reason a lot of the time. And if someone is feeling that low, they shouldn’t have to fish around to find a reason, regardless.

It is not easy to understand what your words can really mean to people. Feeling as if you must walk on eggshells around people in regards to your words is not the point, but being conscious of your words is. Rape, suicide, self-harm, anorexia, bulimia and countless other experiences are not jokes, metaphors, or ways to describe how your test went this morning. Consider that.

This is in no way intended to be a lecture, I just think that it is important for everyone to understand the effects that their words can have. I can still remember my 8th grade earth science teacher always joking around about having me in his class by pretending to slit his wrists in front of me.

What he didn’t know was that my arms were covered in Hello Kitty bandaids, and he shouldn’t have had to know but he also shouldn’t have joked around with a situation that very easily could have been, and wast, triggering for me.

We cannot treat things such as self-harm, anorexia, bulimia, depression, and suicide, as such harmless words. These are not harmless words. According to the ADAA, 14.8 million American adults suffer from depression. 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders at some point in their life.

We all suffer from something or another. But we learned when we were young to think before we speak, and I am just reiterating that. All it takes it that simple step to cut out words that might be funny to you, but might be an immediate trigger to another — people all around you are struggling, and the best we can do to help them is by making little changes in our lives — like this one.

If you or anyone you know might be struggling with disordered eating, please contact the number on the National Eating Disorders website.