What I Wish My Teachers Knew About My Eating Disorder
It isn’t that I was losing the motivation to succeed, or was becoming lazier in the course of my high school career. I wasn’t lying down in class because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I didn’t skip your classes because I didn’t care. I didn’t sit in the bathroom because I thought I was above the whole “school thing.” I was in the midst of a battle with anorexia.
I was losing the motivation to live, as every day I was living on a 24 ounce coffee and a granola bar until I got home at night. I was convinced my disorder was my fault, and everything I ever did to try and fix it was never enough to get the job done. I couldn’t receive proper treatment, of course, until the middle of my senior year when I practically disappeared. I didn’t have a will to live, or a will to continue. I didn’t think I had a reason to.
I wasn’t becoming lazier, if anything I was becoming more stressed, with SAT’s on the horizon, a plethora of leadership positions in my pocket and a full load of classes, my hypothetical gas pedal was on the floor. I remember distinctly the night I came to terms with my disorder. I was getting ready for a school event I was volunteering for. I realized what I had been doing to my body and was so disconnected from that fact, I barely bothered to eat, after only eating a small amount earlier that day.
Yet, I knew something was wrong. My weakness and dizziness were the very beginning signs of the disorder that would pull me under and hold me tight. I put my head down on the desk so I wouldn’t fall asleep, sitting up from the lack of nutrition I was receiving. Yes, I wasn’t sleeping, but I also wasn’t eating. So my brain wasn’t learning.
I remember most of my days were spent moderately conscious, practically stumbling from class to class, as a result of my dizziness. I should’ve been hospitalized significantly earlier than I was; yet amazingly, I managed to come out of that school year with perfect attendance. Of course, that check mark only means I was present and on time each day of the year, but my ability to actually be attentive was gone. I don’t remember a solid time block of the school year, for about three months or so. I know I was there, but that is all I can recall.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
I skipped classes because I couldn’t manage sitting in a room full of people talking so negatively, or thinking only about diets. I was too anxious to work on projects surrounded by others. So instead, I sat in the hallway to complete my work, where it was mostly silent and I was mostly alone. Some classes I showed up for a mere five minutes, spending the remaining forty wandering around the school building just trying to find something to keep my mind off the sounds my stomach wouldn’t quit making.
I skipped my lunch to go to art, and skipped my art class to just sit in an empty room. I was isolating myself, and I didn’t want anyone to care. I remember well the winter months I spent sitting in the bathroom. As you know, our uniform was a kilt with a button down shirt. The days I came to school in the darkest parts of my disease, I was wearing my kilt with a sweater and a blazer, as well as thick tights and a pair of socks. I slept in the bathroom on the second floor on top of the radiator, just to feel the warmth come through my blazer and tights.
I would tap the person next to me in class before I went, telling them if I didn’t return in the next 10 minutes, then they should probably come and find me to come back to class. I would lay there to inhale the warmth, to try to warm the pain inside me that was my anorexia and resulting depression. I wanted to be back in the classroom with you and my peers more than anything, but my mind kept me wandering, leaving me unfocused and hazed.
I want you to know the days I spent in the midst of my anorexia were not easy, but I apologize for seeming so inattentive and lazy. I wanted to tell all of you so badly, but I was afraid of the reaction you would give me. I figured you knew something was up, and if you saw the red lines across my arms, then you were probably concerned. I didn’t mean to worry you.
For the ones who asked and expressed care, I want to thank you. I didn’t want anyone to care because if I let people care, then I would have to stop wrecking havoc on my body. If I forcibly pushed you away, then I’m sorry.
I was asked to fill out a survey once, of something that I wish my teacher knew, and here is mine: I wish you knew that all of the times I was so out of it, that it wasn’t me. It was my anorexia, and I let it get in the way of my education. But, I also want you to know if you have other students that come after me in this position, I hope you will treat them as kindly as you treated me.