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Why It's More Than OK to Take Time Off From School for Eating Disorder Treatment


 Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Hannah Durbin, a woman in eating disorder recovery. About her journey she shares,“My life has been a winding road, but now at the age of 21, I have discovered my path and dedicated myself to instilling recovery inspiration in the hearts of others. After overcoming a life-threatening eating disorder I have found my purpose through speaking on behalf of my experience, and showing that our demons may be strong, but we are stronger. My larger than life aspirations continually fuel my fire as I approach my college graduation this spring. I am blessed to say I have found myself, and have fallen in love with the girl I found.”

1. Your life is more important than school.

A college education is incredibly valuable, but your life is priceless. Going to college and graduating in four years is what many of us are expected to do. It’s seen as the “normal” life path — the route many people will follow. This was not the case for me, and if it’s not the case for you either, that’s OK. Following social norms is not always beneficial, especially when your life is at stake.

If achieving recovery means taking a month, a semester or a year off from school in order to receive the help you need, do it. School will always be there.

2. College can be the best time of your life — but not always if you are struggling with an eating disorder.

I dreamed of calling home and reporting back to family and friends that I was having the time of my life, but this was the furthest thing from the truth. Instead, I called home in tears, begging to be saved from a living hell — a hell I didn’t yet know how to escape.

These were supposed to be the best years of my life, so why was I so miserable? My eating disorder prevented me from living, feeling and appreciating the college experience.

When I left college to enter treatment, a whole new world opened up in front of me. I found myself — along with my passions, goals and inner peace. I was finally free. With my rediscovered identity, I began to understand why college is one of the most liberating times a person can experience.

3. It will never be the “perfect” time to go to treatment.

If you are waiting for the “perfect” time to put your life on pause, you won’t find it. Stop waiting and just do it. I thought that one day I would wake up to hear a voice say, “Today is the day.” I thought there would be a magical time in my life when I would have no major commitments standing in my way, and treatment would be more feasible. I was waiting for this “perfect” opportunity, until I realized years had passed without this moment of clarity ever occurring. I pushed eating disorder treatment off for a month, which turned into two, which then became six. Something was always standing in the way of getting treatment.

A day with your eating disorder is a day you will never get back. Stop hesitating and start acting. Right now is the perfect time to get your life back.

4. Getting treatment now prevents years of struggle down the road.

I thought eating disorder treatment would be a waste of time; I thought I would be “missing out” on life in college. I pictured myself stuck inside of a boring building being forced to eat. I soon learned this could not be any further from the reality of what treatment truly entails.

I finally realized I was not experiencing college, even though my body was physically there. My mind was far gone — obsessed with the rules my eating disorder demanded I obey. I tried to convince myself this was a better alternative than going to treatment, but when I hit rock bottom, I realized my college experience was empty because of the monster, “Ed,” in my head.

Sacrificing a small fraction of my time in college was nothing compared to sacrificing the rest of my life. If a few months of treatment could give me an eternity of freedom, then I needed to do it. I am so grateful I chose treatment. It was hard, but missing out on life would have been harder. 

5. You deserve happiness!

If I told you that you could live a life free from your eating disorder, would you believe me? Treatment gave me strength and resilience and helped me rediscover my identity. In finding myself, I found my happiness.

When I was immersed in my eating disorder, I was convinced that happiness was out of the question for me. I believe happiness for all of us is right around the corner.

Your current feelings of hopelessness do not need to linger into the rest of your life. Pain is not permanent.

You can be happy. You will be happy. Please make the decision to fight for it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Photo via contributor.