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To the English Teacher Whom I Told About My Eating Disorder

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At the end of year 10, going to school became a hassle, something I would dread. The triggers, the stress, the isolation were too much for me, especially as I battled my eating disorder, which was stronger than ever. I felt alone in school, although I was surrounded by all my friends who knew about my anorexia. However, they did not understand.

I’ve always felt like I could trust you, my English teacher, who was a ray of sunshine in the darkness of school for me. So one day I decided to open up to you, not even knowing why. To be honest, the first thing I still thank you for is your attentiveness and the way you show everyone, not just me, that they are worth it and special. So when you asked me how I was and I told you I would like to talk with you, you immediately sat down with me. Thank you.

My heart was beating hard as I told you, “I have an eating disorder.” The moment the words left my mouth I felt ridiculous. Why was I telling you this? I’d been in treatment for four months, I was gaining weight, my parents knew and I had a therapist. I didn’t need your help. But you showed me I don’t have to need help to get help. Thank you.

You asked me if my therapy helps me, what we do and how I feel. You showed me you genuinely care for me and not that you feel sorry for me or pity me. I didn’t have to prove myself. Thank you.

You even told me about your own daughter, who has OCD, and I felt normal. The conversation was pleasant because I didn’t tell you a secret. It wasn’t sad, it wasn’t something I had to admit to because I did nothing wrong. It sounds obvious but these conversations can often feel that way, like I have to admit to a crime that is my mental health. Afterwards people usually treat me like I’m “the anorexic” and try to be careful not to break me. But with you it was different. We talked about the idea behind anorexia, about school and the pressure I put on myself,  about the future, past and present. Never did I regret saying those words. Thank you.

I didn’t ask you for anything, yet you offered me help, giving me books so I could distract myself to get my head off these thoughts that torment my mind from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall to sleep. I don’t think you know how much that meant to me and how much it helped because anorexia does not just exist when I am eating; it never leaves. Reading, entering a different world or universe with different struggles and different joys is often just as much a relief for my
mind as talking about my troubles.

So now I just want to say it again. Thank you so much for being there when I didn’t need you the most, for listening when I was quiet and for giving when I didn’t ask for it. Your presence and attentiveness still means so much to me, and to this day I feel grateful for the love and support you show me daily. The eating disorder was never the elephant in the room; I was in the room and so were you.

Thank you.

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 by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

Originally published: September 2, 2017
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