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What to Know If You Have an Eating Disorder and You’re Waiting on College Acceptances

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

I still remember the day I got into college like it was yesterday.

I remember how nervous I felt and how much pressure I had put on myself. I was struggling to complete anything that day because I would be finding out about my top choice college that night. I kept refreshing the portal over and over because I just couldn’t wait. I remember thinking: if I got in, I would try and to do some sort of recovery. If not, then, “what’s the point?”

Now, I know not to put all my eggs in one basket like that. That recovery is not an optional thing. Recovery is the be-all, end-all because a “functional” eating disorder doesn’t exist. They’re not meant to be managed. They are deadly disorders.

Anyways, I remember not being able to focus on anything else. Not even my best friend’s birthday dinner. Not on driving. I just felt this immense pressure to get in, like my life depended on it. Much to my surprise, I got in. I felt like I had done it. I was so proud of myself. Looking back, when I said “I did it,” I realized I meant all that I had sacrificed. All the times I drank too much caffeine to stay up to get the A on the test. All the lunches I skipped to do work. All the times I turned down friends to try to get the “perfect” ACT score.

It makes me sad, looking back, because I used school as a vehicle to pursue thinness. I saw the two hand-in-hand and I didn’t realize all the damage I was doing not just to my physical health, but to my mental health. I wrote this because it took a lot for me to learn the lesson in this. Looking back, I am so proud of 17-year-old me, but I wish I could have told her to face reality. That restricting every time she had a big test was not sustainable. That choosing school over recovery for four years was not sustainable. Moreover, that “functional anorexia nervosa” is not a real thing. That one day, continually choosing school over recovery would bite her in the ass.

My message is: do it now. Get the help now because my eating disorder cost me so much when I made school the priority. I know now that just focusing on school and my body size was not the life I wanted to live. I wrote this to tell myself that getting to go to college is not enough. College should not be spent juggling a copious amount of appointments and schoolwork. It should not be spent hiding in my room and making up excuses for why I couldn’t get ice cream in the dining hall. It should not be spent facing inpatient threats and emergency room visits. I wish I could have told 17-year-old me that by choosing my eating disorder, which was “safe” and “comfortable,” would eventually cost me college. That the thing I avoided recovery to do would eventually force me to choose recovery.

I couldn’t avoid recovery forever. I need to do this now, not just so I can go to college but so I can achieve freedom. The freedom to go out with my friends and not think about calories. The freedom to have the energy to dance my little heart out and travel. The freedom to live a life outside of my eating disorder because 17-year-old me, and more importantly 19-year-old me, deserves that instead of longing for the body I had when I was 17 — the one which was “skinny” and probably closer to the society’s ideal yet entrenched in an eating disorder. I feel sorry for her.

However, I am recovering for that girl. I am recovering for her to show her that recovery is possible. Achieving freedom will be possible. She can live her life differently and she can’t live that way forever. Although she felt the pride of getting into college, she still felt internally empty, and 19-year-old me feels genuine happiness. I want to show her that happiness doesn’t have to be fleeting, that the good days will eventually outnumber the bad. I recover for her. I recover so I can have the real college experience. I recover for confidence and everything 17-year-old me lacked. I recover to show myself that eating disorders only last temporarily but freedom could last forever. I recover because I believe there is so much more to life than I was living with my Eating Disorder.

If you are dealing with college acceptances and an eating disorder, get help while you can. Get help so you can enjoy college instead of just surviving college.

Photo by Ekaterina Ivanova on Unsplash

Originally published: April 1, 2020
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