When I first sunk into anorexia and began treatment, I feared people figuring out my illness. Who could possibly understand? Even I could not fully explain my fear of food, weight, and life. My parents and siblings stood loyally by my side although they grew weary. Although they reached out a bit for support, they kept my struggle a secret.
Silence concerning my mental health has always been difficult. Since my diagnosis of depression at age 12, I never knew how much I should tell others. Thus, I often began over-sharing. After all, my therapists demanded that I open up my darkest wounds while doctors pried into every choice I made and how my body worked. Telling the disturbing and troubling details of my life became my norm.
Unfortunately, this honesty pushed many people away before we could even connect. Teenagers and even adults are not accustomed to this level of rawness and intensity. When people asks, “How are you?” they are not hoping to hear that you want to kill yourself. In fact, they usually respond with a nervous chuckle before moving on to interact with someone else. Left alone, I wondered what mistake I had made now. To complicate matters further, my aspergers made it difficult to read people. Were they mad at me for wanting to commit suicide without caring about who might witness the deed? Did they not care if I lived or died? Perhaps my desires were normal and not interesting at all. Confused, I would sit alone wondering what to do in future situations.
Once, in my years of severe cutting, a girl I looked up to pulled me aside. I thought that she would give me encouragement and hope. Instead, my friend began to yell at me. My scars were nothing to be proud of, according to her. Because I pranced around with them showing, I was being a idiot who had no right to do such a stupid thing. People who cut only did so because they wanted to die. I, on the other hand, only felt guilty because of fighting with my sister and other mundane problems. After calling me several names, she forced me to promise that I would never cut myself again and to certainly not let people see my arms. Tears streaming down my face, I attempted to obey her. It didn’t work.
So, when I became anorexic, I decided to do the exact opposite. No one could know about my problem. Starting in college, I would be healthy. Depression, anxiety, overeating, self-harm, suicidal thoughts – all of those were things of the past. My past was erased. Finally, people would want to be my friend instead of shying away.
That didn’t work either. Shy and anxious, I stood alone in the corner while classmates laughed together. Miserable, I collapsed into the arms of my eating disorder. It claimed that by losing weight I could have friends plus my crush would finally realize my feelings. Determined to make a change in my life, I gave myself over to anorexia, depression, and anxiety. Of course, this lifestyle just led me to even more pain and isolation.
Now, I still struggle but am on my path to recovery. Also, I finally believe that I have found the right amount of honesty. No longer do I joke about my self-hatred or openly display scars from the past. Instead, I write these blogs hoping to help others. Also, I open up to others when I believe the time is right. In the past week, I spoke in a student panel about my disability and also wrote articles for the student newspaper and student literary magazine concerning my struggles. These opened myself up to others and left me vulnerable. But they also helped me to keep my dignity instead over-sharing. Although I am still learning how much to open up and what manner to do so, I am finally feeling at ease with this area. It is a delicate balance but one that is important to find. For all of those who are struggling, I want to encourage you. Struggles are not something to be ashamed of but you also do not need to disclose information to others. Knowing how open to be is a process that looks different for each person. With time, I believe that all of us can get to a place of security but honesty.