She Wouldn’t Eat

She was one of my best friends.  I was a sophomore in college and she had just started her freshman year.  We were both stuck in the worst dorm – no air conditioning, small rooms, no elevator, and a bit beat up. She lived across the hall from me. 

One night three of us (me, her, and another friend), were sitting in my dorm room talking.  We were discussing the hardships of college.  Annoying professors, exams, pressures to fit in, extracurricular activities, and all the other stuff that goes along with being in college.  We somehow got on the topic of depression.  I was depressed.  I had been depressed since I was raped my freshman year.  I opened up about it.  Both of my friends were freshman (yes, I was one of the few sophomores stuck in a dorm full of freshman!) and I felt like being open to them about what I had been through and how I was feeling was important so they would know it was ok to feel down and be open about their thoughts and feelings. 

Then she told me something I wasn’t really expecting.  She had an eating disorder.  She had seemed so happy.  She seemed like she was dealing with school so well.  How could I have held such a horrible stigma!  I was going through my own mental health issues and had kept it hidden, people probably would have thought the same for me – how could she be depressed?  She explained how she grew up in an abusive home, her brothers were still dealing with abuse, how she never wanted to eat and when she did she would purge. 

I have never had an eating disorder, so I really couldn’t tell her, “I know how you feel.” I could be empathetic though.  I could feel her pain.  I know what it is like to deal with abuse.  I know what it is like to feel out of control.  I know what it is like to want control.  For me, wanting to kill myself is how I attempt to gain control.  When I feel out of control, the only thing I feel like I can control is if I live or die – so I feel like I need to kill myself – I feel like dying is how I can get control of my life.  I take my life away, no one else can.  Or cutting myself, only I can hurt myself, no one else can. 

I was already in therapy, and after much convincing, my other friend and I talked with her to get her to discuss this with our college psych department.  She entered therapy.  However, through this she realized that the best thing to do was to take a semester off.  She never returned to college though.  Sometimes I feel like I ruined her chance at an education because of my stepping in, but I also know that if I hadn’t I do not know how far it might have gone and how much it would have hurt her.  I am proud to say she is doing well though.  She has a beautiful daughter.  She is raising her on her own and providing for herself financially.  She is happy and seems to be managing her eating disorder well. 

People say that is what eating disorders are about – getting control.  I am not sure if that is how it is for everyone.  As I said, I have never had one.  So if you are reading this, please comment and let me know what it is like for you.  Any insight is welcome. 

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2 thoughts on “She Wouldn’t Eat”

  1. I find the narrative that eating disorders are about control to be limited. Sure, it’s true for a lot of people, but not everyone, and even for the people it does apply to, it’s often an oversimplification.

    For me, my ED was about not needing anything and not feeling anything. Sure, you can boil that down to “You wanted to have control,” but that makes me sound more like a child having a temper tantrum than someone struggling to deal with trauma that was beyond even an adult’s capacity to deal with. So much of the narrative around eating disorders infantilizes people dealing with these issues.

    There’s an old quote: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” (Ironically, it’s a simplification of something Einstein said.) There are as many reasons behind eating disorders as there are people struggling with them.

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  2. Thank you so much for the input!!! As I said I have not dealt with one so I really do not understand the feelings or emotions behind them from a personal point of view. I think the way you described it makes a lot of sense and really helps me understand those that struggle with it. Thanks!

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