Occasionally on my Tumblr feed I will come across quotes that are just like
“YES! That sums it up perfectly!”
This was one of those:
When it comes to talking about my eating disorder or other things bothering me, I know it is doing much more harm than good to not talk about it–especially because silence can fuel stigmas. When people seem to show interest or ask specific questions, however, I am always completely comfortable talking about it. I don’t deny any of my struggles and I am not ashamed when talking about my past, but often it is difficult to admit if I am still struggling.
And, understandably, I think it will still always be difficult for me to tell people for the first time that I have an eating disorder.
I was reminded of that on Sunday when I had to tell my entire staff on the newspaper here at UMass.
This semester I will be writing a mental health column for the Op/Ed section on the UMass Daily Collegian (check it out! A new article will be up on the website every other Tuesday starting next week!)
But a lot of this column will be involving my personal experiences, and I didn’t want it to be the elephant in the room around the office (I’m also an editor for the paper, so I’m there often) if they are reading my column and feel like they can’t approach me.
In order to break the ice for the column, I decided to address the staff at our weekly meeting on Sunday.
Now, I usually consider myself pretty good with speaking in front of crowds. In high school, I did theater and performed in front of both small and large audiences. Last semester, I even spoke about my eating disorder on a panel for Active Minds UMass.
But something about speaking in front of this group of my co-workers terrified me.
Seriously, I don’t think I have ever felt so nervous to speak in front of people. It was actually making me anxious just how anxious I felt–aagh!
But when the time came at the end of our meeting for me to stand up and do it, I was able to take a deep breath and just rattle off the little speech I had made in my head about how my column would involve my ED experience and how I wanted to put it in the open and how if anyone had a concern or wanted to talk about it I would be completely comfortable.
I went home afterwards trying to not let myself overthink it and get worried if I had done something wrong.
(Guys, I was freaking out. My body was hopped up on adrenaline in a way I have honestly never experienced before, it was borderline panic-attack)
About 45 minutes later, I got an incredible message from someone on the staff. He commended me about being able to speak and opened up to me about his struggles with depression since 6th grade. Just like that. I hadn’t spoken much to this person because our work on the paper never really coincided, but he said I had given him comfort with my talk.
Moments after, I got a similar message about how inspiring and brave my talking was from another person who admitted he could relate.
And all I did was talk…
Yes, it was extremely nerve-wracking, but it always always amazes me and warms my heart when my talking about my disorder causes others to feel comfortable talking about their own. In my experience, it has happened nearly every time I have opened up. I find that most people really do want someone to talk to, but the subject just hasn’t come up in an environment that’s felt comfortable.
And I think that’s really cool that we can change that and spark such a difference in a person just by talking
I’m not sure if it will ever be 100% easy though, no matter how often I do it…
But it’s always worth it when it makes a difference
(to everyone who has emailed me since I started this blog, you are all incredible and wonderful people, many of you brought tears to my eyes!!)
Everything I am afraid of that holds me back from speaking has never happened–nobody has shunned me, nobody has told me I was faking it, nobody has hardcore monitored me…I’ve found that most of those fears are nothing but lies ED has told me to try to protect itself
In the end, I always just have to remind myself that keeping silent does nothing but fuel stigma. It’s always hardest to tell people who know me personally, but they will quickly realize that ED is only a tiny part of me, something that doesn’t define me at all.
This weekend I will be finishing my first column piece that anyone can read, and I hope lots of people do
Still settling into the college life so apologies for the major slow-down in blog posts, but I think I’ll start getting into the swing of things soon!