Going to College with an Eating Disorder: The Door’s Wide Open

“Be empty of worrying.

Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison

when the door is so wide open?”

~Rumi

While many incoming college freshman spent their summers making lasting memories with the friends and family they would soon leave behind, I spent mine locked in a prison of great anxiety. The idea of going to college and beginning to write a new chapter in my life was something that absolutely horrified me. It seemed like every waking hour of the day, my mind was tormented with a slew of “what-ifs”.

What if my professors are heartless graders, giving even the brightest of pupils a soul-crushing mark?

What if my roommates are inconsiderate party-animals, obnoxiously making noise into the wee hours of the morning?

What if, despite my best efforts, I am unsuccessful?

WHAT IF I FAIL?

But now that move-in day is right around the corner, I am slowly beginning to walk out of the mental prison I have held myself captive in for all these months.  Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, the great Islamic scholar and poet, said, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open.”  I now realize that for me college is that  “open door” that  Rūmī spoke of.  By going to college, I will finally be able to freely pursue my interests and walk on the beautiful path of self-discovery. I hope . . . no scratch that . . .I KNOW that the knowledge I will obtain during my years in college will allow me to give back to the eating disorder community. Maybe I will build the intellectual foundation I need to conduct ground-breaking research into the neurobiology of eating disorders or to create a revoluntionary treatment protocol that saves thousands of lives.

Whatever I decide to do or become, I know it will be great.

There’s no question about that anymore 🙂

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The BEST Snacks for Eating Disorder Recovery

Trying to recover from anorexia, bulimia, or another type of eating disorder? Hunting for some healthy nutrient-dense snack suggestions for your eating disorder recovery meal plan? Look no further! In this video, I will share with you my TOP THREE PRO-RECOVERY SNACKS!

Links to Buy Snacks on Amazon
Svelte Shakes: https://www.amazon.com/CalNaturale-Svelte-Organic-Protein-Variety/dp/B00MHTDBC6/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1470419278&sr=8-3&keywords=svelte

Quest Bars: https://www.amazon.com/Quest-Nutrition-Variety-Bundle-piece/dp/B00FY0TCZK/ref=sr_1_4_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1470419350&sr=8-4&keywords=quest+bars

Justin’s Nut Butters: https://www.amazon.com/Justins-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Butter-Squeeze/dp/B00II0XHZO/ref=sr_1_11_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1470419383&sr=8-11&keywords=justin+nut+butter+packets

An Anorexic Abroad: Q&A about my Adventures Overseas

Hi Everyone!
You guys had some awesome questions about my trip to Ireland and France so in this video I answer some of them. Check your YouTube Saturday afternoon for my next video on what I ate while abroad!

NEW Vlog!: My Life-changing Trip to Europe

Not too long ago I did something I never thought I would be able to do as an eating disorder sufferer – step on a jet plane and go overseas. Since I was little, I had always longed to set foot in another country and immerse myself in a new culture, but my struggles with anorexia nervosa kept holding me back. Finally, I decided that I was sick and tired of my eating disorder keeping me from achieving this long-held dream of mine and on May 15th, I left with my dad for Europe.

In this video, you’ll get to see just some of my many foreign adventures! If you have any questions about my trip and how that all worked with my eating disorder, please COMMENT below. Also don’t forget to subscribe!

When an Anorexic Goes on Vacation

As I am sure most of you have realized, eating disorders are not diseases that just devastate the bodies and minds of sufferers, they also completely ruin families. Parents sometimes must take leave off work in order to focus all their attention on caring for their anorexic or bulimic child. Siblings of ED sufferers end up feeling abandoned and forgotten as their mom and dad spend most of their waking hours on their ill child – shuttling them to various doctor’s appointments, supervising their arduous and emotionally-draining mealtimes , and visiting them while they are in the hospital. When a family member has an eating disorder, everyone has no other choice but to make sacrifices and put their lives on hold.

As I am sure most of you have realized, eating disorders are not diseases that just devastate the bodies and minds of sufferers, they also completely ruin families.  Parents sometimes must take leave off work in order to focus all their attention  on caring for their anorexic or bulimic child.  Siblings of ED sufferers  end up feeling abandoned and forgotten as their mom and dad spend most of their waking hours on their ill child – shuttling them to various doctor’s appointments, supervising their arduous and emotionally-draining mealtimes , and visiting them while they are in the hospital.  When a family member has an eating disorder, everyone has no other choice but to make sacrifices and put their lives on hold.

Since my official eating disorder diagnosis over 5 years ago, my family has had to miss out on enjoyable social events, dining at fine restaurants, and even memorable family vacations. My disease has literally been holding my mother, father, and little sister hostage and so when my parents suggested that we head on over to Arizona for spring break, I agreed (although it took me awhile to built up the courage to do so). I was well aware of how challenging and anxiety-provoking this five day trip to the American southwest would be, but it was time for me to stop letting my disease hold my family back from doing the things they wanted to do. Just like every other human being, they deserved to smile, to laugh, and well . . . to just live!

And so, on March 27th we boarded the plane to Pheonix, Arizona and arrived late that evening.  After spending the night in a hotel, we hit the road and headed south to Green Valley, Arizona – where my grandparents live during the winter.  As I looked out of the car window, I could feel my anxiety morph into astonishment and awe.  The landscape looked almost otherworldly to me.  There were no lush oceans of green grass, tall trees bursting with their fresh springtime blooms, or dark blue rivers filled with freshwater fish.  Instead, the flat ground was completely naked, revealing its dry gold-colored soil. Speckled across the arid landscape were prickly, greenish-yellow cacti and other forms of bizarre-looking vegetation.  Towering over the level desert plane where huge, majestic mountains.  For the entire 2 hour car ride, I stared out of the window, memorized by these gigantic guardians of the Arizona desert.

Once we arrived at my grandparent’s hacienda-style home in Green Valley – a town comprised almost entirely of elderly “snowbirds”- my grandparents gave my family a tour of the community.  After that my sister, grandma, and mom all went swimming and my grandpa and uncle headed on over to the bowling alley. As for me, I went with my dad to visit an old family friend who apparently lived just a few blocks away from my grandparents’ hacienda. Other than that, the day was pretty uneventful.

The next day (Tuesday, March 29th) was probably the best day out of the whole entire trip. My dad, grandma, mom, sister,and I spent the morning exploring the Arizona-Sonora Desert Mueseum – a 98 acre outdoor experience that seamlessly fuses a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, and natural history museum into one must-see Tuscon attraction.  That afternoon, my dad spent some quality time with my Grandpa and uncle golfing and my mom, sister, grandma, and I decided to head on over to Madera Canyon.  As we drove through the canyon, I was absolutely amazed by how quickly the landscape transformed itself. As we got higher in elevation, the cacti and parched soil all but disappeared and was replaced by lush, green trees and calming creeks.   Looking back at the entire trip, the drive through Madera Canyon was probably the only time when I was truly relaxed and at peace.

Once Wednesday came around, I wasn’t too worried anymore. After being mesmerized by the beauty of Madera Canyon, I had developed a false sense of security, believing that the rest of the trip would be a breeze. I could not have been more wrong.

 

The start of the day was perfectly fine. My mom, dad, grandma, sister and I all crammed ourselves into the rental car and headed to the White Elephant, a ginormous thrift store that had a pretty good selection of one of my favorite things in the world – CHEAP BOOKS!

After the White Elephant, my dad decided we’d all go to Kit Peak whether we liked it or not. He claimed it was a short 30 minute drive from where we were, but once we drove for those 30 minutes, we found out my dad’s calculations were wrong and that Kit Peak was another hour or so away.  It was nearly noon and everyone had become “hangry” as their stomachs rumbled away. I, on the other hand, had completely lost my appetite. The anxiety of having to switch plans so abruptly left me completely devoid of any sense of hunger.

My dad decided he’d head on into Tuscon in search of a place to eat. I was praying he would just stop at a Subway where I could munch on a vegetable salad, but that’s was unfortunately not the case. Instead he decided to stop at an authentic Mexican sit-down restaurant, which was literally my worst nightmare. Not only am I deathly afraid of Mexican cuisine (all the sour cream, cheese, and fats are enough to make me go into an anxiety-induced coma), I also DESPISE sit-down restaurants. Unlike Subway, I can’t watch the chefs prepare my food. I have no idea if my dish has any hidden fats or if they prepared my meal with buckets upon buckets of calorific ingredients.

As we sat down at our table, I flat out refused to look at the menu. My palms began to sweat, my mouth opened wide as I began to hyperventilate, and my legs kept on jiggling – all classic signs I had been consumed by a massive anxiety attack. As I was trapped in this uncontrollable state, my dad kept scolding me – telling me I was acting like a child, that I needed to grow up, that I was an embarrassment. . . .all the typical things he says when my anxiety and eating disorder take over.  My mom on the other hand, tried to be a bit more helpful. Instead of repeating my dad’s unsympathetic comments, she noticed I was struggling and attempted to calm me down. She told me in a soft, soothing voice that everything would be alright and then proceeded to help me picked out a dish that I was comfortable with on the menu.  By the time the waiter delivered our lunches, my mom had helped me quiet my eating disorder voice and I was able to fully collect myself.  At the end of the restaurant ordeal, my mom said she was proud of me and obviously, that meant a lot. Although my dad said something similar to me, I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was disappointed in my behavior.  He failed to realize that this “behavior” I exhibited was not  me trying to act unruly and ruin the trip, it was a manifestation of my eating disorder – an uncontrollable medical condition.

Unlike Wednesday, Thursday was benign. I stayed at my grandparents’ hacienda most of the day, working on my coloring books.  At around 2:30 in the afternoon, my dad and I drove down to visit the San Xavier Mission.  Since my father and I both are quite spiritual people (my dad is a Methodist pastor while I on the other hand am still searching for a religion that suits my beliefs), I thought that this visit would give my dad and I the opportunity to bond and enjoy ourselves. Even though it was a good experience, the wall that was built after the restaurant fiasco continued to divide my dad and I. We were silent most of the time we ere there and on the drive back to my grandparents’, we never said a single word to each other.

On Friday, we returned to Wisconsin. It’s Sunday now and my dad and I still are not really talking to each other. We continue to quarrel and I honestly I am heartbroken. I only have a couple months left to make memories with my family before I head off to North Central College in the Fall.  I don’t want start this next chapter in my life without mending my strained relationship with my dad, but I don’t know where to begin.

 

If Only I Had Known

With each beautiful memory, I could feel myself drowning in an ocean of regret. For far too long I hadn’t any one-on-one time with my grandparents at their home in the serene Michigan countryside. Why? Because my eating disorder kept me locked in my house – a place where everything consumed could be under its strict control. . .

The first thing I did when I came home yesterday afternoon was collapse on my rat’s nest of a bed. Though I had done nothing but sit in a cramped Ford for eight long hours, my body felt like every ounce of energy had been drained out of it. My muscles felt as wobbly and weak as jello, my brain felt cloudy, and my eyes fluttered like the delicate wings of a baby robin as I fought to stay awake.

As my exhausted sunk into the comfort of my mattress, memories of the past eight days played like a film in my mind’s eye. There were images of summer sun dancing on my grandparents’ crystal clear pond at their farm, images of my aunt’s face beaming with excitement as she fed a llama at the zoo, and images of my grandparents waving goodbye at the crowded McDonald’s where my mom picked me up to take me home.

With each beautiful memory, I could feel myself drowning in an ocean of regret. For far too long I hadn’t any one-on-one time with my grandparents at their home in the serene Michigan countryside. Why? Because my eating disorder kept me locked in my house –  a place where everything consumed could be under its strict control.  My eating disorder was well aware that if I were to go to my grandparents’, I would be forced to eat at unfamiliar times and ingest items it had forbidden to enter my mouth.

Now that I have grown older and stronger, I wish I never let my eating disorder keep me away from the love of my grandparents. Every moment I spent trapped its prison, was a moment I could have spent with listening to the song of my grandma’s laughter or seeing the infectious smile that always lights up my grandpa’s wrinkled face.

Please take it from a girl whose lost more than half her life to an eating disorder and go and see your grandparents. Don’t let your own eating disorder scare you out of it because if there one thing I wish I would have realized, it is that life doesn’t last for eternity. One day the flesh that has been loaned to your loved ones will have to be returned to the Earth  and their souls will vanish into an unknown realm, their presence only to be seen again when you too must go.

Controlled: A Guest Blog Post by Neesha Arter

When I was fourteen years old, I struggled with anorexia after being sexually assaulted by two people I had no reason to mistrust. My ordinary teenage life went from volleyball practice and sleepovers to an unwanted legal case and loss of identity.

This blog post is written by Neesha Arter, a survivor of an eating disorder as well as sexual abuse.

neesha arter

When I was fourteen years old, I struggled with anorexia after being sexually assaulted by two people I had no reason to mistrust. My ordinary teenage life went from volleyball practice and sleepovers to an unwanted legal case and loss of identity. In my memoir, CONTROLLED, which comes out on August 11th, I write about how these challenges consumed my life.

For me, it was never a matter of being skinny or fat—anorexia was the remnant of my sexual assault and a vehicle to satisfy my wish to simply disappear. Fourteen is already an age where you don’t seem to know anything about the world. In many ways, losing my innocence made me lose my identity entirely. I couldn’t figure out if I was a teenager anymore or an adult. I thought it I could look like a child again, I could be the perfect little girl I used to be before that night happened. However, I learned after months of starvation, numbers, and calories that I had only lost myself more.

I am now 24 years old and after ten years, I have learned that perfection does not exist. But I’ve also learned that you can’t get to the other side on your own. I now know how hard it is on family and friends to watch someone they love suffer and I wish I had confided in them more at the time.

No matter how dark things seem to be, they can always turn around. I believe in second chances and giving them to yourself. I know the hardest thing in the world can be forgiving yourself for whatever it may be, but I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the past decade was how to be my own best friend.

I give a very honest account of my eating disorder in CONTROLLED, which I hope helps anyone who can relate to my story. A dear friend of mine told me during the publication process that I should focus less on it all being perfect and in the end, focus more on liking myself. And the truth is, no one is perfect. I will always be a perfectionist and have flaws but it’s all learning.

I now know that the power doesn’t lie in killing yourself, but it lies in letting yourself live.

If you are interested in reading Neesha Arter’s eye-opening book, you can now order it off Amazon.com. Just click here!