I Am

Looking Beyond the Surface

Photo by Tasha Kamrowski from Pexels

It was late one afternoon in 2013, and I had just got home from class at Suffolk Community College. I collapsed on my bed and began to cry. I was so exhausted. I was so miserable, and the worst part was that I had no idea why.

I found it impossible to eat on campus. Every morning before I left, I would only eat a banana because it was binding and bland. During the day, I might have one Kind bar. I would carry a small bag of nuts because they were bland and a source of protein, but most days they went completely untouched. Anywhere I went, my purse or backpack contained one absolutely essential item: a plastic bag just in case I ever got sick.

For the better part of five years, from the end of high school through college, I couldn’t leave the house without being afraid of throwing up. It wasn’t that I felt nauseous, it was that I was afraid of feeling nauseous. It would start with the feeling of being uncomfortable about going to campus or going to a movie with friends. This mental feeling would become a physical feeling, and soon I was worried that something disastrous would happen.

Ironically, the stress and hunger would end up making me sick anyway: viruses, sinus infections, the flu (even though I got the flu shot). Even though I had these terrible feelings, I would push myself to go out and participate anyway, because I knew that I truly wanted to be involved. I wore myself down with all the meetings, projects, classes, schoolwork, and campus events, all the while hiding that, internally, I was a wreck. By Friday, I could hardly get out of bed. Saturdays, I didn’t get out of bed at all. One school year, I weighed 115 lbs. I was hurting.

While superficially, my behavior might have looked like an eating disorder, I knew I was not anorexic, but I also knew I couldn’t continue the way things were. I needed help. So, in the summer of 2014, I met with a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. The feelings didn’t go away after my diagnosis, but it felt much better to be able to put a name on what I was experiencing. It was a start. I’d made many breakthroughs—my leadership positions, my involvement with campus activities, my newfound passion for writing, my completion of an associate’s degree—but now I had to fight to save myself. I wasn’t sure if I knew what I needed to move forward. Fortunately, I was about to meet the person who could help me find what was missing.

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