I have struggled on and off with an eating disorder for almost 8 years. The first peak was in high school. After years of keeping it to myself I eventually went through treatment due to some health issues I encountered. Overall I just felt so weak. With treatment came the difficulty of having my biggest secret suddenly being analyzed by my therapist, nutritionist, doctor, and parents. Eventually, with the support of my friends and family, I got better. I started eating more, and stopped the food restricting, binging, and purging habits I had developed as part of my bulimia. I continued treatment until I left my hometown for college. It felt amazing to get the opportunity to have a fresh start where no one knew about my disorder and I could seemingly put it all behind me.
My second year I joined a sorority, had a great group of friends, and finally felt at home. However, with my long-distance relationship falling apart and eventually ending, I began to feel my bulimia slowly getting back in the driver’s seat. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want my parents or friends to worry. I figured I had it under control since it was nowhere near the extent of what I was doing in high school. I tried my hardest to remember all I had learned in recovery the first time, but then things continued to get worse. That February I went to a party with a close friend since I was now single and ready to just have a good time. I met a guy and began talking with him. I remember thinking he was attractive, and it felt amazing to have someone who was interested in me too. We kissed and drank, a lot. He eventually invited me into a room and I willingly went along.I am not sure what I thought was going to happen. I had been in a relationship for so long I had not had really any experience with boys in college. We laid down on the bed and continued making out. I was so tired and it felt so nice to finally lay down, but the room started to spin. I felt his hand start to unbutton my pants. I pushed it away, but a few minutes later he tried again. Then he got up to get a condom from his bag. I remember telling him no. I remember that “no” going unheard. And I try not to remember the rest.
That night when I went home, I felt dirty and used. Why had I gone into that room with him? Why did I drink so much? Why didn’t I do more to stop it? Was I asking for it? Suddenly, I felt angry at myself. I told myself it wasn’t what I thought. I was wrong. It wasn’t rape. I didn’t want to be another victim. I went along telling people about the wild night I’d had. How I had hooked up with some random guy and how crazy that was since I had never done it before. Maybe if I kept telling people it was consensual I would believe it myself. However, the more I lied, the worse I felt. I stopped eating most meals. If I over ate or had a bad body image day, I made up for it by exercising excessively or throwing up. Everything was spiraling out of control. As I was struggling with accepting what had happened to me and my recurrent eating disorder, I had numerous close friends come to me with their stories of sexual assault and how they were handling it. I thank them for trusting me because without their courage I would not be willing to talk about this all today.
Less than a month later I entered a healthy relationship. It took me a while, but eventually he was one of the first people I felt comfortable telling everything to. I put my eating disorder, my sexual assault, and all of my current baggage on the table. I expected to be met with disappointment and judgment. I had a lot more going on than he had signed up for. Instead, he told me he believed me and that he was sorry this had happened to me. I remember being caught off guard. Suddenly I noticed that those feelings of disappointment and judgment were my own feelings and that I was being my greatest critic. This made me realize it was time to deal with what actually happened. I couldn’t keep pretending like I was okay. This opened a door for me to tell a handful of other close people in my life. After talking with friends, I realized it was time to start therapy again. I have been with my new therapist for around six months and realize I have a long way to go. However, I feel blessed every day to have the support system I do. I have a roommate who will always listen to me vent at the end of a long day. A boyfriend who understands when I don’t want to be out in public because I hate the way I look. I also have a whole group of friends who I know I can always rely on. Sometimes the best way to handle a difficult time is to lean on your support system. That’s what they’re there for.
I feel my story is an important one because I know I am not alone. There are so many victims out there who are afraid to speak out because they don’t want to be criticized or told it is their fault. They don’t want to relive what has happened to them or accept it. At the same time it was something I never felt comfortable posting about on social media. Everytime I tell someone I feel my heart race, my palms start to sweat, and tears come to my eyes. I can only imagine the anxiety I would feel if I posted it for everyone to see, essentially telling hundreds of people my deepest secrets. The scariest part is leaving myself vulnerable to any criticisms I might receive. People can be mean over the internet and making yourself so open can be terrifying. Also, there is a certain image everyone puts on their social media. Since they control what the world sees of them, we are constantly comparing our personal bloopers to everyone’s highlight reel. This hardly makes it seem like an acceptable place to post about personal difficulties. However, if we all spoke up about what we are going through, maybe we could find that support system that is out there waiting to help us handle it.