But one of the most common questions I get is something along the lines of, "Why are you so open about your struggles?" Or the stated variation of that question, "It's really brave of you to talk about this so openly and honestly."
Why do I talk about it? And why do I blog about it?
I write because one post takes a lot less time to write than it does to explain what I'm going through to all of my friends and family. I write, sometimes, to simply give out information.
I write because writing is therapy for me. I shared one of my latest blog posts with a professor at school, who responded, "Your post, while written almost like you are educating others, seems like you're trying to convince yourself of everything you're typing." I write to understand. To understand myself, my life, and the world around me better. I write because it helps--getting it all down on paper. It helps to take all the facts and information and articles that have been bouncing around in my head and combine them into an imperfect masterpiece that helps me to understand myself.
I write because I want to remember. No, I take that back. I don't want to remember these days. These days are pure hell. They are miserable and I don't want to remember them. I NEED to remember them. I need to remember them because according to statistics (and the fact that I am a psychology major hoping to specialize in eating disorders), I am one day going to be sitting across the table from a young woman who is in a similar position to what I am in today and I need to be able to look her in the eyes and say, "I know what you are going through because I lived through it, and I promise you, it will get better." I need to remember because it will make me a better therapist, a better empathizer, and a better human being.
I write because there are approximately 24 million men and women in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder. Let me point out that clinically significant in the statistic only includes binge eating disorder, bulimia, and anorexia. There are other types of eating disorders out there with the most common being Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), which is what I was originally diagnosed with in 2011.
I write because there are hundreds of thousands of people suffering in silence from an eating disorder, anxiety, and/or depression and who feel like they are completely alone in their struggle. Since I've been more open and vulnerable with my struggles and my past, many of my friends, family, and acquaintances have reached out to me and said, 'Me too.' They can't always relate to all of it, but they can relate to some of it. And each and every one of them have told me about their fears of speaking out about their struggles or about how brave I am to speak openly about mine.
I write because there is still stigma around mental disorders.
I write because people are still afraid to seek professional help for psychological disorders because society still thinks that having a mental disorder makes you crazy, insane. Because our society looks down on any type of weakness, even if that weakness or struggle is no fault of that person.
I write because there are still people who think that eating disorders and depression and anxiety are just choices that a person makes. That someone with an eating disorder can just 'start eating normally' again, or that someone with depression can just 'stop being sad and be happy,' or that someone with anxiety can just 'get over it.'
I write because there are still people who don't believe that eating disorders have biological, environmental, psychological, social, and genetic causes. There are people who still think that eating disorders are just diets or just a phase. There are people who still think that, as Carrie Arnold says in Decoding Anorexia, "Bad parenting caused eating disorders. Our thin-is-in culture caused eating disorders. A need for control caused eating disorders. Low self-esteem caused eating disorders," even though recent research has proved them wrong.
I write because when someone finds out that you are diagnosed with cancer, they bring you casseroles, ask how you're doing, and offer to help in any way that they can. But no one wants to know if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness for what? Some irrational fear that they might catch it? The author of this Slate article talks about the ignorance of mental illnesses in this way:
"Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: 'How’s your depression these days?' 'What improvements do you notice now that you have treatment for your ADD?' 'Do you find your manic episodes are less intense now that you are on medication?' 'What does depression feel like?' 'Is the counseling helpful?'"
I write because stigma around mental health issues not only exists, but is very present in our society. And maybe by telling my story, it can help to lessen that stigma just the tiniest bit.
Maybe it will help some random person out there to feel less alone.
Or maybe it just helps me to understand it all.