Features

It’s Time To Talk About It

By Sally Weidenbeck
CONTRIBUTOR

“It’s time to talk about it” has been

the slogan for National Eating Disorders

Awareness Week every February for a few

years now. Although I have helped with

awareness campaigns for this week since high

school, I have yet to fully live by that idea.

I have an eating disorder. It started when I

was in middle school, but the roots of it can

be found throughout my entire life. Until

a year ago, I had never spoken those words

out loud. Within the last year, though, I

have been able to say it out loud many times.

First to one person, then another, later to a

small community group and then even at a

workshop with people I didn’t know. Each

time I spoke the words out loud it got a little

easier, and each time I felt a little freer.

I have been in a relatively healthy state

regarding my eating disorder for a while

now, but within the last year I have realized

that as long as it’s still a secret, it still has

control over my life. As long as I am afraid

that people will find out, I am forced to hide.

Speaking the secret takes away its power,

but it’s one of the hardest things that I have

ever done. I know that when I tell people

it may change their perception of me, and I

worry that they will start treating me like I

need some sort of protection from myself.

Thankfully, in my experience when I am

truly open about how it has changed over the

years and where I am now I have found that

people are able to take it in stride.

Talking about my eating disorder, though,

goes far beyond an issue of personal

empowerment. Talking about it helps to

bring the issue to light not just in my life

but in others’ as well. It helps people to

realize that we are not alone; that there are

people out there who know what we are

experiencing.

Eating disorders are incredibly isolating.

In the depths of the disorder, we are afraid

that if other people know, they will make

us stop. We are scared of people finding

out because they will try to help us in a way

that we do not see as help. Even in healthier

states, though, the idea of telling people can

still be highly distressing. Talking about my

eating disorder was a lot harder for me than

coming out. Most people don’t understand

what it means to have an eating disorder, and

many believe that recovery is a matter of will

power or personal choice. Facing down those

assumptions is terrifying, but it can also be

liberating.

When we keep our struggles a secret, we

cannot reach out and ask for help. If we

all stay silent about our struggles, then we

will never know how many other people are

struggling just like we are. We feel alone,

believing that no one else can understand

what we are going through. If, however, we

can find the courage to be open and honest

about our struggles, we may find that not

only does it help to empower us and get us

the resources we need, but it may just be the

voice that someone else needs to hear, to

know that they are not alone.

I have an eating disorder, and it has a

story. My story is not everybody’s story, but

I am willing to share it. I do not want to

print it in the Round Table because it may be

triggering for some people. But I will share

it with anyone who asks. Just send me a note

(wiedenbs@beloit.edu, or box 1794), or ask

me about it. Talking about eating disorders

isn’t possible for everyone, especially those

who are still in the depths of a struggle. But

for me, it’s time to talk about it.

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