The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

I thought I had to suffer alone—I don’t want anyone else to

What does it mean to deserve to get help? At what point do you reach the unattainable thresholds your mind holds you to? These were the questions I wrestled with for years, until this year I did not have a choice anymore, but to ask for help.

For longer than I can remember, I have struggled with my mental health: with an eating disorder, specifically. I have spent hours convincing myself that I would never deserve to get help, that I would never be sick enough, and worse, if I was, that nobody would care.

Battling a mental health disorder is one of the most isolating experiences a person can go through. It will tear you apart from the people you love, force you to be secretive, and bring out sides of you that you did not even know existed. It will push you further and further away from everyone you know until your disorder is all you have.

And with school comes the inevitable body talk that most high schoolers go through. I came to the school in kindergarten, and back then practically everyone looked the same. I remember feeling like the biggest one in my friend group when I was as young as eleven years old. Tears form in my eyes when I look back on the photos of me from the Lower School, as the emotional turmoil of always feeling larger and uglier than everyone else resurfaces with a vengeance.

In high school, everything got worse. It’s especially challenging to have an eating disorder in a rigorous school environment. Amid the competing pressures of four-plus hours of homework on top of extracurricular activities and sports, food gets pushed to the side, perhaps unintentionally at first, and then intentionally. Intense, competitive schools are a breeding ground for disordered eating. The administrators encourage self-care, but when exactly do we have the time for that?

Students often believe religiously in the tired refrain, “school comes first,” and everything else, including their mental and physical health, comes second. So, understandably, admitting you need help is nearly impossible, especially when needing help forces a deviation from the typical high school track, as it did from mine.

Part of the reason I have decided to be so open regarding my three-month-long medical leave and my experience this past year is because I am not naive enough to think I might be the only one who has suffered from an eating disorder in this community. I know many of you are struggling right now, so, to whomever is reading this, let me, who now understands very well that I matter, be the one to tell you that you matter. I know how hard it can be to even take the first step of opening up to anyone, but it is always worth it. You will never be sick enough, you will never hurt enough, you will never be perfect enough. You deserve more.

For people who have friends that are struggling, my best advice is to just be there for them. I have been lucky enough to have some of the most amazing friends, and I can assure you that without them I do not know if my recovery would have been possible. I know it can feel overwhelming when someone you care about is struggling, but you have to remember that while you cannot fix someone else’s problems, the most and best thing you can do for someone is to sit with them while they are having a bad day, be a friendly face in the halls, and remind them that they are loved and cared for. We all deserve that.

To anyone struggling to find help, I encourage you to reach out to school counselors, friends, family, and hotlines. Please contact Your Life Your Voice at (800) 448-3000 if you or someone you know is in danger or needs to talk to a therapist or trusted adult.

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About the Contributor
Natalie Gersen
Natalie Gersen, Assistant Photo Editor
Fun fact: I used to live in Chicago.

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