In a world of full of people, I never felt so alone. Eating disorders are complex. They often coexist with other physical and psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, obsessive behavior, or substance abuse problems. At the time I developed an eating disorder, I was, also, diagnosed with depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. I had not only lost a significant amount of weight, but I developed compulsive rituals connected to food, and was obsessed with calorie restriction and weighing myself.
Depression plagued me. I was not consuming enough food to maintain a healthy body weight, and I was shameful of how sickly thin I appeared. I recognized how severely malnourished I was, but I just couldn’t stop. I was intensely sad and guilty knowing that I had disappointed my family, my friends, my coaches, my athletic department, and university. I was under the treatment of a specialized psychiatrist. I was lethargic, and struggled to even smile. I couldn’t find anything to be happy about, but especially couldn’t find anything to excite me.
Mostly, I felt distant and abandoned. Besides my family, the people directly connected to my treatment, and my best friend (who was my roommate at the time), I felt others didn’t know how to talk to me, or act around me, or even be around me. As ill as I was, I was cognizant of how others were responding to my behaviors and appearance. While I was devastated by these feelings, I am, also, aware that others weren’t privy to the details of my disorder and what I was experiencing. At the time, I wasn’t able to articulate it or share it, and my coaches kept it extremely confidential and private.
But, still, I was struggling terribly from depression, and, at the time, I felt like I was the only person who may have suffered from it. Back then, in 2003, anxiety disorders were not as publicly discussed as they are today. Though we have come a long way since then, we still have a long way to go in raising awareness, educating others, and not shaming people for such issues.
One way to help this cause is to have stars, who we perceive as perfect, untouchable, and healthy, to share their personal struggles. They are people. They are real. And it is okay to acknowledge hardships, but it is not okay to make fun of people, tease people, or publicly shame people–because you NEVER know what a person may be battling. And, in this case, it was “Prison Break” star, who now appears in CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” Wentworth Miller.
Miller’s image was copied and spread rapidly across the Internet displaying a picture of him being toned and thin next to an overweight version of him. But, while the world was mocking his appearance, he was suffering from a significant and horrific psychiatric disorder–depression. He was even suicidal at one point. Similar to me, he turned to food, but in means of overconsumption rather than restriction. And just like him, I needed help. He shares and publicizes that if someone is feeling similarly, to seek help immediately. It is not something that can be fought alone.
Miller reflected in an interview that, now, he smiles when he sees the image that was exposed to the world; that it reminds him of the hardships and his struggles. And, similarly, when I see pictures from the period of time I had an eating disorder, I am reminded of strength, persistence, and perseverance; qualities I had to possess to overcome such a daunting time. Thankfully, I didn’t become the subject of a meme. I admire Miller for his courage to share his fight. He is not alone, and nor was I. I believe he will help many people, which is, also, my ultimate goal.