By Katie Shrum
I was Bulimic by age 10, Anorexic at 13, went into cardiac arrest at 16, entered rehab at 18, relapsed at 19 and I lost my first friend to her eating disorder this past summer at 20.
It has only been seven months since I got word that Leighsa had succumbed to her disease, and two weeks ago I got another call letting me know that I lost my friend Amy as well. Leighsa was 19 when she died, and Amy was 21. Both girls died in their sleep.
The autopsy in Leighsa’s case showed heart failure, and in Amy’s it showed pancreatic failure. This is the reality of eating disorders. In our country, and even here at our school, it has become a silent epidemic striking men and women alike.
My eating disorder started simply enough. I can remember the first time I ever intentionally made myself throw up. I was 10 years old and didn’t really know what I was doing. I had no clue the first time I stuck my fingers down my throat and bent over the toilet that Bulimia would soon become my whole world.
I continued to struggle with the disease through high school, dropping down to 98 pounds on my 5’8’’ frame when I was 16 — the same year my heart would begin to give out on me. It wasn’t until I went away to college for the first time that I realized I needed to go into recovery.
I was at Ave Maria University for three weeks before I was kicked out because my eating disorder made me a liability to the school and threatened my life. It was at this point that I entered an inpatient treatment facility, Hyde Park Counseling Center.
While at Hyde Park, I learned how to manage my food and my life. It took me almost two years of extensive treatment to be stable enough to come back to college. I entered Flagler last fall as a 20-year-old freshman. I had always been prepared for college to be a strain on my recovery, but I was not fully prepared for what I was about to endure.
In my first week of school I had them pegged; I could spot the eating disorders all around me. The dorms seemed to be some kind of festering breeding ground for them. I was triggered out of my mind, and I am not going to lie and say that everything is great, and I have been able to maintain constant recovery. On the contrary, I struggle everyday. I have been through a few small relapses, but with the help of my friends, and the exemplary counseling center staff, I have been able to maintain some kind of stability.
I hold this cause very close to my heart, because it has so deeply affected my life. If I don’t continue to speak out and help out where I can, then I fear that I will have lost my friends in vain.
National Eating Disorders Awareness week falls every year the last week of February. I hope that the student body, as well as the staff here at Flagler, will take time to reflect on this issue that week.
Think of your sisters, mothers, students and friends.
One in four American women will struggle with an eating disorder, and one in 10 of those people will die. The statistics are against us. Don’t let them continue to grow.