“College Triggers”

Apparently, there’s a link between going to university and eating disorders.

This is not really surprising.

In an illness that is all about coping mechanisms and self identify issues and peer pressures and social expectations, university is fertile ground for eating disorders; whether you’ve already been grabbed, or are caught unawares -

University is not as easy as you think it will be. It’s just that nobody admits it – until later.

My eating disorder had already staked its claim on most of my teenage years by the time I reached university. I had hoped that the change of scenery would signify a new start –

It’s not always possible to leave your problems at home with your signed school shirt and the teenage antics you’d rather forget about. Eating disorders go deeper than that; and, without the containment of home, mine went into freefall pretty quickly –

After years of secretive binging and meal evasions, the freedom was overwhelming –

The intelligence that secured me a university place obviously hadn’t extended to my nutritional behaviour or informed my ability to look after myself. At university, you’re on your own (at first): there’s no one around to keep an eye on you and pick up the pieces –

And, then, it soon becomes obvious that an eating disorder isn’t particularly conducive to connecting with new people.

For a start, a huge part of social interaction (food) is written off before it’s even taken place; and then, it’s not particularly easy to really open up to people when you’re constantly keeping your illness under wraps.

The initial loneliness that is perfectly normal when you wave goodbye to the home comforts and close the classroom door, is heightened and not allowed to give way to the new relationships and opportunities that the university experience promises.

Plus, there can be a horrible sense of small fry big pool…

And that’s before you add in the hard work. And the deadlines. And a student loan which doesn’t seem to stretch as far as it should –

So, you’re feeling a little lost now that you’re out in the big bad world, and a little homesick, and constantly stressed; and, an eating disorder can take the edge off the discomfort – or so it seems – and provide a crutch when you’re a little overwhelmed – or so it feels –

It’s just not very helpful in the longer term.

It is 8 years since I graduated. With the wisdom of a nearly over the hill 30 year old, I wish that I’d waited until I was well.

It is a one in the life time opportunity. With a bitter sense of regret, I wish I’d asked for help a little sooner.

The irony of the situation is that the experiences and the emotions are probably the same for lots of other people – it’s just how its handled and moved through that’s different.

University is not an easy ride –

But it can be an incredibly exciting one if you’re able to leave the eating disorder at the roadside – and actually deal with the real hurdles as they arise.

P.s. Don’t repeat my experience: universities have great counselling services – check out the student counselling website to find out more.

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