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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Kim

Recovering while being a student

Updated: May 11, 2022

Originally published in Life at Tepper on April 15, 2019

This past Saturday, Pittsburgh had its seventh annual National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) walk. This was my second time attending, and I got to see my Internet friend whom I have had the privilege of getting to know for the past two years. However, this year I have been more vocal about my attendance and noticed that some of my classmates were in the walk also.

I also got to hug Iskra Lawrence, a model for Aerie and an eating disorder awareness advocate. My poster was inspired by a Tweet from @WeRateDogs that reads “they’re good dogs Brent” (and, me being the meme queen, I had to incorporate this viral Tweet somewhere).

February 25th-March 3rd 2019 was NEDAwareness Week. I made my second-ever feature story that week, sharing the stories of several students at Carnegie Mellon who struggle with disordered eating. I first put out a survey with some questions ranging from students’ personal experiences, friends’ experiences, and how Carnegie Mellon can best serve its students struggling. I was shocked to see that even some of my classmates put that they didn’t know anyone who struggled with an eating disorder. I am so proud of each person who bravely came up to share their story, and I feel as though this experience gave me insight on not only my recovery but how my faulty mentality impacted other areas of my life.

Just over a year ago, I was in much more intensive therapy and had just been diagnosed with an eating disorder. It’s unrealistic for me to say that I don’t have these struggles regularly. They’re an extra weight that I carry around in my everyday life. However, I feel as though my journey in developing a healthier lifestyle has shown me how good habits can affect various parts of my life. Although the basis of my eating disorder was the false promise of control, I realize that real control lies in choosing what I want to do based on my needs and priorities. I am seeing that I can learn to put my energy and focus on things that are important to me: my friends and family, school, extracurricular activities, and hobbies, to list a few.

The biggest obstacle that stopped me from being vocal about my struggles was definitely imposter syndrome. I felt like I had to wait until my situation was “bad enough,” and anything before that meant that I didn’t need help.

Looking back, this mentality infiltrated other parts of my life. I was hesitant to ask my professors or TAs for help because I thought that I wasn’t “lost enough” to need to get help and should therefore just tough it out. However, once I got “lost enough,” I would realize that the problem was far bigger than it needed to be and would lead me to fear that whoever I reach out to for help would look down on me. Although I could get by with this mindset up until high school, college showed me that constantly pushing oneself on the edge isn’t a sustainable life. Of course, we should strive to develop qualities such as perseverance and willingness to struggle through problems. However, asking for help isn’t a weakness. It demonstrates strength in knowing where you need to get to and doing what has to be done to get there.

Although this semester is probably the most strenuous academically, this has easily been the most enjoyable semester of college I have had. I have learned to listen to my own voice that recognized what I needed to fulfill my goals and set aside the voice that tried to stop me with scare tactics like the fear of being judged. I have learned to more confidently ask questions and raise my hand even if I’m not 100 percent sure if my answer to the professor’s question is correct. Office hours have become an invaluable resource that I had depleted myself from in fear that the TA would think less of me, but I have to remind myself that helping lost students is the TA’s job.

Insecurity can make people think and do things that don’t make logical sense. In my case, it led to years of physical and mental damage. However, the resources that I found while in college (specifically, Counseling and Psychological Services and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), as well as the many people I have met in the past few years have been absolutely pivotal in shaping me into the best version of myself that I have ever been. Although it breaks my heart to think that many college students believe that they are alone in facing their battles during their four years, that is far from the case.


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