“Mind over matter” isn’t so simple – my new-found perspective on mental health.

Many of you may have heard the story of Madison Holleran, the UPenn athlete who took her life earlier this year.

Reading Madison’s story gave me a new-found perspective – I need to take my emotions more seriously. Ever since I was diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, my emotions have been on a roller coaster ride of their own. I have opened up to a few close friends and family members about my condition, but for some reason (and this is no one’s fault at all) their reactions have just made me feel more empty; more alone. I am often met with “you’ll be fine” responses, or with anger from a friend who is concerned about why I did not take action any sooner.

So, why didn’t I take action any sooner? My period went MIA over a year ago, so the right thing to do would have been to see a doctor ASAP, right? Well, this is where my mental struggle began to play out. I was so obsessed with looking “perfect” and hitting that “perfect weight” that I did not want anything to stand in the way of me and my goal. After being teased for being overweight my entire life, there was no way I was going to go back to my old self, especially after everyone had noticed my tremendous weight loss. I wanted to continue to be noticed and congratulated, and I feared that a doctor would ask me to eat more. “They wouldn’t understand,” I remember thinking to myself – I thought that I knew my body the best, and that no one would understand that eating like a ‘normal person’ (1800-2000 calories / day) would make my body gain weight. “It’s not fair,” I remember thinking every day, but I told myself that my body was just ‘special’ and ‘different,’ and that my terrible metabolism would just make me fat again if I ate more.

I now recognize that this obsession with perfection (which I would never reach by the way, because I kept lowering my weight goal) was completely unhealthy, and perhaps even indicative of a greater mental problem. A lot of this has to do with the way I was raised, and the perception that most of my close friends and family have of people who struggle with eating disorders or depression. Mental health issues were always an uncomfortable topic, so naturally it was hard for me to accept that perhaps I too, was struggling. I thought I was too intelligent and well-informed to have an eating disorder or a skewed perception of my body. I could not justify spending hundreds of dollars to see a therapist because I was convinced that sadness was a state of mind that I could easily talk myself out of by being rational.

When I read stories like Madison’s, I am scared. In this case fear may be a good thing though. According to my nutritional therapist, I do not have an eating disorder; I just had a series of disordered and obsessive eating habits. I, however, know that the extent to which I think about food, and worry about eating too much (every second, of every day) is NOT healthy. So here’s to taking my emotions more seriously, and continuing to seek professional help. I am sure my close friends / family mean well, but at this point I need more than a “you’ll be fine.” I need to take care of my brain and emotions before they spiral out of control and leave me feeling unhappier than ever before.

I must say a HUGE thank you to anyone who has read this post. This one was a long one, but I needed to let my thoughts out. 🙂

Lots of love,

Girl Guilt-Free

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