Last year during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I opened up for the first time on the blog about my nearly decade-long struggle with an eating disorder. The theme in 2015 was ‘I Had No Idea’ and in a way, that encapsulated my story perfectly. I was able to keep it together on the surface enough to seem like I was totally fine, succeeding in many aspects of my life, while on the inside I was a wreck. I won’t rehash the whole thing here, since you can read about it in that post, but this year I’m raising awareness again by focusing on the idea that three minutes can save a life.
When NEDA says that three minutes can save a life, they mean that taking three minutes for screening can lead you to getting help, and to recovery. I’d also like to say that the idea of three minutes doesn’t just apply to those who are struggling with an eating disorder. It applies to friends, family, and others in their lives, because if they took three minutes to recognize the problem and encourage a loved one to seek help, even more lives would be changed for the better.
This collage paints a pretty good portrait of my life during and right after law school. Some of the girls in those photos have been in my life for more than half of it, most of the time I was struggling, and they stood by me no matter how difficult I was to be around, to whatever extent each of them understood what I was going through. Not everyone is so lucky, and it’s only now that I can fully appreciate what having them in my life meant. It meant that at my lowest points, whether I was 13 or 23, I had someone there who took three minutes to talk to me, to bring me back from the brink and give me at least some temporary perspective.
I’m without a similar collection of Oxford memories (I need to get to work on that). But I hit bottom during those three years, and each and every one of my friends helped me bounce back. I can’t describe it any better than I did at this time last year, and all I can add is that they gave me more faith in the essential goodness of humanity than I ever had before. We barely knew each other on arrival, and a few months later they’d already shown me I could count on them. It was three years, and in those years there were so many times when each of them took just three minutes to be a good listener, a shoulder to cry on, or in the end, when things got brighter, someone to pop the cork on a bottle of celebratory champagne or ensure I was good and confetti’d after finals.
Typically I refrain from referring to most of my friends by name here on the blog, because I respect their privacy, and the fact that they’re okay with photos is enough of an ask in my world (it took my parents a year to agree to one snapshot!) But I do want to thank one in particular where this subject is concerned. Elli, my friend, my fellow Oxford historian, my summer hiking buddy, my constant Skype companion…I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. There aren’t words to express what happened in the many times she took three minutes to be a good friend.
I am in no way advocating for friends and family to take on the role of professional therapists, or saying that they should shoulder the burden of maintaining their loved one’s welfare when that person might not be in any shape to be receptive to help from someone so close, and might even push them away or lash out. In the time since I’ve recovered, I’ve had friends and acquaintances seek me out, especially once I opened up on the blog, to admit that they needed help and to ask for advice. I try to be supportive, but my number one piece of advice is always to get medical help, because an eating disorder is an illness, not just a state of mind or something you can ‘snap out of’ by eating more. If I can prevent one more person from going through what I did, I want to. But I’m no doctor. At the end of those three minutes, the best thing you can do to support someone who’s struggling is to encourage them to seek help. NEDA has wonderful resources, and many school campuses can also offer support on both ends. I was lucky enough to have both friends, and eventually professional help. I can only hope that by raising awareness, others will have it too. Recovery is a long and winding road, and having company makes all the difference.
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