By Ashley Michelle Williams--Life is not always full of rainbows and butterflies. When we face challenges, it’s human nature to feel the urge to shrug back and hide.
We often feel like others can’t relate to us and that we are alone in our challenge. However, we each must deeply realize that every person has something that he or she is struggling with. Although some of these issues are more serious than others, we all have our trials. Everyone knows what it's like to hold onto things within us that we feel we can't let go of or seek help to heal.
Those who are struggling with an eating disorder know this feeling all too well.
But today, as a person who knows about the many struggles that come from having an eating disorder, I want those of you who are suffering to be encouraged to seek help.
Recognize that you do not need to carry the burden of your eating disorder alone. You are not a terrible or unworthy person for having an eating disorder. On the contrary, you are precious and a gift to the world, and you should never take hurting your body lightly.
Love yourself enough to realize that you do not need to be burdened with your disorder. There are people around you and medical professionals who really care about you. They want to help you take away your burdens. They want to save your life from pain and misery.
I know you may be thinking: “Yes, I know that I don’t need to carry the burden alone, but it’s painful to talk about it to someone…. It’s painful to tell my truth to someone. I’m ashamed and embarrassed.”
Some of you who know deep down that you have a problem, but you do not even want to knowledge or admit it. You are scared, you feel embarrassed, or you don't want to face that you have a problem.
I would say to all of you: “Yes, it's okay to feel all of those things, but it is even more painful to keep your secret and to not seek help for something that could potentially take your life.”
As a person who once struggled with two eating disorders, I know the shame, the embarrassment, and the guilt that can come from dealing with an eating disorder. When I was burdened with not wanting to eat (not even knowing it was anorexia at the age of 12), it was hard for me to express to my peers, parents, and even adults who could help that I was ashamed of my body. I tried to hide my true feelings and act like nothing was wrong with me.
After battling anorexia, and later bulimia, alone, I realized that I was only hurting myself even more. I wasn’t solving the problem by keeping it in and trying to stop on my own. I was only making it worse. After getting healed from my disorders, I later realized that the healing process of an eating disorder begins by seeking out someone to whom you comfortable opening up to about it. Usually that person will connect you with other people who can help you even more.
The first step of my healing started after I first connected with my sister and then my parents about what I was doing to my body. Yes, it was hard to open up to them, and yes, it is even hard now for me to think about these events and write this to you now, but I am glad that I sought help. I am glad that I didn’t have to share my burden alone. And I am even more glad that I can open up to you, and give you a chance to know that you are not alone, that there is deep strength and courage inside of you that will help you to overcome this eating disorder and the other emotions that may be prompting it.
For those of you who are suffering from an eating disorder, I want you to realize that by taking a step towards seeking help, you are courageous and you are not alone in your fight. By having the strength and the motivation to seek help to change your life and get better, you truly are one of the world’s most courageous people--who will one day be an inspiration of light to others who are also suffering from eating disorders.
About this blogger: Ashley Michelle Williams is an energetic, world-traveled broadcast and digital journalist. She currently works at NBC Network News. For her efforts in journalism, Ashley has received many honors, including the 2011 Student Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists; the Pat Tobin Scholarship from the Black Journalists Association of Southern California, a Hearst Journalism Award Nomination; and more. Having overcome anorexia and bulimia, she hopes her involvement in NEDA and her support of those battling eating disorders will help many people, especially African-Americans, who are suffering from eating disorders. The opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of NBC.
Also by Ashley Michelle Williams:
I’m Grateful My Mom Encouraged Healthy Body Image, Not Dieting
Image courtesy of Rae Smith, The Love Yourself Challenge