Today I’d like to share a letter from one of the youngest HealthyGirl.org readers I’ve talked to in a while: Yuki, who’s just 15. Please feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts and support for her in the comments!
Q: When I read your posts, it’s like you’re reading your mind! I am just 15 years old and I believe I’m suffering from a binge eating disorder. This all started when I changed schools and I had a hard time fitting in because I didn’t know anyone. I began to work very hard at school—scoring almost all As in my subjects except for PE. I put on some weight at that time and I had an obsession with being perfect, and thought people would like me if I was. Now, I seem to binge everyday after school as it is my last year of high school and I am facing the pressure of getting a good mark to go into university. I feel myself being distant from everyone…I seem to lack trust for anything or anyone as well as feeling a bit of anxiety and depression. I feel like food is my only friend, something that will never betray me. I know I have to tell someone sooner or later before it takes over me. Where should I start? —Yuki, 15
A: You just started, honey! Reaching out to me and to the HealthyGirl.org community is a fabulous start, but you’re absolutely right that you’ve got to tell someone who’s in your daily life. Psychiatrist Charles Sophy, M.D.—one of experts I’m interviewing for my book—told me that he believes telling someone you trust is the most important step a person can take to start recovering from disordered eating. “You’ve got to relinquish this to another person,” he says. “Secrets have power. [But after you tell someone about your eating] then the power, the pressure will be gone. Sometimes, for some people they only feel safe online at first. And it’s the first step. But I would say the more human contact there is, the better. Connect with someone who’s going to give you a hug.”
When I was 15, that person was my mother. But from the emails you and I have exchanged, I know you don’t feel comfortable talking to your parents about this for various reasons. What Dr. Sophy recommends in that situation is to pick someone else you feel safe with—your doctor, someone from your church, a teach or school counselor, a friend’s mom or dad. If you have a close friend who you think you could also trust with this information, you could tell them.
I really connected with what you said about feeling like you need to be perfect. When I was younger—and, OK, still sometimes a little—I somehow not only wanted to be perfect, but I thought it was required in order for me to be loved/valued! When you’re so worried about being perfect, it can be that much harder to admit that you have a problem.
Well, let me assure you: You’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, no on in the entire world (even if they’re the prettiest, smartest, most popular girl in school) is perfect and never ever will be. Not only that, but most people out there have something they struggle with over their lives. For you, perhaps it’s binge eating disorder, for someone else it may be a physical health condition like diabetes, for others, it could be something more subtle like low self esteem that they have to fight against and heal from in order to be happy.
You’re not a freak or a failure because you binge. In fact, you’re amazingly self-aware to have already figured out–all on your own–that something may be wrong. I am proud of you for reaching out and being honest. I think it’s a good sign that you’re going to do what it takes to get better.
Think about who in your life you might feel safe telling about this issue—and in the meantime, why don’t you check out some info on books, support groups and therapy and inspirational stories that might help you further.