Going To University
I remember the day so vividly. Saturday 16th September 2017. It was the day I’d leave to start studying Law at The University of Birmingham. The car was packed with the cutlery I’d never see again. And the garlic-crusher I’d never end up using and not forgetting my whole-entire wardrobe.
Despite the car being positively filled to the brim, this pesky little voice couldn’t help but whisper:
“You better not forget to pack me!”
As if I’d ever forget to bring the monster that had plagued me for the best part of five years.
I will not lie to you, starting University while struggling with an eating disorder is tough. No matter how far along you are in your recovery journey, you are suddenly confronted by a whole new environment. Tasked with many new challenges from shared living, new relationships, academic pressures and cooking and eating with others.
As a desire for control appears to underpin many eating disorders, the looming uncertainty of beginning this new era is a potential breeding ground for eating disorder tendencies to resurface.
However, I’m here to give you hope.
The past two years of my University experience have seen me face many trials and tribulations as I attempt to overcome bulimia while striving to succeed academically. But I have learned to arm myself with a plethora of tools and tips to battle against the beast in my brain.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
With the right provisions in place, the fear of the unknown need not be a trigger for you to retreat into the shackles of your eating disorder.
I can confidently say I am a million miles away from the helpless mess I once believed myself to be back when I began my degree. You have the power to own your narrative, to rewrite your story.
Here are my three go-to tips for helping you navigate eating disorder recovery as you begin university:
Reach Out for Support
Research suggests that between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. This number is on the rise amongst university-aged students and silence will only lead to the number rising. It takes great courage to be vulnerable and reach out to someone that you’re struggling. And it is, hands-down, the best thing I did while at University. So they say, “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
After an emotional outburst with a friend, I had the confidence to confide in a supportive tutor as well as my GP. From then on, I was sign-posted to the University’s welfare support system. And I sought the professional help I needed. With all this in place, the burden of studying while attempting recovery reduced dramatically.
Of course, dependent upon the severity of your eating disorder, the decision to take a break from your studies to receive more intensive treatment may be crucial.
Learn to Prioritise
Whenever I attempted to conquer an unattainable, mammoth to-do list, I’d ultimately find myself burrowing back into the dark depths of my eating disorder. Binging and purging was a means to escape the stress. When in reality I was simply making my problems 10x worse.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup”
Be realistic as to how much you personally can achieve in a day. Learning to exercise boundaries is a key component of recovery. So make sure to plan in some ‘you-time’, some activities where you can just switch off from the day to day stresses of life. Be it catching up with a friend for coffee, journaling, dancing in your bedroom to your favourite playlist- whatever cultivating fun and relaxation looks like to you- embrace it!
As horrible as suffering with an eating disorder is, the minute I chose to re frame my struggles into something more positive everything changed. I learned I could use my pain to help others. I did this through writing these blogs and offering advice to other people going through similar things. And I learned that the more I was grateful for my new-found strengths, the faster I progressed on my journey.
“I’m thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.”
When we choose to look at the bigger picture we can celebrate even our small victories. Then we’re one step closer to a life full of freedom, unconstrained by the chains of an eating disorder.