Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
False Control and Being Well
In my four years of high school and going-on-six years of college, I have known over a dozen people with eating disorders, and at least a score (meaning 20) people with anxiety and depression spectrum disorders. EDAW is very important to me personally. I've seen my friends in pain, in despair, in fear and burdened by shame because of their bodies and what they do (or don't) with them.
My understanding of eating disorders is by proxy - people I've known and loved have suffered with, have dealt with, have managed and have survived eating disorders. In my own life, I can speak to the paralyzing effects of anxiety and depression. I understand how it feels to be too depressed and too apathetic to eat regularly. I have, at times, felt like I didn't deserve to eat, to be nourished emotionally, to sleep, to succeed, to be loved, to live a fulfilling life. I still feel that way sometimes.
In my life, I have had days when I didn't eat, or didn't shower, or didn't go to class or work, or didn't finish important assignments, or go to the doctor when I was sick. Why? Sometimes it was because I felt I didn't deserve these things: food, accomplishment, praise, cleanliness, health. Sometimes it was because I felt that by not doing those things I was exercising control over my life. This false sense of control, I have been told, can be a common experience between people like me who manage their lives with anxiety or depression and people like my friends who manage their lives with issues of body image, including the social pressures to be thin - or fit - or muscled - or athletic - or toned - or skinny.
That false sense of control can be comforting, but can also be damning. It was for me. I micromanaged parts of my life, like hygiene (not showering) and food (skipping meals to punish myself) and obsessed about missing class - there were times when I stayed in my room berating myself for missing class and writing out practically minute-by-minute to-do lists of assignments that were already late - only to spend hours recopying the list rather than actually doing the work. Or I just sat there rereading the list until the middle of the night, and then wandered aimlessly around my old campus - plagued by insomnia and shame.
What I know and have experienced has garnered nods and "Yes, I totally get that" responses from some of my friends with eating disorders. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, to some extent, I understand. I know how it feels to be so stuck in your own head, stuck repeating what you objectively know are bad decisions and harmful actions. Since being put on [forced] medical leave from my old school for the second time and basically being told "We love you, but don't come back;" since transferring to Ramapo; since I've finally learned to accept myself for who and what I am and let go of shame, I'm a happier - and healthier - person. Things can change, but you have to want them to. What's more, you need to be ready for them to.
Some days are hard. Some days suck. Some days I ignore phone calls from my best friend because I know she can tell, even from D.C., if I'm telling half-truths. Sometimes I avoid my homework, or showering, just for an hour or a day - so I can feel the thrill of false control. I know it's bad, I know it's unhealthy, but sometimes I still feel like I need that. From what I know, anxiety, depression and eating disorders are not things to be cured - to be medicated and solved - to be put behind you and forgotten. They are obstacles that require daily victories, or at least daily attempts at managing them - rather than being managed by them. I know your mind can be your own worst enemy, but you are always the best person to tell yourself that enough is enough. You are the best person to take charge of your life. Even for an hour. Even for five minutes to pick up the phone and call for help. Or text a friend. Or answer honestly when a family member asks "Are you okay?"
There are resources. There is help. No matter what you're dealing with, you are not alone. Do you hear me? You are not alone in this. Love you for you - scars and all.
I'm still learning to love myself. It isn't always easy, but I refuse to give up on myself. I refuse to trade the calm I feel when I am clean, healthy and on-time with my work for the false thrill of self-deprivation, self-harm, or self-deception. I hope that as Love Your Body Day gets underway tomorrow morning we can all jump into the spirit of the day - of all of EDAW - and embrace healthy self-love and self-affirmation.
I'll try. I hope you will too.