When I was a sophomore at Central Michigan University, thirteen years ago, I had my first bipolar depression breakdown. I didn’t know it then, however. I only noticed that something was wrong. I was not a skinny girl and I had definitely gained more than the freshman 15 but I still walked all over that campus and beyond, rode a bicycle, and worked at McDonald’s — on my feet and moving.
That fall, I began a nasty cycle that continued for nearly a decade. I would stay up too late because I couldn’t sleep and then when I finally did go to sleep, I couldn’t get up the next day. Sometimes I would sleep from about 1 or 2 am till noon or later. I would eat a huge lunch, watch a variety of crap sitcoms on TV, cry during them, eat a huge dinner, avoid my roommates during the evening, and then when the snack and pizza shop opened around eight, I would go buy a bag of chips (full-size) or a pint of ice cream and EAT IT ALL. This happened several times a week and if you wonder why I didn’t mention going to class, it’s because I didn’t.
Well, I wasn’t stupid! I knew something was wrong. So, I took advantage of the free counseling on campus. I saw one of the counselors three times. I told her about the binge eating and the sleep disturbances and the unprovoked crying. All she could see was my weight. Her answer was that I didn’t feel I had control of my life because I had no control over my weight. If I lost weight, I’d be fine.
Needless to say, I never saw her again and I failed every course that semester. I also withdrew the next semester. I worked at an amusement park that summer and was likely manic the whole time. I lived for five years with an undiagnosed psychiatric illness, mostly because I believed that anyone I asked for help would simply tell me to lose weight.
Today I’m back in school. I see my psychiatrist three times a year for refills. I’m being treated for PCOS. And I’m happy and healthy. But sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if that counselor had been able to see past my (hundred pounds lighter then) weight.