A couple of weeks ago I finished my first semester in college. It was an interesting couple of months to say the least. I wasn’t fully prepared for what a massive change moving from home would be. Moving certainly affected the eating disorder I had previously considered myself recovered from.
Finishing my first semester made me think about what a massive impact moving in general can have on an eating disorder.
Moving away from home is such an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially with mental health issues like an eating disorder.
It means moving away from an established support network of family and friends who and who are likely to know your triggers and needs very well.
When you move, you’re suddenly faced with an overwhelming amount of pressure. You have to make new friends, perhaps deal with finances for the first time, and possibly be completely in charge of your food for the first time. And if you’re starting college, you also have massive academic/work pressures. All these pressures can make it so easy to fall back into bad habits.
“What am I doing?”
When I started at university, I suddenly felt like I had no idea what I was doing. My anxiety was through the roof and my depression started to creep back. In the past I would always turn to food as a means of dealing with those problems.
Controlling food was a way of feeling as if I was in control of at least one aspect of my life, even though in reality it was the eating disorder controlling me.
It’s so easy to fall into unhealthy habits because you’re busy with school or work or just life. And you probably don’t have people around who will notice that you’re slipping because they don’t know you and your past struggles.
I knew that. And I started to use that to my advantage. I started to succumb to the temptation to restrict and to exploit exercise.
Fortunately, I’m at a point in my recovery where I was able to recognize these symptoms and get help.
With that, there were a few specific things that helped me get back on track. Here are four of them!
4 ways to stay on track when moving from home
1. Form a support network quickly
It may be difficult to open up about your past and current issues to friends you’ve just met, but even if this isn’t possible there are so many forms of support out there.
Make note of the mental health facilities at your university or in your new town. Within the first couple of weeks I made sure that I was registered with a doctor, and made my tutor and college aware of my mental health problems so that they knew that I might need support. Also, look out for local-support groups for eating disorders where you can meet up with people going through the same thing.
2. Keep in touch with friends and family back home
One of the amazing things about technology is that we have the possibility of talking to our loved ones 24/7. If your family and friends were an important part of your recovery back home, keep in touch.
It really helps to hear a familiar voice telling you they care about you and support you
3. Think pro-recovery (even when you don’t feel like it)
Reframing thoughts and words to be pro-recovery has been really important.
Carefully choose the language you use (for example: don’t take about “bad” foods versus “good” foods). Being thoughtful about the way you speak about food will not only help you begin thinking that way, but it will also inhibit the spreading of diet-culture in our society. Plus, you never know who may be struggling with an eating disorder or have some disordered behaviors around you that you aren’t aware of.
Change the dialogue around food until you begin to truly believe it!
4. Have compassion for yourself
At first, I was so frustrated at myself for struggling at college and having disordered thoughts again. However, I’ve come to realize that moving away from home is a really big life event.
The vast majority of people will be finding it really difficult too, although they most likely won’t show it. So have compassion for yourself and know that’s it’s okay to not be okay. Struggle and doubts are normal, but trust in yourself and remember everything that life without an eating disorder can give you.