An unspoken issue

When I went to Take Back the Night on April 30, I was extremely impressed by the power of speech. To address such issues is to help others who have shared similar experiences, but who might not yet have spoken aloud. To discuss rape and sexual assault is also to help make public an issue that should not be private, an issue that should be widely recognized for its realities, for its dangers and for its potential to change.

As I listened to other students talk about issues that were so personal, I reflected on an occurrence in my life at Williams that deeply affected my college experience. I’m a senior now, about to graduate, and I was anorexic during my freshman year. Anorexia is a subject with a lot of stigma attached to it and it is a condition that is inherently personal. Though I don’t know for sure, it seems that anorexia is a subject that is spoken of behind closed doors at Williams, but one that rarely comes to be addressed on a community level. At least in my experience with anorexia, one of the hardest parts was feeling very alone, that there was nobody else I knew who felt the same way I did. Once I recovered, it became very important to me that others not feel the way I did. This letter, therefore, comes in the spirit of community and of open communication.

In my case, I was very fortunate. Although my anorexia developed over the course of many months, in April of my freshman year, I finally went to the health center and talked to Dale about what I thought was a potential problem. I ended up canceling a trip I was planning for the summer and going home to recover. I saw a nutritionist, a psychologist and a doctor for the entire summer, and with the help of these people and many other loved ones, I was much better in time to go back to school. Although the bulk of my recovery was fairly quick, it has taken a long time to feel separate from the illness.

During the spring of my sophomore year, I took Drawing 100, and for my final project I constructed a piece about my experience with anorexia. I gave it to the Health Center after I was done, and it hangs there now, behind the first set of double doors and across from Dale’s office. I like to think that sometimes students see it, and that it makes even a small difference.

I write all this because I really hope that it helps to read one person’s profile of anorexia, and of recovery. Nobody is alone, and if you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating in any form, there are many resources available. You can talk to anyone at the Health Center, Peer Health, JAs or friends and adults you trust. If you would like to talk to someone who has recovered from anorexia, or if you would like more information about my personal experience, please don’t hesitate to email me at 03kar. The most important thing is to get the conversation going. Anorexia does not have to be a sickness of isolation; we can fight it together. Best wishes.

Katie Rocker ’03