The Valley Echo

Rachel Cohen

This is the second installment of This Is My Story, an eight part series. In this article, PV junior Lauren Smith tells her mental health story with an eating disorder.

This Is My Story: Lauren Smith

(Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and The Smoke Signal asked Pascack Valley students that struggled with their mental-health to tell their stories, some of which may contain sensitive content. This is the second article of an eight part series.)

Growing up, I was a “normal” child. I had a good group of friends, I got average grades, and I was happy. The only thing that was relatively different about me compared to most of my friends was that my parents were divorced and had been since I was two.

My mother was sick throughout most of her life and passed away when I was about 8-years-old, causing my life to change. I remember having an immensely hard time coming to terms with her death. Not long after that, I was forced to move in with my father, but we did not have the best relationship. Although I struggled with moving in with my dad and dealing with the loss of my mother, I learned to cope with these issues.

It was not until seventh grade when I started struggling again. Being bullied for years about my appearance and personality, I developed depression and mild anxiety along with an eating disorder that soon followed. It suddenly felt that everything I previously loved and cared about seemed meaningless.

Life suddenly had lost all of its color. I would see everything in black and white.

Life suddenly had lost all of its color. I would see everything in black and white.

At first, I did not try to hide my pain. I would not bother faking a smile and acting like I was okay, but little did I know I would lose most of my friends due to my constant negativity, which made matters worse. I began self harming, leaving scars all over my body. Giving others a reason to stare.

In April of seventh grade, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt, but I was not aware that this would not be my only attempt. I began seeing a therapist weekly after my hospitalization but did not continue going for longer than a month because I did not see a positive change as quickly as I expected.

My struggles continued to get worse until my next suicide attempt a little over a year later. In eighth grade, I ended up in the hospital again and I decided to go back to therapy.

Over time, my eating disorder got increasingly worse, and I became obsessed with the number on the scale. I refused to eat for days at a time and then eating days worth of food in one sitting. Because of this, my weight would plummet and jump constantly. This is when I finally got diagnosed with an eating disorder that I had been struggling with for years.

I found out I had Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). I was told that I was suffering from malnutrition and was at a risk of more severe health problems. I dealt with this eating disorder for years, constantly living in fear of gaining weight.

During my freshman year of high school, my eating disorder hit its peak and I was constantly depressed and anxious. I could not maintain my friendships, causing me to almost always feel alone. A few months after another suicide attempt, I decided to go into recovery.

I noticed that my depression was a lot easier to manage during my sophomore year. My anxiety, though, did get worse. During this time, I became manager for an Eating Disorder Awareness Campaign called Need to bEAT, an attempt to help others understand that they are not alone.

For the first time in a while, I started to feel not only happy, but loved.

Over the span of my sophomore year, I went to the Joan’s Joy Child Safety Fun Fest for Need to bEAT and hosted an eating disorder awareness benefit concert, where I raised over $300 for eating disorder research. Towards the end of sophomore year, I met my girlfriend who showed me her constant support since day one.

For the first time in a while, I started to feel not only happy, but loved.

When junior year started, everything began to go downhill. I relapsed into severe self harm and my depression and anxiety hit their peak. It was almost impossible for me to get out of bed in the morning. I started separating from my close friends and could not find joy in almost anything. Within the first few months of junior year, I got hospitalized twice for my severe self harm.

After starting therapy again and getting medications to help with my depression and anxiety, I started recovery once again.

Currently, I am fighting an emotional battle everyday, but I know that I will be successful and I will live life to the fullest.

I am strong enough to push through my struggles and I am not defined by my mental health.

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