Hello, my name is Allison Heimsath and I am a Sophomore Hospitality student at Missouri State University. During my almost two years at Missouri State, I have accomplished more than I could’ve ever imagined. I became a SOAR leader and a Hospitality Ambassador for the Hospitality Leadership Department, got a job at an amazing hotel, and I am currently on a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain. All of these things that I have done, and continue to do, make Missouri State feel like my home and I am extremely happy. I am grateful every day for these opportunities because I know I could’ve never accomplished them if I wasn’t open and honest about my struggles with eating disorders.
People sometimes think that eating disorders are something to be ashamed about or something to hide and I am here to tell you that is entirely false. I have been struggling with anorexia and bulimia since I was a Junior in high school. I got so far away from reality, lost in the disease, that I almost didn’t come out of it. I probably wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for my mom pulling me up and my willingness to fight to recover. Recovery doesn’t come easy, and sometimes people in recovery have bad days, and that’s okay.
I was in recovery when I started college and I had been doing really well. I hadn’t relapsed in a long time and I started seeing my counselor less because I felt so much better. The problem with eating disorder recovery is that stressful situations can sometimes trigger eating disorder thoughts and feelings. The amazing things about college include: New friends, sleepless nights, free food (EVERYWHERE), and less structure. But unfortunately for people in recovery, these amazing things are some of the most stressful to endure.
During my freshman year, it wasn’t always a fairy tale and sometimes I even felt like I wasn’t strong enough to stay on campus. In these times, I relied on my support system the most; my parents. My parents allowed me to call them anytime, day or night, and they would always answer. And believe me, there were many 3AM phone calls. They would let me cry on the phone and talk through how I felt. They would tell me I was okay, because sometimes I just needed to hear it. When you are struggling with an eating disorder, reality can get distorted. It almost feels as though everything is coming down on you at once, the walls are closing in, and you can’t breathe. When I felt this way, I would call my parents and simply vent and take deep breaths.
Recovering from an eating disorder is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but it is also the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I mean, I am writing from Spain and I promise I would’ve never gotten here if I didn’t choose recovery.
Tips for students
- Enjoy less structure, not everything needs to be planned
- Enjoy the free food! (Only if you want too)
- Enjoy sleepless nights, these will be some of your favorite memories
- Don’t get overwhelmed by the dining hall and you don’t always have to get a salad
- It’s okay to feel sad, but don’t let it control you
- Find an outlet to relieve stress (mine is journaling)
- Go to the counseling center if you need it
- Help your family members help you
- Remember this quote, “Wherever you are, be all there” –Jim Elliot
Tips for Family Members
- Let your student call you, don’t let them feel alone
- Let them cry and vent, but don’t get in the car and drive to Springfield
- They will be okay, remind them of that
- Ask them what you can do to help
- Check in on them, but not too much
- Don’t tell them their feelings are wrong, ever
- If they need to come home for a weekend, let them
- Recommend the counseling center