Tonight is opening night for Jonesboro High School Speech and Drama’s production, EAT (It’s Not About Food).
As someone who has been out of high school for five years now, it may seem a little odd for me to be posting about such an event. Off the top of my head, I can’t say if I know any of the actors or stage crew. But I know the issue they are tackling.
EAT opens the door to the world of eating disorders. And while this door has always existed, we often choose, as with most mental health and illness issues, to ignore that door and the issues beyond it.
Over the past year, I have become more outspoken about my long battle with bulimia and anorexia. It was a battle that nearly ended my life. It wasn’t until my hospitalization that I agreed to seek out treatment and even then, I didn’t want to get better.
Because it was never really about appearances. Yes, I wanted to be thinner, but not for the sake of being thinner. I thought erasing the weight would make me happy. Then, when the happiness never came, my restriction and purging became more about control. In the chaos of high school, college, bullies and messed up societal standards, my eating habits became the one thing I could control. I felt strong, even though I was literally shutting down.
I tell you all this because that is how confusing and consuming eating disorders are. Before my illness, I never truly understood how eating disorders can devour someone. Eating disorders were just a lesson in my health textbook, something that we all laughed about and joked about. No one I knew talked about them on a personal level because it wasn’t seen as acceptable to have one.
That is why what JHS Drama is undertaking is so important. While I was at JHS, I was purging in the English hall bathroom. I was running endless laps around the track. I was starting down a path that would define my next seven years. Perhaps exposure to a serious discussion about eating disorders could have made me feel less like a failure for asking for help; because, and I can’t stress this enough, having an eating disorder or asking for help does not make you failure.
Eating disorders are different for every person. I hope members of the Jonesboro community can attend and use this opportunity to further dismantle the stigma around mental health conversations. And to Mrs, Tucker and the entire JHS Speech and Drama Department, thank you for helping fuel these conversations. These conversations, as well as spreading awareness about St. Bernard’s eating disorder clinic, can help save lives and give hope. Your efforts make me proud to be a JHS alumni, and more specifically, a JHS Drama Alumni.
Talking about mental health isn’t bad and neither is asking for help. For more information on clinics in the Arkansas area, here are a few websites: