Editor’s note: This story includes mention of eating disorders. A list of resources can be found on the National Eating Disorder Association website or through their helpline. I remember the first time I heard those words. Freshman year, I was getting ready for a party when my friend casually mentioned her trick to stay skinny after a night out. I could feel my cheeks burn and my heart to race. My secret was out. Urban Dictionary defines pulling trigger when “you stick your fingers down your throat in order to throw up.” I was fifteen years old when I fell into the inescapable cycle of restricting, bingeing and purging. It started as a one time thing. I looked at myself in the mirror, eyes blurry with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. A one time thing became once in a while, and once in a while became too often. Life was chaotic and painful, but I had stumbled upon a way to regain a sense of control. At sixteen, I stood in front of a room of 40 girls at a high school retreat and released the weight of the burden I had been carrying for an entire year. I was spiraling. The control I once thought I had was suddenly a violent force of self destruction propelling me toward a statistic. At seventeen, I sat on the couch in the office of a dietician. She told me I needed to eat three meals and three snacks a day. I told her to go to hell. So when I was eighteen and my friend suggested that “pulling trig” would be a viable solution to a problem, a part of my heart broke. I have been in recovery from anorexia and bulimia for almost three years now, but hearing those two words never gets old. My cheeks still get red and my heart begins to race. The same embarrassment and disgust I felt at fifteen remains unchanged. There is nothing romantic about the way an eating disorder slowly gains control over your life. There is nothing glamorous about a toilet bowl and a tile floor. There is no pride in the announcement that you have, in fact, tried “pulling trig,” and it nearly destroyed your entire life. The scary thing about diet culture is that it permeates every part of your life. Going out on a Friday night is no longer fun. Rather, you glance around the room, evaluating whether or not you look skinnier than your friend. You don’t like the way those jeans look on your waist, but at least you didn’t eat dinner. Or lunch. Plus you brought your Mio with you, so you don’t have to worry about wasting calories. This culture is dangerous because it is “normal.” Behavior like this can’t possibly be disordered when everyone else is doing it. But what if I told you that it isn’t? What if I told you that every 52 minutes, someone dies because one day they decided that what they were doing was harmless, healthy even? Notre Dame is an incredible place to be because of the people who exist here. I have never met so many talented and passionate people in one space before. I believe that every student at this University is here because they are meant to be. The space they take up matters. Notre Dame can also be a difficult place to exist. Many of those talented and passionate people are carrying the unbearable weight of lies and deceit that come with a culture of self hatred and perfectionism. It pains me to see the same guilt and shame I have carried through my journey of recovery dwell in this community. To the incredible people here at Notre Dame: Take time to recognize just how important the space you take up is. Consider the possibility that constantly diminishing your presence is a disservice to the people around you. Making yourself smaller will never be the solution to the chaos of this life. Speaking this truth is not easy. It is ugly and oftentimes shameful to admit. However, this honesty is necessary. The normalization of guilt and shame when it comes to our physical existence on this planet should not be a weekend ritual. And so I ask the students at this University to be brave, to be honest, to be real. To take the first step in denouncing this trap we have fallen into. How much longer must we punish ourselves for simply being?
President of the Eating Disorder Awareness Club