cn: mention of disordered eating

I work part-time, with the option of doing quite a bit of my work remotely. So when I woke up this morning feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and nauseous, I had the option of sending my supervisor an email to let him know that I’d be in tomorrow, but that I needed to work from home today.

It turned out to be a good decision– I was just one straw away from an emotional explosion, and of course that straw dropped just minutes after I sent that email.

I will get to my work this afternoon, but this morning, clearly, another kind of work needed to happen.

My feeling upon waking up this morning brought me back to grade school. I haven’t been there in a while, and it was a scary moment.

Every morning for most of middle school and high school, I felt physically sick. Getting out the door was a huge struggle. By mid high-school, I could barely get two bites of toast in me. These days I cannot function without breakfast, it is basically my favorite thing in the world, and when I can, I eat it twice (I’m a hobbit / I’m hypoglycemic / I love breakfast). But I could hardly eat then because of my anxiety and disordered eating related to self-esteem.

I missed a lot of school. I was known for it. My teachers and classmates commented, a lot. They would shame me for it outright, or with attempted subtlety.

“How are you feeling today? You get sick a lot.”

“I wish my parents would let me stay home as much as yours do.”

“You know, you’re doing so well in my class, but that doesn’t mean you can miss school whenever you feel like it. That won’t work in the real world.” (Ie: “Tough it up, clinically depressed child. You’ll have to do this for the rest of your life, and my class is definitely more important than your mental health.”)

So, why did my parents let me miss so much school? As far as they were concerned, I could miss as much school as I wanted so long as I kept up my grades. I missed on average probably about a day every two weeks, sometimes more, but I graduated in the top 5% of my (very competitive) class.

This was probably better for my mental health than forcing me to always go to school, but it wasn’t good either. I was very depressed, and my parents failed to take any actions towards my wellbeing. I’m not really here to rail against my parents for failing me to give me a safe and supportive childhood and adolescence, although they did, and I am still dealing with the results of that.

What I’m wondering today is, why did my teachers approach me the way they did?

I know it is not the responsibility of high-school teachers to parent their students. But I was so, so clearly not okay– and I had so many teachers who pulled me aside to chastise me, instead of asking me if they could help. They commented on the paradox– the high-achieving student with so many absences– and then threatened to lower my grades if I continued to miss school. They were all willing to overlook me, for my grades. I didn’t asked for help because I had been trained not to. So, somehow, I got through it.

I remember a teacher telling me that “playing hooky wouldn’t fly in college”, as well as if it had happened yesterday. Even missing school, I was just spending the day at home doing my work, reading my lessons, getting it all done faster so I could read or make art. But I felt so deeply ashamed the next day that the anxiety of facing everyone just made it worse.

Guess what happened in college? I think I only missed a few days of classes, in all four years, when I was contagiously ill and physically unable to show up. Huh.

This morning after sending that email, I expected to feel that shame again. I actually started to, for a minute- and then I crushed it dead.

My supervisor legitimately doesn’t mind. And I’ll get the work done. I’m a very good employee — check my references–and I’m not a bad person. Today I’m taking the time I need to productively take care of my things, because I’m a person.

“That won’t work in the real world.”

Is that so.