A Community of Strangers
"Are you bulimic?
You aren't fat, why do you do this to yourself?
Just take some Pepto, that will make you feel better.
There isn't anything actually wrong with you."
Before having an official diagnosis, these are things that I often heard from people when we went out to eat, or they heard a little piece of what was going on in my life, or my symptoms. Before and even after getting a diagnosis, I felt like nobody understood what I was going through. I wasn't big on the whole online support groups and didn't think I would like in person support groups.
A month after my diagnosis, I felt so alone. I felt misunderstood. Then I began looking up hashtags on Instagram related to my illness and symptoms. I started following people, because that's what you do on social media and don't think it's weird to follow complete strangers. However, I noticed they were all getting covered by the rest of my feed, so I made a whole separate account to follow people. I started messaging different people to ask advise or see what they are going through, and found that there are so many people out there who understand what I am going through, even though I may not actually know them.
After another month, I decided to start sharing my story, which was absolutely terrifying. This opened up a very vulnerable side to the world, that I had never shared before. While I was absolutely terrified with every post in the beginning, I began to realize even more that there are people out there just like me. through sharing my story, I have met people who I have never met in person but know I can text at any hour of the day and they will be there to support me or give advise based on their experience. I have also noticed that people at my college who used to ask me, ""Are you bulimic?
You aren't fat, why do you do this to yourself?" now follow the account to learn about my illnesses and what people like me have to go through, as well as ask questions so they can get clarification and seek a better understanding.
Three years ago when I began this journey, if you had asked me where I thought I would be today, I would have told you "alone and lost." However, three years later, I can tell you that I am not alone. You are not alone. You don't have to necessarily create a page dedicated to your illnesses like I did, there are amazing Facebook Groups and other resources out there. The biggest advise I can give to anyone battling a chronic illness is to seek out a community of strangers (not sketchy ones though). You won't regret it and they may turn out to be some of the most influential, supportive, and caring people you know.