I’ve tried to forget high school as much as I can. Gone. Completely erase it from my head, from history.

I can vividly remember some days from middle school – more than seven years ago, now – than I can from my entire senior year. But there’s a reason for that.

You see, when I was a freshman, I was diagnosed with the triple crown of mental disorders, mental diseases if you will:

depression, anxiety, and anorexia.

It’s hard – no, more like excruciating – to live in a constant state of hunger, of apprehension, and meanwhile detach yourself emotionally from those surrounding you with love and support. And it’s even harder – statistically speaking – to live beyond it.

But around that same time, I was also diagnosed with a cover-up label, a label that has skirted my professional life and my personal life ever since:

the overachiever.

You see, the classmates in my Biology lab or show-choir didn’t know I was anything but an extra hard-working young woman. Sure, I looked gaunt, a little emaciated – but that was because I worked myself to the bone, they said. She just needs rest, they said.

They had no idea.

It took me five years – five years of therapy, self-awareness, and dedication – to overcome the severe malnutrition and mental strain I felt nearly every single day throughout my high school education. Meanwhile, I somehow managed to graduate in the top 5% of my senior class of 549, with distinguished honors.

I was living half a life, half a truth, half of who I was – of who I am and always will be.

I am not particularly proud of my mental illness, nor do I wish it upon any one of my peers for comparison. But it’s something I cannot – and I hope you understand when I say this – easily forget.

The scars – both physical and emotional – have continued to linger, like dust rising from the ashes of a burning savannah. They manifest on my darkest days, and lie dormant even on my best.

Though I have managed to live a comparatively healthy life in college, I am beginning to challenge the path I set for myself, in light of a recent reawakening.

I have, both in word and in my actions, devoted myself entirely to the cause of environmental awareness. It’s a passion that has always resonated with my way of being, with my view of the world, and I have let people know it exists.

But, that general environmental mission is still a little too broad – and perhaps, I’m wondering, has led me astray from my true calling.

I have not forgotten that there are other women in this world – women not as fortunate as myself – who continue to live a life crippled by the calorie, fatigued by failure and miserable by movement. I am one of the fortunate few who have continued to live past such bleakness and have managed to shield most of my misery from the public eye.

But perhaps – as is the case with most events in life – there was a reason for all of this hardship. Perhaps I am meant to be a voice of comfort, of understanding, of experience for anxiety and disordered eating, instead of just blindly pasting over every square inch of evidence from these five years of hell.

As much I as I’d like – and maybe should – forget, I simply cannot. Like everyone’s first love, some memories are no so easily erasable.

And perhaps there is a way to draw together issues of food and social consciousness, of women empowerment, with a larger environmental understanding. These intersections of life-sustaining nutrients and life-giving Earth may be more connected than I can comprehend at this current moment in time.

But for now, I have come to realize that I am not satisfied with locking away part of my past for the future good. What solace will I find if my outward attitude does not reflect my inward experience?

I believe there is a destiny for me – as there is for all of us – and a reason for these struggles and these seemingly unrelated passions of mine.

I just need to figure out what that may be.

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