Living With An Anorexic

Last year when I decided to move onto campus, I went to residence life and asked if there were any available rooms. I was told that there were three doubles that had only one person living in them. I decided to live in the room in Shriner, the most recently renovated dorm that is all-female. 

My roommate’s name was Brittany Pierceall, and I messaged her on Facebook to let her know I’d be moving in after the weekend. 

I didn’t know her, but my friends knew her and said she was a really nice and stylish girl, so I had a good feeling about things. Since living with her, she has become one of my two best friends, and I know I can share anything with her. 

So, I decided to interview her and get some insight about what it is like living with someone like me.


What went through your mind when you found out that a roommate you were randomly assigned to was battling an eating disorder?

I still remember the day I found out I was being assigned to a random roommate.  I was at home with my family, talking about how lonely my single had become, wishing I had someone with whom I could share my down time.  I had received a Facebook message from a girl I had never met, and her name was Erin Droneburg.  She explained how she was excited to be moving in and that she hoped I wouldn’t be mad at her for taking away my single.  Mad, not a chance.  Apprehensive, maybe just a little.  In this technological age, of course I chose to “Facebook stalk” her after I had received her message.  Small things had come up exposing her battle with an eating disorder.  It worried me to know that she had gone through such a traumatic struggle, and I was unaware as to how she was handling everything she had gone through.  However, the very first night we both spent in the dorm room, she gave me great insight into her struggle.  She showed me her book from Remuda, and I quickly knew that she was sharing an extremely vulnerable side to me.  I knew she had to be a strong person if she was brave enough to open up to a complete stranger.  In some ways, I still believe that this first night together set the tone for our friendship.  I knew I would be there for her if she ever needed me.  I felt as if it would be beneficial for both of us to go through the experience together.


Did you think that it was going to be hard living with me?

Your openness the very first night assured me that living with you was not going to be difficult.  There’s always that awkwardness when you’re first meeting someone, and the more apparent awkwardness when you’re first meeting the person with whom you’re going to live with for a year . Although I was aware of your eating disorder, in no way did that deter me from wanting to live with you or getting to know you.  At that point in your struggle, it was evident to me that you were defining yourself by your eating disorder, constantly worried about what others would say if they found out or how you were going to handle eating around others.  Living with you was going to be an enjoyable experience I believed; however, I knew living with me, as well as with everyone else on campus, was going to be difficult for you.


Knowing that you’re a psych major, in some ways did me being your roommate give you real-life experience and insight about the things that you were learning about?

In a way, getting to know you and to understand your struggle did provide insight into my major.  I wasn’t necessarily learning about eating disorders or how the brain rationalizes eating little to no food, yet I was able to truly understand the pain and the struggle behind it.  That’s something that a textbook can never teach me.  I was able to go through your hard times as you were experiencing them, laughing with you when you needed a good laugh and crying with you when you needed someone in whom to confide.  The greatest blessing of our friendship, in my opinion, is that we both have been able to learn something from one another.  Somehow, experiencing your struggle in such a way has greatly helped me to appreciate those who are battling with various problems, as well as to realize that I made the correct decision to become a psychology major.


I know that I’ve certainly had my fair share of really hard struggles with this, did you ever notice eating disorder-behaviors and not know what to do or to say anything?

There were days where your struggle did not seem all that difficult, but there were also days where you seemed to be losing faith in your ability to keep up the strength to keep fighting.  Those were the days that concerned me because I didn’t always know what was the best thing to say to you.  I would recognize that you wouldn’t look in the mirror after you would get dressed, or that sometimes you spent awhile figuring out what to wear.  Some days while we were at meals, you would push your food around the plate or only take small bites of whatever you were eating.  It was difficult to speak up because I felt as if it wasn’t my place to say anything.  Looking back, I believe it was my responsibility as a friend to make sure that you were keeping up with your meal plan and helping you to get through the hard times.  These experiences only aided in understanding how to handle the difficult situation of having a friend who is suffering from an eating disorder.  People don’t always know what to say, or necessarily have to know what to say, but they do need to make themselves available so that their loved ones can talk when they are ready.


My blog now is about learning to use coping mechanisms and skills to overcome stress; how do you deal with stress in your life?

Music plays a large part in helping me to overcome my stress.  Music allows me to experience the emotions I may be feeling without opening up to the world.  Lyrics always take me back to a time or place that I would love to relive, taking me away from my stressful situation for a small bit of time.  Yes, reality always comes crashing back when the music is turned off, but that’s where my friends and family come into play.  Talking to my loved ones always de-stresses any situation, allowing me to get my stressors off my chest and to move on with my life.  Having a strong support system is necessary for pretty much any situation, and I appreciate that I have such loving people in my life.


Talking down about oneself is a very common thing for women in America, do you ever think twice about doing it around me?

Unfortunately, I have the terrible habit of talking negatively about myself when I’m having those times of doubt.  There have been times where I have said something negatively about my appearance and I immediately looked at you to see if I had said something wrong or offensive.  Especially when we were first getting to know each other, I tried to keep the self-deprecation to a minimum.  Although I may have small insecurities about myself that others find insignificant, I knew that your insecurities touched you on a much deeper level and I should be understanding and realize that my meaningless words could actually offend you or trigger negative thoughts within your mind.  In no way did I want to cause something negative to happen to you as a result of something I had said in passing.


You’ve been there to see me come out of a depression, can you point out any major things that have helped me with that?

Witnessing your struggle to recovery, depression was a large factor in overcoming any obstacles you were experiencing.  The first major thing that I believe helped you was moving out of your parents’ house and deciding to live in the dorms.  Gaining a sense of independence is scary when just coming out of treatment, but living in the house where your eating disorder originated, in my opinion, could have been slightly detrimental to recovering.  By living in the dorms, you were able to make new friends and to put yourself out into the real world.  You were able to see how people who are not afflicted with an eating disorder handle food consumption, as well as how people your age enjoy their time.  Gaining new friendships brought you into your own person again and allowed you to see yourself as more than just your struggle.  Recently, the biggest thing that has helped you out of your depression was finding such an influential person in your life: Javier.  Since he’s come around, we’ve all been able to see a change in you.  This biggest thing to help you thus far has been your team of specialists to help you, such as your therapist, dietician, and personal trainer.  This support system is one that every person should have when undergoing the changes you have had to experience.


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