Letter to the Editor: Feeling Validated After an Invalidating Rowan Wellness Center Experience

McGraw discusses the various challeneges and triumphs with mental health that she has had on Rowan University campuses. - Contributor / Jennifer McGraw

Hello all,

I’m a recent graduate of Rowan University hoping to return en route to my master’s degree. 

My two short years at Rowan happened during the peak of the pandemic. When I started, most if not all clubs and classes were online. To alleviate my mental health, I utilized the great resources Rowan has and sought out therapy with the Wellness Center.

The Wellness Center offers various types of treatment for Rowan students to fit their schedules and needs. These services include group or one-on-one therapy, more consultations, or clinical workshops. 

I found that one-on-one therapy was best for me as I felt most comfortable just talking about personal issues and family history with one person. For the first time, I also brought up experiences I had over the years relating to poor relationships with food and exercise. 

I received further consultations before solo therapy and talked to a specialist in eating, weight, and body image disorders. After what felt more like an interrogation in a courtroom surrounded by those eager to catch a lie, the staff member told me I couldn’t have a problem with my relationship with food and exercise considering my weight. They said that this issue was merely a diet I was on and that diets are healthy. 

Over time, I started to believe this and gaslighted myself into thinking that I was only dieting, but I was still mentally struggling.

This past September, I started taking myself seriously and focusing on my mental health journey by combining therapy and healthy coping mechanisms that work for me. Holding myself accountable is not easy, especially when it’s a battle of mental illness over wanting to be healthy, but it’s worth it.

On Tuesday night, I was scrolling through TikTok before bed (because who doesn’t do that?) and I came across a video of Tess Holliday, a plus-size model, and blogger, who brought up an article from the New York Times that came out the same day. The headline of the article read “You Don’t Look Anorexic.” I was instantly hooked. 

The article goes on to talk about the stories of two women who were shocked to find out they have atypical anorexia because of the weight bias attached to the disorder. Atypical anorexia is where an individual meets all of the criteria for anorexia nervosa and although they might have significant weight loss, the individual’s weight is within or above the normal range. 

The article also talks about the new research showing how societal assumptions associated with eating disorders is wrong and how larger-bodied people are silently suffering from both the disorder and its weight bias.

Though I’ve never been formally diagnosed, it’s still very validating that my struggles are real and not just “dieting.” 

I think this is something that the Rowan Wellness Center should start being aware of if more students come forward about their own issues. It’s important that the Wellness Center takes what its students say seriously when it comes to the issues they face, but the new research on atypical anorexia will bring relief and validation to those who feel like they are silently struggling. 

Thank you!

Jennifer McGraw

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