Two years ago, for my 18th birthday, my Dad did something very unique. Using his eye for detail and his expert DIY craftsmanship skills, he took scrap wood in our garage and personally cut, sanded, nailed, glued, and hand-painted it to construct a photo frame. Inside the frame he placed my school yearbook pictures from Kindergarten through 12th grade and arranged them around my high-school graduation photo. For the final touch, he inscribed my full name below it and added my tassels, honor cords, and diploma. Today it hangs on the wall in my room and reminds me how much I’ve grown and achieved.
Some siblings don’t get along with each other, but my sister and I are best friends. Being an older sibling teaches you valuable life lessons and these lessons become incredibly important when your sibling is dealing with any kind of serious illness. The first lesson I learned from supporting my sister throughout her treatment was how to be selfless. During her recovery, I accepted the fact that my parents needed to direct the majority of their energy and focus towards helping her get better – I was never resentful that they no longer had much time and attention for me. Secondly, I learned how to be supportive. Today, she and I have an unspoken understanding with each other, we never judge each other, and we can say anything to each other in complete confidence.
Finally, and most importantly, I learned how to show unconditional love. It never crosses my mind to argue when she claims the shotgun seat, or wants the last piece of cake, and I always pick up the tab when we go out together. Of course there are moments when she borrows my clothes without asking and doesn’t return them, but little feuds like that are a small price to pay for the incredible relationship that I have with my sister. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to lose her, and I will never underestimate the value of our friendship.
No matter where my sister decides to attend college this fall, (although I have highly biased that decision considering the fact that a large percentage of her wardrobe consists of Carolina-blue T-shirts) I want her to feel like she is in the most positive, safe, and inclusive environment possible. Incoming first-years are especially vulnerable during their transition to college and I defiantly worry about how one’s previous experience with an eating disorder might make this transition more difficult. The statistics on eating disorder prevalence among college students are staggering, but I think it’s important to realize that the 1 person in 5 who is experiencing an eating disorder is more just a statistic. These are real people - someone’s brother, someone’s sister, someone’s mother, daughter, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.
For me, joining Embody Carolina and getting trained was a no-brainer, because devoting my time and energy to projects that will effect positive change for my sister and countless other students with stories like hers is invaluable. I hope that she sees me as a role model, and each time that I walk away from an Embody meeting, I appreciate that her future might be a tiny bit better because of the work that I and all the other allies at Embody are doing.
Just as I have done for my sister, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities to serve as an ally for your friends and family, no matter what the cause. I think we could all benefit from the comfort of knowing that there exists a loving, supportive network of people behind us.
You can register for an Embody Carolina training to learn how to be a compassionate and effective ally here.