By Alyssa Sanford
The National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Monologues on Thursday, March 3, featured seven speakers who have struggled with eating disorders and insecurities with body image, but the overwhelming theme of the evening was self-love and acceptance.
Standing at the podium in the Library Auditorium facing dozens of members of the College community, these speakers shared their stories and struggles. Some were painful to recollect and difficult for friends and peers to hear. Nonetheless, the audience took in each monologue with compassionate silence.
Senior math major Rose Costanzo spoke frankly about her forays into emotionally abusive relationships, a pattern that she connects to her past struggles with body image and self-love.
“I loved to love others,” Costanzo said. “Unfortunately, not everyone gives back the love they receive.”
Costanzo revealed that it took years for her to come to terms with her eating disorder and that it wasn’t until she transferred to the College in her sophomore year that she “decided to take control back” and finally help herself.
“Here I stand, telling the story of a once-broken girl,” Costanzo said. “I no longer feel broken.”
Junior elementary and urban education double major Maureen Hudson talked about her experiences with meditation and how it has helped her cope with a negative body image.
“I woke up to the present moment,” Hudson said. “(And) It felt better than any amount of food could.”
Because eating disorders and body dysmorphia are considered mental illnesses by organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the speakers didn’t pretend that their struggles were completely over.
Lauren Plawker, a junior clinical psychology major who, by her own admission, is “holistically better” now than she was even a year ago, said she is still working toward acceptance.
Plawker co-founded the College’s Student Alliance to Facilitate Empathy (SAFE) in 2014 to provide a supportive and all-inclusive environment for students that is stigma-free. Plawker thanked another speaker “for getting me back up here” to share more of her story at the monologues once again.
“It gets better… when you acknowledge your situation,” Plawker said. “It is finally better when you learn to love yourself.”
Senior political science major Francesca Buarne told her story about struggling with an eating disorder in her junior year of high school. Buarne said that she was pleasantly surprised that she is “in a better place five years later.”
“I felt everything in life was against me, but really, I was against myself,” Buarne said.
Junior journalism major Kelly Corbett, who covered the monologues last year for The Signal, admitted that since her recent diagnosis with an eating disorder, she’s “been doing better… A lot better than I was a year ago.”
In spite of the challenges with which Corbett has dealt, she said she looks at her experiences as an opportunity to learn more about mental illness.
According to NEDA’s website, “the goal of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is to put the spotlight on eating disorders and improve public understanding of their causes, dangers and treatments. Millions of people across the country suffer from eating disorders, but by increasing awareness and access to resources, we can encourage early detection and intervention.”
The speakers reflected an awareness that their stories also represent the silent struggles of others within the campus community. They each offered bits of advice for audience members: surround yourself with people who want to lift you up, refuse to define yourself in terms of your appearance and recognize that you don’t know everyone’s story.
The message of the night was best reflected by Plawker’s words, “Be strong. Be brave. Be kind and be-you-tiful.”
The College offers resources for students who might need help dealing with eating disorders and other mental health struggles. Counseling and Psychological Services, which sponsored the event, is a free on-campus resource staffed by counseling professionals who offer group and individual therapy sessions.
The National Eating Disorder Association offers a helpline — (800) 931-2237 — and a click-to-chat feature on its website so help is easily accessible for anyone struggling.