Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

I recently started a food blog to share my own vegetarian recipes. I love food and I adore cooking, so it made sense to share that on my own little corner of the internet. I have had a somewhat turbulent relationship with food in the past, so I usually stick to a “happy-clappy” tone. I’m passionate about vegetables, the environment, and maintaining a healthy relationship with food, and I always try to fill my blog with colourful photos and nice little anecdotes to keep things positive. But right now, I just can’t do that. I don’t feel like I can post about food in such a positive way when that is so far from how I feel about food right now.

A big part of the problem is my fear of getting sick. The many millions of cogs in my brain have twisted my thoughts so that I believe that the worst possible thing that could happen to me is getting ill. It is deeply psychological and complicated, but basically it all boils down to a need for control. Most of the time I am quite able to manage this, but in times of stress it just pops back up again and I don’t know how to ground myself in rational thoughts. I can’t help but exclude certain foods from my diet that I see as “unsafe.” I often don’t know how to finish a meal without feeling so worried that anxiety takes over my whole body. Rationally, I know that this is just my body perceiving danger and responding in the only way I have taught it how: by engaging in obsessive behaviour. Knowing this has helped me to gain a huge sense of control in the past, but sometimes I struggle to curb those feelings. This is something that I have grown pretty used to, but it feels like there is a bit more to it this time round.

I have gradually been losing weight for the last three months or so. It hasn’t really been on purpose, I have just been getting fitter, running more, and eating healthily. More and more people keep pointing out my weight to me, and it seems to have turned this genuinely positive desire to get healthier and happier into a bit of an obsession. I am subconsciously allowing it to clog up my head so much that I have sort of fallen out of love with food.

I don’t know a single girl my age who hasn’t felt body conscious at some point in her life, so this isn’t a new phenomenon. I remember being as young as 7 and thinking that I was fat. I have been through the calorie counting phase and I have definitely hated my body at points throughout my teens. I think that, sadly, this is pretty normal. Usually the love I have for food has overpowered these feelings. Food and cooking have always been such a big part of my life that I never seriously felt like this was something I was willing to sacrifice for the sake of looking thin.

Recently however, this has not been the case. I have started seeing certain foods as “unclean.” A few weeks ago I panicked after putting on 300 grams in two days. Soon after, I went out with friends for lunch and burst into tears after eating my pasta. That night I had planned to make a mushroom risotto to take pictures of and post on my blog. If I hadn’t been making it for my boyfriend as well, I probably would have given it a miss.

To say that making my risotto healed me would be a total lie. Phobias and obsessions run so deep that it just isn’t possible to cook a tasty meal and be cured of your worries. But it does remind me that I am in control; I am the one who can reclaim the power that food has over me by turning it into something joyful. I suppose that spending a Friday night making this risotto after a day of feeling so negative about food was my own little way of doing that.

I don’t feel this negativity all the time, and I really do believe in my own ability to get in control of this again. I am so passionate about food and the joy it can bring into our lives, I love the feeling of sharing a good meal with friends and I know that food can make me feel strong, healthy, and happy.  I’m not cured, but I am hopeful that my passions run deeper than my fears.

Originally Published at steensbeans.home.blog.

Subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis