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1904273_10202117992566022_1569013516_nAlexa Witcofsky

Current City: Harrisonburg, VA

Topics: Eating Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, College Life

When I turned 18, I headed off to College at James Madison University in Virginia. I knew very few people at the school and was too shy to meet new people, so I put my focus on classes. I finished my freshman year with a great GPA, but nothing else to show. I had made only one or two good friends, I wanted to transfer schools, and I was experiencing anxiety and depression I had never felt before. A lot of these feelings manifested as hatred towards my body and I decided that being “healthier” would be my focus for the summer. I started to count calories and restrict, but convinced myself it would make me look better and feel better about myself. I didn’t realize how out of control things had gotten until a few days before I returned to college. This was the first time I broke down crying about food. I had spent the whole summer isolated, depressed, and so in my eating disorder that I didn’t know how to function without it. By February, I was no longer healthy mentally or physically, and I realized I couldn’t fight it by myself. I left school and went to the west coast for treatment.

Standing here, a year after leaving school, I can honestly say this was the best decision I have made. Not only have I been able to reclaim my life, but this experience also gave me new direction. I got to learn so much about myself through my struggle, and I know I can use this for good. Now, finishing up my junior year of college, I aspire to be a mental health nurse practitioner to help those who feel alone in their battles.

 Why Where I Stand: Because together we have hope for a better future. I want to advocate for mental health and everyone who has ever felt stigmatized by a diagnosis. We don’t have to hide our struggles in life. As a nursing student, the way I look at mental illness is: My lungs are organs, my brain is an organ. Why is it okay to tell people that I have pneumonia, but not that I’m depressed? I know that by telling my story and connecting with others who share this passion, there are many positive changes that can be made.

 Interests/Hobbies: Hiking, Music, Yoga, Watching videos of pygmy goats online

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