For millions of girls and women all over the world, the pressure to resemble the ideal figure of a Barbie doll is overwhelming. The challenge, for many of us, is that we buy into the dream of Madison Avenue, in that, if we can be a size 2, we can achieve our goals and live a successful life. For me, this struggle to look perfect became a reality when I transferred from a small, Christian private school to a large, public high school. During that first, tumultuous school year, I struggled with self-confidence. Being the new kid at a large school was daunting. I was determined to achieve perfect grades and was playing club volleyball for a national team. Being a perfectionist had always worked for me before, but now it was taking a toll on my self-assurance.
As time went by, I started restricting my food intake to ensure that my ideal body image would be realized. Often, I would exercise before school and after school just to ensure that I burned up the calories consumed in the day. I started wearing oversized clothes and drinking water to fill my stomach. Because of my obsession, I lost thirty-three pounds in six months and suffered from pneumonia and loss of energy. My concentration waned and so did my health.
Luckily, I ended up in the hospital where I was diagnosed with anorexia and dehydration. My blood pressure was dangerously low. The doctors explained that if I did not start gaining weight, I could have irrevocable health damage to my organs and my bones. My parents stepped in and began working to find a program that specialized in healing teens with eating disorders. The cost of this program was tens of thousands of dollars and my parents were worried that they would not be able to pay for the extraordinary cost of this health care. My mom said she wanted the best money could buy but money was limited. We did not know how we were going to pay for the doctors, lab tests, medical therapies, and countless fees that are part of health care today.
As my parents searched for answers, they contacted the insurance company and found out that not only was this award-winning hospital in-network, but the dollar amount of my care would not exceed $2,500 for our family. Without this health insurance, I could not receive the much-needed care that was needed. The program we chose was the best in the country and boasted an 80% success rate. Our insurance paid for counseling and various medical therapies, In time, I learned how to accept my body as it should be and began to eat normally. Some of the steps I used to get better included using art therapy, and yoga. Both of those techniques allowed me to thrive and restore my health. Also, I was lucky enough to work with an amazingly dedicated medical team who understood how to support our entire family with information and understanding.
The educational team taught us that the phenomenon of body dysmorphic disorder affects about 1 in 50 people. As time went on, I learned how societal pressures and media influences people into believing that the perfect woman is 5’10 and weighs only 120 pounds. Realistically, a woman at that body weight and height has a body mass index of 17.2 and doctors believe that anything under 18.5 is underweight. The medical professionals taught us all the risks of being underweight including osteoporosis, cardiac problems, anemia, and deficiencies in nutrition.
My career goals long-term are to achieve an undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in psychology and then a graduate degree as a Physician’s Assistant so that I can help heal people. Motivating me to help others is the knowledge that “beautiful is not a number”. Instead, it is “giving up what weighs you down,” and accepting yourself for you, not the “ideal body image”.
Today, I am a healthy, confident young woman. This would not have been possible if our insurance company had not met our financial need. More than anything, I want to pay this knowledge forward and help those in the future who will need someone like me to show them that there is always a solution for any problem. Having shared my story with my Bible Study group this year at church has been empowering for me because I realize that having personal knowledge of overcoming a problem helps others with their own struggles. I will never forget the lessons I learned and am looking forward to a future in medicine.
Insurance is important to me because the financial resources provided through insurance helped me not only survive, but thrive. Without insurance benefits, we would have never been able to afford the high healthcare costs. I might have never known the potential I have to help others and pursue my dream of completing college and becoming a medical professional. I am truly blessed.
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