By: Lillian Lema, Staff Writer
Accepting oneself can be a very long and exhausting journey, but the outcome is freedom. USM student Prashiddhi Pokhrel opens up about her struggles with coming to terms with her appearance and mental illness. Growing up in Kathmandu, Nepal, Pokhrel felt like the odd girl out. She despised her image, body, and especially her hair. “I have thick curly hair and not everyone in Nepal has hair like that,” she said.
High school is a very hard time for many because instead of standing out most students just want to fit in. Pokhrel remembers her teenage years as a depressing time because she wasn’t being herself. “I wasn’t very genuine about who I was in highschool… and I was very unhappy,” the junior math major said. She didn’t share these feelings with her family and friends because she didn’t want to worry anyone. Besides being ashamed of her physical appearance, Pokhrel was also ashamed of her interests. “I like anime and didn’t share that with anyone because I didn’t want to think I was weird…, but now I have friends because of anime,” she said.
It wasn’t until Pokhrel left her home country to come to the states for college that she realized how unhappy she was with who she had become.
Pokhrel moved to Maine in August of 2017 and began her first semester at USM that fall. Being on her own for the first time in her life caused her to do some self reflection. Ultimately, she accepted that she made the choice to study abroad because it was the next step after high school. She was following along the actions of others as her friends were also studying abroad for college. “I used to say I had plans, such as I would major in chemistry and do something in that field, but I was just lying to myself and others because I had no plans for the future,” Pokhrel said.
At the time, Pokhrel felt she kept contradicting her interest and causing her to fall into a depression. Her time alone with her thoughts caused them to get louder.
By the summer of 2018, Pokhrel had developed an eating disorder. “I stopped eating well… limiting my food intake,” she said. For breakfast and lunch she would have an apple and at times have dinner or skip it. After twelve days of not eating well Pokhrel would binge eat anything in sight. However, she didn’t see anything wrong with her behavior because she was losing weight and people were complimenting her appearance.
From the end of the summer Pokhrel was down to 98-pounds and all she could think about was food. She was confronted by her eating disorder when she was too weak to push open a door on campus. Later that evening she went home and tried to eat as much as she could, but her body wasn’t letting her. At that moment she knew she needed to get help.
Pokhrel was able to see a counselor and get the help she needed. “It isn’t a simple solution as in just eating more, but rather a slow process,” she said. Through counseling and reading inspiring literature, such as Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, she became reflective of her trials and tribulations, which helped her seek what she was missing. She started to think about what it was that she wanted from life and what would bring her joy.
“I was missing a creative part in my life,” Pokhrel said. She began to enjoy hobbies that she had once suppressed, such as playing the guitar, drawing and writing poetry. The thought of “I’ll be happy when…” no longer crossed her mind.
A year and a half later, Pokhrel is content in her life and is being true to who she is. “I never realized I was this happy of a person… I have accepted my reality and I’m grateful for my position in life,” she said.