WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) - Eating disorders are painful, not only for the ones suffering, but also their loved ones. A local college organization is working hard to raise awareness for this often silent disease.
Delta Phi Epsilon's philanthropy is anorexia nervosa and associated disorders, or ANAD. This week is the sorority's annual ANAD Awareness Week across campus at Winona State University.
Philanthropy chair Alexandra Durigan has struggled with and overcome an eating disorder, herself. Now, she wants to tell others recovery is possible, and works to do so through self love.
"It's a very quiet, I think, disease. Not everyone knows about because you don't just openly share it," said Durigan, a third-year nursing student at WSU.
From seventh grade to her junior year of high school, Durigan battled anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
"People don't realize that to get out of it, and to fight with a struggle with your own mind is one of the hardest things to get through," said Durigan.
Thanks to inpatient treatment and a revelation, Durigan won her battle.
“I finally came, I think, at a point in my life, where I decided for myself that I wanted to get better. And I started to see the way that my life would be affected if I decided to continue this disease. It was exhausting, and you know, I finally decided that I want to love myself," said Durigan.
She also added that self love is a key ingredient on the road to recovery. While facing an eating disorder, self love is often put on the back burner.
"It's the biggest thing that you give up, to not love yourself. But it's also the biggest reward, when you go through recovery,” explained Durigan.
Her battle with the disease got so bad, that going away to college was not always in the picture.
Now, she's philanthropy chair of her sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon.
“Once I got to college and I found out the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, I was more than thrilled to find out that their philanthropy was ANAD, which stands for anorexia nervosa and associated disorders. So now, I am philanthropy chair,” Durigan said.
She loves being philanthropy chair, given she has firsthand knowledge of the disease.
"It makes me happy that I have to opportunity to maybe save someone else from going through the struggle,” said Durigan.
It's that self love that keeps her going.
"You only have one life to live and to be proud of yourself is the greatest gift of all," said Durigan, who is clearly proud of all of her accomplishments.
Durigan said she wants others who might be battling an eating disorder to know one thing: "You can get through it and even when you feel so hopeless, life on the other side of an eating disorder is a really beautiful and wonderful thing. And I truly believe that everyone who wants recovery can achieve it."
Some of the events at Winona State University for Delta Phi Epsilon's eating disorder awareness week include:
Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. was the annual candle light vigil. Dr. Leslie Sim from Mayo Clinic, who was also Durigan's doctor, spoke at the event. This event also included three other speakers who shared their first hand experiences living with an eating disorder.
Thursday, April 14, Angie Mundt, owner of CrossFit Unshackled in Rochester, will instruct a free class encompassing CrossFit and mindful meditation.
The annual ANAD 5K run will be on Saturday, April 16, around Lake Winona. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Jaycee Pavilion. Registration fee is only $5, with all proceeds going directly to the ANAD Foundation.
There are other events on campus all week promoting awareness, offering helpful resources, and supporting positive self-esteem, such as post-its with positive messages.