Updated: Feb 28, 2019
I don't exactly know when my eating disorder developed.
No specific event or experience triggered its development, and I would describe its onset as slow and gradual.
My senior year in high school was the first time I went on a diet. At the time, I was unhappy with my appearance, and decided I not only wanted to look "perfect" but eat healthier and feel better as well. In the beginning, it felt great. It was not about reaching any certain number or measurement, but was more based on how I looked. I loved setting myself a (seemingly) tangible goal, and started investing more of myself and time into achieving that goal. For me, what started off as a simple diet quickly set off a different reward and motivation system driven by compulsions and anxiety than logic.
I have always been interested in nutritional and physiological sciences, and so especially after coming to UCLA and taking various science classes explaining the functions of macronutrients, I would say that I was pretty aware about what my biological needs were and how to meet them. I joined the Body Image Task Force my freshman year fall quarter with the intention of not only cultivating a healthier body image, but also spreading this positivity to people around me. Despite both of these things, my eating disorder developed and completely consumed my life. Restricting and exercising no longerjust filled the purpose of wanting to lose weight, but became a means by which I used to cope with life. They were a way to punish myself when I felt guilty, internalize my anger, and avoid pain and sadness. The worst part about the eating disordee waa the compulsion and anxiety that fueled it. I knew when i was being illogical, but yet I couldn't help but act in the ways I did.
When I was engaging in my eating disorder, I was a completely different person. All of my energy, time, and thoughts was spent on protecting my eating disorder. I lied about my plans to hide when I wanted to exercise again. I cancelled my plans to avoid being with others around food. Growing up I was always an extremely extroverted and social girl, but when I was in my eating disorder, I didn't know how to be with anyone else but myself and my intrusive thoughts.
I first sought help in the Spring of my freshman year at CAPS. That summer, I was working in Hong Kong and began seeking the help of a psychologist, who diagnosed me with anorexia. Up until this point, mental health was always a foreign concept I didn't really understand. I thought it was something that affected my friends and other people, but never thought it would affect me.
After I came back to UCLA that fall, I began spiraling. My CAPS Psychologist referred me to the Renfrew center in Los Angeles where I was first admitted into day treatment. I had to balance school and recovery, and I had no idea what recovery even meant. After being discharged that christmas to go on an incredible family trip in Norway and London, I was a wreck and worse than ever before. So, when I came back to LA the following Janurary, I was told I needed to go to residential treatment in Coconut Creek, Florida. This was the first time I was forced to recognize the sacrifices I needed to make in order to truly recover, and agreeing to take winter quarter off was arguably one of the hardest decisions I had made and I was forced to see how my eating disorder was not only threatening my life, but also affecting my friends and family.
My next few months were spent in treatment, both at the residential level but also back at the day level. When I started taking classes again the following spring, I began seeking the help of my outpatient team because I was unwilling to sacrifice anymore time being in a higher level of care. This transition was extremely difficult, and those were some of the hardest months of my life, but through my team, who I continually receive support and guidance from, I have gained so much insight into my mind and its workings. I am still fighting for recovery and am processing all the pain of these past few years.
I am by no means fully healed but that doesn't mean I'm weak or incapable. It means I'm human.