Camila s Story
Los Angeles, CA USA
"Eating disorders come in a wide array of colors, shapes, and sizes. This is something I failed to understand until, what seemed like such a foreign concept to me, became my reality.
Influenced by media and other misinformed sources, I had always assumed that eating disorders looked a specific way. Even after losing over 40 pounds in a very short amount of time, I was in denial, due to the fact that I still appeared healthy for my frame. Being an overweight hispanic girl, I automatically disregarded anorexia as something that could impact me, despite showing many signs and symptoms.
Understanding why and how this developed is something that goes back to my childhood. It was already quite apparent from a young age that I was a perfectionist. I constantly pushed myself to excel in everything I attempted and, these impossible standards I held myself to, caused me to develop deep-rooted insecurities.
When I was accepted into UCLA, a school that I had always told myself was out of my reach, I dismissed this accomplishment simply as good luck rather than an accurate reflection of my abilities. I began my college experience with the mindset that I did not belong at UCLA and, as a result, my adjustment to college was extremely difficult and my insecurities heavily impacted my mental health.
Anxiety and depression were things that I struggled with growing up, but had never gotten help or treatment for because of my lack of awareness on what mental illness was. However, in college, it became quite obvious I was suffering from something more extreme than stress and sadness.
Feeling inadequate and not equal to my peers constantly made waking up and going to class seem like the most daunting task ahead of me. When asked how I liked my classes and felt about my adjustment, I would hide the fact that I was struggling with a smile and a dismissive comment because nobody else I knew appeared to be having similar problems.
I often turned to alcohol and other forms of masking my issues to prevent any of my peers from seeing the truth. I internalized my anxiety and insecurities so much so that I came to the point of having no energy or motivation to even get out of bed, and I began to shut out the people in my life that only had my best interest in mind. I felt empty.
My feelings of inadequacy began to affect the way I saw myself in every way, especially in terms of body image. I had so much built up self-resentment and thought that working on changing my appearance would somehow change the way that I felt about myself, so this drove me to begin eating clean and exercising.
When I began to see results, I initially felt more positive about my self-image, however it still didn’t feel like enough and I wanted more extreme changes. I developed body dysmorphia, so despite being at an extremely low weight, I always felt dissatisfied with my appearance. What began as healthy lifestyle changes slowly evolved into an obsession.
I began to eat less-and-less and exercise more-and-more, to the point that food was the only thing on my mind and going to the gym was the only thing that could get me out of bed. The sense of control this gave me made me feel like this was the only thing in my life that mattered and I was unaware that my obsession was taking over my life, putting my mental and physical health at risk. When many of my loved ones expressed how worried they were, I refused to seek out any help because acknowledging that I had a problem felt like acknowledging failure.
It has taken me a long time to finally realize that it takes strength to reach out and ask for help. Mental illness does not make me flawed or any lesser of a person. I am a stronger person because of what I have gone through. Not only am I kinder to myself, but I am more empathetic toward others going through hardships. Though I am in recovery from my eating disorder, I still struggle every now and again.
Recovery is a long process that requires effort every day, but as the days become weeks and the weeks become months, it slowly gets easier. Remembering that those around me support me in my fight against my mental illness is what motivates me to continue to recover and promote the importance of self-love and acceptance. Rather than let my struggles define me, I have reclaimed my power by using my experience to grow a garden of compassion inside of me. Healing is a process. It takes time and, though my wounds are still fresh, I am beyond grateful to be on the road to recovery."
Story by: Camila Garcia, UCLA Campus Representative