In 2015 I was entering my freshman year of college at San Jose State University. My major was communicative disorders, and I was scrambling for a friend group or a sense of home at a place far from it. Today, I am going into my junior year of college at Point Loma Nazarene University. I am a graphic design major, and am surrounded by amazing people at a place that feels like my second home. What happened in between my freshman year of college and now, was a lot of hard work, a lot of crying, and a lot of falling on my face, but choosing to get back up and try again.
When I entered San Jose State I knew absolutely no one. I had just broken up with my high school boyfriend, who I placed my identity in and realized that I had no idea who I was or where my worth was stemming from once out of that relationship. To back up a bit, the reason I chose San Jose State was because it had my major and I wanted to live far away from home like any eighteen-year-old does. After the first initial weeks of home sickness and adjusting to a whole new life in a whole new city, I recognized the feeling of not being in control of my life. I was unhappy and felt trapped. I made the big college decision and realized it was the wrong one. So I asked myself, “where do I go from here?” I sensed something was missing from my life, yet I did not know what it was.
Feeling out of control, I grabbed onto anything that would give me a sense of it. I restricted what I ate, kept an obsessive list of everything I was consuming, and exercised excessively. At the time I thought I was being healthy and was definitely seeing results I deemed to be positive. Engaging in behaviors calmed me and gave me the sense of control I was yearning for. However, overtime something in my brain switched. My behaviors became all consuming and instead of controlling it, it was controlling me.
As I started my second semester at San Jose State, I felt empowered to gain community. The little part inside of me saying something was missing was still nagging at me. One night I was sitting at my desk and felt the overcoming urge to pray and have a connection with God. I had grown up Catholic, but had fallen out of my faith overtime. That very night started a series of changes in my life that would alter the path I was going on forever. I sought out people who were likeminded and joined a Christian group on campus. Those people changed my life and showed me so much compassion and intentional friendship. Most importantly they showed me how loved I was and where my worth truly came from. It wasn’t in the behaviors I was partaking in or the size of pants I wore, it was from God and the belief that I was more precious than rubies in His eyes. Yet, even with my new friends’ positive influences on me, I found it was too late. I was already too deep in whatever I had been seeking comfort in.
When I came home for the summer, the ones I love most in my life started noticing a significant change in my appearance and my eating choices, along with the anxiety and stress that came with it. I was encouraged to seek out therapy to try and unravel the mess I had created. Finally, a therapist I was seeing recommended a consult with an out-patient eating disorder facility. At first, I was in denial and terrified. My therapist told me that there would be scheduled meal times and my eating habits would have to change. Although it scared me out of my mind, that fear showed me the severity of the issue. When I went for the consult, all the puzzle pieces came together. All of my symptoms pointed directly toward an eating disorder and after a doctor’s visit I realized I had taken the behaviors too far and was scared for my health. I spent my summer at the treatment center and it was by far the hardest time of my life, yet provoked tremendous growth and change. The people I met will forever have an impact on my life. The level of support and vulnerability allowed healing and comfort during a time of chaos. I had to put in HARD work every day. I thank God for my willingness and supportive family, because without them I don’t think I would have been able to get through the program.
By the time I had to go back to San Jose State I faced a tough decision. I didn’t feel quite ready to leave, although many opportunities were awaiting me in San Jose, I found I was more motivated to get back so I could slip into old behaviors rather than see old friends. So, I made one of the toughest decisions I have had to make, to withdraw from San Jose State and spend more time in treatment. I had to ignore judgments from others, comments from people who did not know why I decided not to return for school, and just focus on what was best for me. I did not really have a plan, but for the first time, in a long time, I felt free. During treatment I learned to make the most of each opportunity and obstacle that came my way. In treatment I learned a tremendous amount about who I am and the person I want to be. I reconnected with myself.
I saw withdrawing from San Jose State as an opportunity to steer my life in the direction I truly wanted it to go. I had already taken so many risks, why not a few more? No dream was too big to me; no challenge was impossible. I realized if you set your mind to something it truly can be done. In treatment we were encourage to get in touch with things that made us feel the most ourselves. Activities or hobbies that made us passionate for life, as a form of self care. For me, it is design, photography, family, camping, traveling, caring for kids, and faith. (Just to name a few)
My faith was my rock through all of this thus far. The mindset of Christianity is extremely helpful to my recovery and success. With faith I view myself as a precious gift, made perfect, and with no alterations needed. I am enough and I am loved. Within this truth I gain freedom. Freedom to embrace and adore who I am.
I made the choice this past fall to pursue my education at Point Loma Nazarene in the spring of 2017. It has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life. The school has provided me with an incredibly healthy environment where the stress is not placed on performing to be the best, but knowing that we are not perfect and that is totally ok and surrendering to the fact that humans are broken people.
I have met so many incredible people who love me for who I sincerely am. I have learned the more time I spend focusing on the things that light my soul on fire, rather than my outward appearance or the pressure I place on what others are thinking, makes me more sure of the person I am and my honest identity.
Through focusing on those things, I have been able to reconnect with my creativity. Due to acts of God in my eyes, while I was in the treatment program I got a job at the clothing store Anthropologie and was offered an internship to be on their visual display team this past spring. That opportunity combined with the joy my graphic design classes were giving me at school, made me feel more at home and myself than ever before. I have a phenomenal team supporting me after being discharged from the treatment center and I have grown to appreciate and actually cherish the struggles life throws at me, because from it comes growth. Growth and change shapes us into the people we are supposed to be. I do not regret anything I have done so far in my life, even my eating disorder, because it all got me to where I am today. Do not get me wrong, there are still hard days and I still have my ups and downs, but I have the skills and the support to get through it. Accumulating little joys, like connecting with what makes your soul happy, goes a long way. Remind yourself of your goals, for me a big one is being healthy enough to have a family. Focus on one day at a time. Today, I am 20 years old, weight restored, and have the strength and willingness to battle the false thoughts and anxieties again tomorrow, and for that I am grateful.
P.S. If you are interested in my own creative ideas and projects, head on over to my website! https://freelyliving.wixsite.com/interior