Ciara's Eating Disorder Treatment

In early 2017, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa - Restricting Type, and began seeking treatment. I had been struggling with my eating disorder for 5 years at this point. I paid out of pocket for my psychologist and dietician for the first 10 months, as my insurance did not cover it. I soon had to step up in care and enter inpatient care. I was in residential for 5 weeks, followed by PHP (partial hospitalization - outpatient treatment) for 5 weeks where I relapsed fast, then stepped back up to residential for 11 weeks, and have been in PHP for almost 6 weeks. I am finally starting to get my feet underneath me and have made major progress thanks to my incredible treatment team, friends, and family. However, due to being in treatment, I have not had the opportunity to work. I am in a precarious time of recovery and still unable to work as I am trying to stabilize before I enter back into school. I am enrolled at UCLA and am fighting to be able to attend classes again and work towards my degree of Environmental Science. I am not one to ask for help and am very embarrassed to do so; however, I have been fighting so hard for recovery and am doing everything I can to keep moving forward.
The funds I am raising will help cover hospital and ambulance bills, insurance deductibles, medication, rent. I am so incredibly grateful for the support I have been receiving!

Here is a bit of my story:

I have been trying to work up the courage to share my story for quite some time. I have gone through waves of shame and embarrassment, feeling like my story didn’t need to be shared, or merely hoping I could make more progress before I opened up. However, I am learning how powerful sharing experiences can be: for other people going through something similar, to paint a more true picture that isn’t all perfect, and even for myself.

As many of you may know, I got scouted to become a model when I was 17. I was at the end of my senior year, was accepted and planned on going to UC Davis for Atmospheric Science. I had been working incredibly hard my entire life for this moment, taking all AP and honors classes, becoming the producer of my broadcasting program, and captain of my cross country team. I was happy and grounded. I was naturally thin, being tall and a runner and did not really struggle with body image or my relationship with food; however, that changed quick. I was scouted by a New York agency, arguably the top high fashion agency. I was asked to lose a bit of weight on my waist, because there were strict requirements. Although I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to pursue my dream of school or take the opportunity to model, I immediately tried to fix myself. I just did what I saw and what I thought was the only way to lose weight: to eat less. I was still training for track, but soon cut my intake to a third of what I was once consuming, and of course all of it “healthy”. It was easy for me, too easy. I was not secretive about what I was doing and people didn’t feel alarmed because it was what I had to do for the industry. I quickly lost the weight, as well as my energy. I hit a scary wall in my runs and races and was not able to finish my senior year track like I had planned. However, when I got to NYC, I was praised for my measurements, and even asked not to lose anymore because I was almost too thin. However, at this point I was already long gone.

Anorexia is a mental illness that can be caused by many factors: environmental, psychological, and biological. It can be caused by anything from trauma to your genes. Through the treatment I have been through and the research I have done, it seems that when I first got asked to lose weight was when my anorexia was triggered. Whatever gene that was stagnant was now active. The next three years was where my anorexia grew. The modeling industry was like a petri dish for my illness. I went through dark times of having extreme panic attacks from not being the right measurements, overanalyzing every calorie I ate and burned, working out to the point of exhaustion yet going for more, isolating myself because the only thing I could think about was getting smaller, being afraid of so many foods. This behavior was encouraged by the industry because they saw it as healthy and it kept you thin. During the times I needed to lose an inch, I was brought in for weekly measurements which was humiliating and traumatizing, or I was sent home until I was thin enough. When I had lost weight, I was praised and treated well, like an actual person. I remember agents calling my roommates and telling them not to eat or drink anything for the day until they got home from their castings, raiding our kitchens to see what we were eating, scolding a girl for eating grapes because there was sugar in them, stylist having no filter when it came to how big you were, a young girl being persuaded by a photographer to eat an apple a day to lose weight, and so so much more. There were, of course, amazing people in the industry as well that were very supportive. However, it is the nature of the industry to uphold certain requirements. 

I would constantly reassure my family and friends that I did not have a problem, I was just doing what was needed for my job. I would be able to stop when I quit. I had finally had enough of being in such an isolated depression and in a world where I did not belong, I finally quit and moved home to attend college. I was able to acknowledge I had a problem and started my recovery on my own. I faced many foods that I had grown an extreme fear towards and stopped measuring myself. I made progress in accepting myself and my body and found more of a purpose for myself as I made progress in school. I soon joined my college track team in hopes of achieving goals that I was not able to reach prior. My eating disorder slowly found it’s way back in again as I began missing meals here and there and did not fuel myself properly. I also did poorly in a class for the first time and my life the three years prior began to catch up with me mentally and I fell into a deep depression. I began seeing a therapist for the first time for my anxiety and depression. During this time, my anorexia began to take an increasing amount of control. Soon, it had completely overtaken me as I began to skip almost every meal and became too anxious and depressed to consume anything. This was the first time I realized I really had a problem. I was no longer in the modeling world and could not blame my actions on the industry. I soon began outpatient treatment with a psychologist and dietician specializing in eating disorders. I began to spiral out of control and lost myself to my eating disorder. All I could think about was what I was allowed to consume and how I would compensate for it. My life became a living hell. Everything also seemed so perfect on the outside, however. I had my first apartment that I loved, I was doing well in school and got accepted into every school in which I applied, I was a manager at a job that I felt passionate about, I was dating my first love, I was finally doing what I dreamed of. However, deep down, I was slowly dying. In the end, I ended up having to be in residential, an inpatient facility, for my anorexia for 5 weeks, followed by partial hospitalization (PHP), an intensive outpatient facility for 5 weeks, had to leave school, enter back into residential for 11 weeks, followed by being back in PHP currently.

I have learned a lot about myself and my eating disorder. Modeling played a huge role in my anorexia, but so did everything else. My ED was triggered by the industry and I very soon connected my worth and value to my body and diet. I was only treated well and worked when I was thin and sick. So, even though I am no longer in the industry and I can separate those ideas, subconsciously it feels innate and unquestionable. My success, happiness, and how I am treated will all improve if I am in my disorder. My anorexia is what I turn to when everything seems out of control and unstable. My body has labeled food as an enemy, as if it were a lion chasing me. So even though logically, I can see it is just food and I need it for my nourishment, my nervous system says otherwise. Eating disorders are SO much more than food and the need to be thin. If it were that simple, 30+ million people would not still be suffering. Eating disorders are serious. They have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. I have decided to speak up and share my story to help spread awareness and start the conversation. Mental illnesses are not something to be ashamed of. Shame resides in silence, so the more we speak up, the less shame we will have as a society. So much needs to change and be talked about, not just in the fashion industry.


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Ciara Turner 
Los Angeles, CA
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