Student shares story of anorexia to help others
September 16, 2019
Alex Arrivillaga knows there is a stigma around eating disorders. But she still wants to share her story. “When you have an eating disorder, it’s really hard to find hope and imagine yourself ever being happy again,” she said. “Food wasn’t really something that was a conflict in my life. Now that I have an eating disorder, it’s something that isn’t just particular moments. It’s something I struggle with throughout the day.” Alex battled with social anxiety and depression throughout her childhood. But by the time she entered Ramona High as a freshman, she was also dealing with anorexia. “It’s kind of complicated because I think it developed out of a way to cope with my problems,” she said. “I decided to purchase pills that would help with weight loss. And I’ve never really disclosed this to a lot of people. But they were laxatives. I would take them and tell myself, ‘OK, I’ll only take a few.’ And then just stop so I could lose water weight. But when I take them, I feel like the life is being sucked out of me.” Cinthia Ilizaliturri is Alex’s mother. She knows all about eating disorders because she dealt with them as well. She struggled with both anorexia and bulimia. So when her daughter started to lose weight, she immediately noticed the signs. “It’s hard to attack this disease,” Ilizaliturri said. “Where no matter what you do sometimes, it’s taking over. I was in the kitchen and she came by, and she looked lifeless. And it really scared me. I felt so helpless. And I told her, ‘Alexis, I can see your eyes and I see death staring at me.’” At her self-described lowest point, Alex weighed just 94 pounds. With her grades slipping, she sought the help she needed for both the anorexia and social anxiety. From a 2.67 GPA her freshman year to a 4.17 GPA her junior year complete with honors and AP courses, Alex is now flourishing.  “It’s something I never thought I’d be able to attain again,” she said. “It’s something that’s also really rewarding because I could have let my problems turn me into the worst person that I could be, but I’ve persevered and worked hard to do that.” Alex graduated from Ramona High in May and started school at the University of Redlands as a first-generation college student. “It’s such a joy to see that,” AVID teacher Barbara Hutcherson said. “Having gone through everything she’s gone through. And now looking forward to going to a four-year university.” Alex is still fighting what can be a lifelong battle. So she’ll keep telling her story in hopes that she can one day remove the stigma from eating disorders and mental health issues. “The fact that Alexis has been very open about her experiences with mental health issues, the eating disorders makes me realize that she really wants to do something about it,” Ramona High counselor Mark Lim said. “To fight the stigma of those that are struggling in this particular area is amazing.”
Alex Arrivillaga sought help for an eating disorder and has worked hard on recovery.

© 2019 Association of California School Administrators