When I was thirteen years old, I met someone who quickly became my best friend, but would later become my worst enemy.
Her name was Anorexia; Or Ana, as she was fondly known. She was the image of perfection and all I wanted to be. Her ribs were visible, no matter what she wore, her stomach concaved between the mountains of her hipbones, and her smile was so confident and how I wished that I could be just like her.
She told me how I too could be perfect; I didn’t have to do a single thing. In fact, I only had to not do one single thing.
It seemed simple enough? Skip breakfast, skip lunch, and then skip dinner too? It was almost too easy! Food became a bad habit and counting calories a good one. Slowly, the fat seemed to disappear and I felt like a different person.
I couldn’t see that I had indeed become a different person. Ana had changed me.
All the things I had once enjoyed became meaningless. My friends and family came second to the calorie counting and numbers were the only thing that mattered. My mother would weep and plead with me to eat a single morsel of my favorite dish, but I didn’t care. Because nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, right? Going out with my friends was a chore – there were only so many times I could tell them that ‘I already ate’ before they started to understand that maybe ‘not hungry’ was a mental state and not a physical one.
Ana also never warned me about the side effects of ‘perfection,’ which came in the form of dizzy spells, nausea, tiredness, and, when the lack of nutrition really affected me, black outs and fainting.
I didn’t realize how badly this was affecting me, until one day I woke from a particularly long black out to find my mother crying, unsure of what she should do. The fear and panic in her eyes was what finally drove me to understand that this was not perfection, far from it in fact. I had an eating disorder.
You would think that recovery would be simple, just eat? But it was much harder than that. I tentatively took a few mouthfuls of chocolate cake before vomiting it all up. My body had become so accustomed to starvation that food was a foreign concept that was immediately rejected. Slowly but surely, I built my diet back up by starting with smoothies and purees, then graduating onto uncooked basic foods before finally moving onto small portions of meals. Like a baby being weaned onto solid food, my body re-learnt that food was not the enemy, Anorexia was.
I had thought that physical recovery would be the hardest part of ‘fixing myself,’ but almost like a bad break up, Anorexia just wouldn’t leave me alone. Whispering cruel things in my ear when I looked into the mirror, chortling at my shame when the numbers on the scale crept back up and ridiculing me when my thighs began to shake while I ran, She was a bully.
I thought it would never end. I thought I’d be stuck in this limbo between hating myself and being healthy forever more, but I wasn’t.
I took the bravest step that any sufferer of anorexia could ever take,
I asked for help.
After 4 years of therapy, I write this while enjoying a full fat coffee and a blueberry muffin. I won’t lie and tell you that everything is okay, because I still have days where I look in the mirror and wonder if I would be happier if I was skinny, or days when I’ll feel too fat to eat breakfast, but life is better now that I’m healthy and I’m alive. The struggle won’t ever leave me for good, but now Ana is a distant memory, and I won’t let her ever be more than that.