I want to introduce you and warn you of an old accomplice who I call Ana. You may have heard of her before however she typically thrives on secrecy and tends to hide away from social situations. Ana is someone you need to be really careful around.
Initially she appears as your friend, everything you desire – funny, confident, pretty, focused and thin. She can teach you so much (or so she leads you to believe); how to cope in adversity, helping you to thrive alongside helping you to make basic to difficult life decisions. The one person who gets you .. who understands you. She stands by you through the tough times, providing a shoulder to cry on and as a result you begin to trust her until she becomes your one and only – the one person you confide in.
Ana helped me become the best version of me (or so I thought) I mean she helped me appear strong, resilient, confident, happy – how to place a fake smile and even kept me focused so I could finally stick to the diet I had long promised I’d try to stick to and become thinner, prettier – I mean she does sound like an amazing friend!
Ana taught me how to finally see the pounds drop off so quick, how to starve myself without anyone noticing or making much fuss. She taught me how to enjoy exercising regularly throughout the day. But after a while she started to force me to look in the mirror every morning, pinching and grabbing at skin day by day to make sure it was disappearing, picking out all my flaws and insecurities. She made me change my clothes a dozen times before I found the right baggy clothes to hide my body that she detested to look at. She forced me on the scales four/ five/ six times a day to watch how food and fluid impacted on my weight, waiting and longing her approval- if I lost she was so happy and proud, encouraging me to keep up the ‘good work’ which made me feel so good-accepted, winning and finally doing something well.
Yet when I stayed the same or gained, she called me all sorts of horrible names, screaming and arguing with me until I gave in to her demands and would haven taken a laxative or supplement or on the odd occasion spent time with her friend Mia just so she would be my friend again and be proud. For a long time, I just thought I found such an amazing friend as she was motivating, helping me to get success- the results in the mirror, on the scales and in day to day achievements I had longed for over the years.
What I couldn’t understand though was others who were close to me really didn’t like her, they tried everything to tear us apart- they seen her as a problem, a negative influence leading me down a darkened path. I just couldn’t bare it, I felt like they were out to get me, jealous of me, trying to fatten me up and dampen my sparkle- well so Ana said. Eventually I became deceitful, isolating myself. hanging out with Ana behind their backs as she told me they were no good. Together myself and Ana watched the pounds drop off in secret until eventually I ended up very physically unwell, I couldn’t understand it- my heart began to cause trouble and I had to take a lot of time out to rest. Naturally when you’re physically unwell you need food to lift your energy and to help make you better. But she didn’t like this one bit, Ana turned nasty and got very controlling- a bully (and here was me thinking I had the control)! Everyday over the next while I spent being tortured by her all because I was trying to get better, struggling between the conflict of trying to get well and caving into her demands to have an easy life without her shouting at me all the time. I was so upset and became so emotionally exhausted, at an impasse .. how could she want me to live life like this?
It was at this stage I realised Ana maybe isn’t my friend after all. She was a manipulator, a liar, a bully, a parasite that prays on the vulnerable. I eventually spoke out and confided in people about Ana’s bullying and was very fortunate to have been supported quickly into getting amazing help. It was over the next while through a lot of formal and informal chats and coffee dates with highly supportive people I’ve been blessed to have in my life that I realised Ana doesn’t want what’s best for you, she wants to remove you from all that you have accomplished: relationships, career, education until it’s just you and her alone slowly dulling your sparkle until you begin to fade away and loose everything including your own identity and self-worth.
She associates your reality to making you feel so alone, like you aren’t enough- like you’re unworthy, making you believe the happiness you search for is only going to be found in the reflection of the mirror, the control of the number on the scales, the lowest limit in your clothes size- she keeps promising the lower you go the closer you will get to finding that happiness….. but she is a con, a misery- and misery liked company!
What I have learnt through all of this and hope that others can take away, is that it’s not the reflection or numbers or external beauty that truly makes you happy in life… it’s contentment and gratitude in all our surroundings, the caring people around us, the small achievements and accomplishments that we have made… even if it’s that we managed to get up out of bed this morning, our positive and quirky qualities/ personalities and caring hearts!
So please begin to embrace those imperfections you see and may put yourself down for because to everyone else these are the marks of your authenticity and that’s the beauty of you that everyone loves! As long as your healthy your weight doesn’t matter and your reflection is irrelevant.
So please if Ana or any of her other associates try to or do befriend you… in some cases even initially trying to mask themselves as the innocent voice of reason during ‘a diet’, please don’t keep your ‘friendship’ a secret! please share your encounters with people because what Ana doesn’t want you to know is that she is an EATING DISORDER slowly trying to deplete you until you may unfortunately loose the fighting battle against her chasing those unattainable goals that she promised so strongly.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates amongst any other mental illness with 20% of those experiencing an eating disorder never getting to make a full recovery.
Therefore, I hope by sharing this encounter you can spot the signs early and speak out to get the help you deserve. Never feel embarrassed or afraid to share your story! (It’s easier said than done though, I know as I’m feeling these emotions now) But our health is our wealth and we all go through silent battles with mental ill-health with the main catalyst to hindering our prospects of recovery and accessing the support being that of silence and fear of the stigma. So don’t ever be ashamed! We are all in this together!
As the saying goes, when we replace the “I” in illness with “we” it becomes wellness!
Let’s be kind and support one and other!”