My Best Friend Was My Worst Enemy

January 8, 2008
By
My Best Friend Was My Worst Enemy
Anonymous

Dear Ana,

I’m doing well. I never thought it would be so easy to starve myself. I haven’t eaten in days, and I can feel the weight shedding off of me. I hope to lose at least ten pounds; otherwise, I would have to starve myself for yet another week. I’m sure you would agree with me. And besides, ten pounds is only my first goal. I have about 40 pounds on me that are 40 pounds too many. However, patience is a virtue—as you have taught me—and I will persist until I reach my goal. I don’t binge anymore, either. I can’t believe I used to binge and purge—that is so disgusting! I’m trying to confine myself to less than 500 calories per day. If I eat more than that, I exercise until I burn those evil calories off. I’m sorry I was disobedient at first. I didn’t realize just how fat I was. I memorized all of our mantras; I can recite them all! I hope you’ll still be there for me, even if I don’t lose those ten pounds this week. I will improve. I know I’m a disappointment, but please, don’t abandon me. You’re my only friend, the only one in this world whom I can trust. I need you, Ana. And I’m getting better at following directions. Today I only ate an apple and a yogurt, which adds up to 150 calories. Nothing more!!! I hope you’re proud of me. I wish I could just drop 20 pounds…life would be so much easier if I was thinner. You inspire me—the way your ribcage bulges out, and the way your stomach caves inward…I wish I had your body. I’m stuck with flaps of fat around my stomach, puffy cheeks, huge thighs, cankles (calves that cannot be discerned from ankles), and fingers that need to lose a couple ring sizes. I hate myself.

Until tomorrow,


Chloe.

Dear Chloe,

You’re crazy if you think I will be happy with ten wimpy pounds. That is NOT enough. You’re fat and ugly, and you should not stop until you lose those 40 pounds. No wonder you don’t have a boyfriend. It’s because you don’t LISTEN to me. NOTHING, and I repeat, NOTHING, tastes as good as thin feels. Stop dreaming about food, because you’ll never be able to have it. Calories are your enemy. Food is your downfall. An imperfect body reflects an imperfect person. Is that what you want? Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad you don’t binge anymore—but woman, get some self-discipline! Of course you envy me. I’m perfect, and you’re as far from perfect as possible. You must avoid food at all costs. I don’t care if that means you have to lock yourself up in your own house. Avoid social events, and don’t eat with your family. Simply refuse to eat with them—what are they going to do? You are the one with the control, not them. I know you, and your definition of “starving” does not satisfy me. I don’t care if all you eat is 200 calories. Those are 200 calories too many! STOP EATING, YOU FAT COW! Stop complaining about how awful you look if you can’t even starve yourself properly. Don’t even try talking to me until you lose those ten disgusting pounds.

Ana.

Not one day passed without having some battle of this sort. Ana and I would go back and forth about how fat I am, the consequences of my eating, and how I need to lose more weight. I honestly believed that Ana was my true friend. I didn’t trust anyone else. How could I? Every other person tried to shove food down my throat and make me eat. I didn’t need that pressure. But wonderful, amazing Ana knew exactly I needed. She didn’t try to make me eat. She didn’t pester me with how skinny I looked or how my pale face looked daunting. She supported me and pushed me towards perfection. I would share my most intimate desires with her; she knew everything about me—even things that I myself did not know. In a way, she made me vulnerable. But I was vulnerable in so many other aspects that I simply didn’t care anymore. I had one goal, and Ana kept me focused on it. I had it all planned out—every scheme to avoid eating and every possible way of purging those unnecessary calories. Normally, I would not eat solid foods, but if I did, they were cut into tiny pieces (made it look as if I was eating a lot). I ate “negative calorie” foods, even though Ana taught me that there is no such thing. Everything has calories, and I must count every last one. When Ana got mad at me, I would punish myself. Depending on the severity of what I did, my punishments varied from self-mutilation, purging, further starvation, or all of the above. As I continued to starve myself, I became more easily irritated and incredibly fatigued. I could not focus in school because all I could think about was the lunch I was going to skip. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was worrying over my weight of the next morning. I fell asleep in almost every class and my grades went down the drain. Even my family and friends started to distance themselves from me. My friends were tired of inviting me to outings and watching me watch the food on my plate. My family was frustrated with me. I was a disappointment to everyone. I had nothing and no one left, with the exception of Ana. As a result of this prolonged loneliness, I immersed myself in the magic of Ana. I was amazed by how she controlled me. She made me break up with my boyfriend, claiming that we looked like an elephant and a stick. Needless to say, I was the elephant. Whenever I ate, even the smallest bite, she would make me spit it out in the garbage. She made me exercise in the most incredulous manner, to the point where I was on the verge of fainting. She ruined me, and I did nothing but help her. Clearly, I could not see her manipulative nature back then. I was so engrossed with pleasing Ana that I completely forgot about my health. This was another problem of mine: people-pleasing. This time around, however, I was trying to please neither my parents nor my friends. My sole target was Ana. My conscience depended on Ana’s opinions. I followed her directions mindlessly, with no regard to my personal values or expectations—not that I had any. I was a slave to her labor. Trying to please Ana was so time-consuming that I had no time for myself—no time to think, to figure out who I was. Ana and I morphed into one. I felt the constant need to impress her, so that she would be proud of me, which would give me an excuse to be proud of myself; but nothing was ever enough. After about eight months of starving, I was severely emaciated. I could not function anymore, whether I wanted to or not. My health deteriorated right before my eyes. I was in complete denial, however, and refused to acknowledge the serious implications of my eating disorder. I developed diseases such as electrolyte imbalances, hyponatremia, edema, muscle atrophy, orthostatic hypotension, and ketoacidosis. The most life-threatening, however, was bradycardia; my heart muscles shrunk in size due to starvation, resulting in dangerously slow heart rhythms. I now know that my eating disorder contributed to my depression, as starvation affects the serotonin levels in one’s brain. I was in over my head, but I had no idea how to escape Ana. When I was in my most lucid moments, I tried to convince myself that I needed help. Seconds later, however, Ana would jump in, indulging me in the delusion that everything was fine. She convinced me, numerous times, that I was overreacting and that I needed to lose more weight. The doctor informed me that unless I was put into intensive treatment at an eating disorder clinic, I would die. I don’t think my parents knew it was that serious; I guess I was a pro at hiding my weight loss. I was immediately hospitalized at Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital in Oklahoma; they were known for their eating disorder program. I did not go easily, to say the least. My parents literally had to drag me into the car. When we arrived at the clinic, it took an hour until I actually answered the consultant’s questions. They did not get much information out of me, but it was clear that I needed help. Deep down, I think I knew that too. Unfortunately, the struggle did not end there. I was so stubborn about continuing my self-starvation that I refused to eat meals at the clinic. Clearly, that was undermining the purpose of my treatment. I was tube-fed for two days until I finally agreed to eat voluntarily. It was an extremely slow process. Because of the numerous diseases I had acquired, they could not feed me a normal amount of food. I had to start from very small amounts and work my way up. Once my health stabilized, the main concern was that would I gain weight as soon as possible. For the first time in almost a year, I was eating a balanced diet and actually looking healthier. I noticed that I felt much better after I ate—as though I had a hole in my body, a complete void, and it was now being filled up again. I spent three months at the clinic; by the end of the third month, the doctors had decided that I gained enough weight and that I was stable enough to go home. Needless to say, I was anxious to return to my routine life. I had been gone from school for a very long time—what did the other students think of me? And my grades, how was I supposed to complete all the make-up work? Would I graduate with the rest of my class? I had much to worry about, but that was a good thing. For the rest of the school year, I was distracted from my eating disorder tendencies. Ana did not enter my mind at all during those months. I felt in control of myself—which felt awkwardly nice. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with that much control, seeing as I had been allowing Ana to make all of my decisions for me. It took hours of uninterrupted thinking, but I managed to figure out some basic qualities about myself. I started to create a solid personality for myself, even if it was in my mind. I took the baby steps necessary for recovery and started validating my emotions. I got my conscience back, and it no longer depended on Ana’s voice. I began a new life--one that I had control over. It has been almost three years since I was hospitalized for my eating disorder. I had one relapse, but I got right back on track. I am now a junior in college, majoring in psychology and aspiring to be a psychotherapist, specializing in eating disorders. I’ve been through it; I know what it’s like—thinking I have complete control over something, only to have it snatched away without my knowledge. I know what it’s like to be on the brink of death, yet in complete denial of having a problem. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know that never again will I let Ana control me.





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