24 January 2010

How Ana moved in

Ana moved in like a search and destroy mission. She saw the vulnerable spots — my fear of regaining weight after I lost 20 pounds due to illness, my insecurities in my writing, my belief that I wasn't good enough for my husband — and slowly moved in for the kill.

Ana started by being helpful. It was during the holiday season of 2007. An unrelated illness left me at about 105 pounds — scared of being that thin, but secretly enjoying the lower weight and smaller clothes size. She pointed out that nuts, such as cashews and peanuts — favorites of mine — were loaded with fat.

But, I argued, aren't nuts good for you? Only if you want to be fat, she admonished me. So I believed her. I tossed the rest of the Christmas nuts in the trash, not even thinking my husband might want them. (Ana can make me very selfish.)

Ana next pointed out how many calories were in my favorite Christmas foods. Foods like warm mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. I felt very uneasy after a dinner with those foods, plus a nibble or two of nuts.

But Ana had a great suggestion. Get the foods out of your body. But how? (She knew I can't stand to throw up.) She had the answer — laxatives. So I grabbed a box, swallowed about six and by the next morning, Christmas dinner was no longer a problem.

I was under one hundred pounds by January 2008. Ana had control.

Every bit of food was suspect. Did I really need that yogurt? Couldn't I do without that piece of cheese? How could I even consider adding cream and sugar to my coffee? Didn't I know black was the only way I was allowed to drink it? Two slices of bread weren't necessary for a sandwich; in fact, forget the damn sandwich and just eat the meat. Okay, eat two slices if you're that much of a pig. But don't forget to tell David — NO BUTTER in the rice. How could he even think you would want it any way but PLAIN PLAIN PLAIN???

Then came the scale. I must weigh myself EVERY DAY. Get on the damn scale, and get on it with as few clothes on as possible. Ana didn't care if I felt like crap or was too cold to stand there and scrutinize the numbers as the little needle swung back and forth or I was running late for work.

How the day went depended upon the scale. It was a good day if the number was less than the day before. It was a bad day if the number was higher than the day before. And a bad day meant less food and more self-hatred.

I flew to Haiti in June 2008, part of a medical mission trip in spite of the fact my doctor said this wasn't such a hot idea. I deliberately lied and said I was a vegetarian. It wasn't out of any strong feelings about eating meat and the sanctity of animal life. It was so I could get less food at the guest house.

Ana went with me, of course. Since I joined the group late, I sat separate from the rest on the flights to and from Haiti. I secretly was glad of this, since I planned on ditching as much food as I could get away with.

On the flight out of Detroit to Miami, I was seated next to an Haitian gentleman who worked in the States and was on his way home for a visit. I think he thought he hit pay dirt sitting next to me, as I began to give him most of the contents of my inflight snack pack, including two round balls of chocolate filled with hazelnuts.

I was determined to show I was just as strong as anyone, to offset all the comments I had heard for months about my weight. I was going to carry my own luggage and help load the 50-pound bags of supplies. I couldn't lift one, and a kind doctor just glanced at me and, reaching out his hand, took the handle and lifted it.

I wish Ana would have stayed behind in the States, because she made the trip almost unbearable. My anxiety about food drove me not only to give away most of my food (I never threw food away while I was in Haiti. I told Ana that was an evil thing to do in a land of the starving) but caused me to step up my intake of Xanax and painkillers.

Lucky for me, conservation of food was a big part of the mission. Our daily sandwiches contained only a scrapping of peanut butter and my translator was more than happy to take half of mine. I was mostly able to avoid the two cookies that went with lunch, and avoided extra calories by only drinking half of my Coke at lunch. Dinner was without guilt — whatever I left on my plate was just saved for the next meal.

I returned from Haiti, with vague remembrances of little girls stroking my arms and saying in soft Creole voices, "Too thin, too thin."

As the months and days went by, I started keeping track of every bite of food and its calorie count. I once went into hysterics because I accidently put flavored cream instead of plain in my coffee and I couldn't find the calorie count anywhere.

(No matter what Ana said, I could rarely drink my coffee black. So I just cut back on coffee. Ana also said no real pop, but diet pop gives me migraines. I occasionally broke and had a real pop. I paid for those indulgences.)

From August 13, 2008: Breakfast — Coffee, banana, yogurt. Snack — 100-calorie Coke. Lunch — Kashi cereal bar, one slice of pita bread. Dinner — rice.

I met with my therapist for the first time on August 14, 2008. Dr. Sackeyfio took one look at me and said, "You're dying." Of course, Ana whispered, "No." I told her to shut up, that I believed him. But I really believe I was just so tired of it all.

Perhaps Ana knew she met her match; the restricting and self-hatred stepped up.

From August 15, 2008: "I am denying hunger. I don't want this to be forever. It has to stop, I want to be normal again. ...I feel so ugly right now, but more sadly, I feel lost and scared."

I entered Beaumont Hospital on August 22, 2008 for a planned, two-week inpatient stay. I was (temporarily) freed from the tyranny of the scale.

From August 22, 2008: Weight — Not allowed to know.

The battle against Ana had begun.


I Hate to Weight said...

this piece is so sad. and it clearly shows the difficulty and pain of your journey.

writing about your time in haiti shows perfect juxtaposition. heart-wrenching all around?

can you submit this somewhere? it's very, very timely in so many ways.

hope you don't mind if i show this to my teenaged niece. it's an important post.

I Hate to Weight said...

angela; fyi, i'm at mstatmore@mindspring.com. i LOVE to email.

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...

What a sad post. I understand that pain. I've been there too. ::hugs:: I'm glad you are still fighting. Don't give up. Ana is a very deceitful spirit.

Anonymous said...

Ana lives in all of us no matter what the affliction but together we can all survive through it. struggles are made easier when friends are near. consider me a friend my dear.
peace n hugs.

Jessie said...

I could relate to this post in so many ways--that idea that I didn't really need the bread or that yogurt or that lunch or any of that food. And the way that everything about the day hinged on what the scale said. And finding opportunities to weigh. And I too was desperate to prove that I was strong and that I didn't need help with anything. I remember so many flights, snapping at well-meaning older men who offered to help me lift my suitcase into the overhead bin. I felt like I had to show everyone that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was managing fine that way. Which of course wasn't true.

I'm so glad that you've found the strength to fight this. I know for me it was the best thing I've ever done in my life.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to know I'm not alone. You start to think its you against the world. I get so mad when people say "just eat" i f only it were that easy.