28 January 2010


I am powerless against anorexia.

It is very scary to admit that I am powerless. It makes me vulnerable. It makes me cry. But it also is the first step toward true recovery.

Ana is a formidable foe. So many times she has taken over me, entering my heart and soul like a poltergeist from hell.

There was Christmas 2007. A dinner with friends turned into an exercise in self-flagellation. The four of us sat down, the side table filled with roast chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, salad and bread. The pumpkin pie was baking in the oven, the rich smell that achingly reminds me of fall drifting through our small home.

It still felt like home then.

I tried to relax. I paced around, nibbled a few cashews, smiled brightly and tried to get Ana to shut up. We sat at the table, the blessing was said (inviting God to our circle - oh, why didn't He protect me?) and the food was passed around. My hands shook slightly as I scooped out the potatoes, Ana insisting that one spoonful was enough, two spoonfuls STOP STOP STOP, YOU PIG! I carefully cut off a small slice of chicken, avoiding the skin (it was so crispy; it glistened in the soft light) and added a small serving of green beans to my plate.

Small. Ana has made my world small.

David was so proud of this dinner he cooked, and so happy to have people over. I was finally becoming well after several years of illness; the migraines had retreated and I could think again, be around people. I could read and laugh and be filled with the simple joy of having friends over.

But Ana had already moved in and it was too late.

My anxiety cranked up when it came time for pumpkin pie and I declined, saying I didn't really care for it. Since when didn't I care for pumpkin pie? Since Ana said I didn't, that's when. That's the first night I used laxatives to purge food out of my system, but it wouldn't be the last.

I am powerless against anorexia.

Ana has ruined so many moments. She pretty much destroyed 2008. No food could be enjoyed, it was all the enemy. But perhaps the worst thing she did was destroy my mission trip to Haiti.

I had always dreamed of going on a mission trip. I wanted to help others; I felt it in my heart. I was thrilled when I given the opportunity to go to Haiti on a medical mission, and was also able to send back articles.

But I was so weak on that trip, physically and mentally. It was so hard to see the poverty all around me, and yet hear how grateful the Haitians were to God for life and love and family. The darkness of Ana was deep in my soul, and I could only bear it by abusing tranquilizers and painkillers, numbing myself to the real life in all its variety, pain and joy that surrounded me.

I wanted to be free. I wanted to hold each child, play games with them and run with them. I watched the other missionaries scoop up the children, swing them around and nuzzle their necks, and I felt such an ache in me nothing, no drug or prayer, could dull it.

I tried. I loved the people, they were so warm and welcoming. I would sit with children, my lips touching the tops of their heads, and silently pray for their safety and well being. I went up to the nursery, to hold the babies in my arms and smell their little baby smells.

But I couldn't hold them for long periods because I was physically weak. I couldn't rock a baby to sleep nor play a game of tag with a group of toddlers. Maybe it was okay, because sometimes they came to me and stroked my arms, braided my hair and whispered in a mixture of Creole and English.

The team went up to the mountains for a one-day clinic at a home for people with developmental disabilities. I feel in love with this one girl; her bright eyes and bright smile, her personality shining through in spite of the fact she couldn't speak. I think she liked me, too, as I placed my arm around her and gave her shoulders a squeeze. I hope she remembers the love I felt and not the skeletal arm that was holding her.

I am powerless against anorexia.

My 43rd birthday was spent with my husband, my parents and Ana. My parents wanted to take me out to eat; already, they were beginning to suspect something, although I tried hard to hide it. We went to a nice restaurant, and my father encouraged me to order whatever I wanted. I order shrimp, stripped dry of any flavor and plain rice with no butter added. I'm sure the chef was insulted, and I am sorry for that.

Anorexia has ruined holidays and birthdays and everyday dinners. It has kept me from being a real wife to my husband and a real friend to those I love. I go to bed with Ana and I wake up with Ana, and sometimes she haunts my dreams.

I am powerless against anorexia for so many reasons. The seductive voice of Ana is so strong now, I can barely hear myself think. I wake up in fear and then must keep myself busy for hours and hours to try and outrun the thoughts. Ana has really stepped up her presence in the past month, perhaps jealous of this summer and fall when she was just so much radio static.

Ana has me trolling and joining and posting on pro-ana sites under a pseudonym — I take full responsibility for my actions; Ana is just my way of naming the enemy within.

This is what I wrote (since deleted): "I love the feeling of my hips bones as I lay in bed at night.
I love the look of my collar bones gracing my chest.
I love feeling empty and watch other people eat, knowing I don't need to.
The empty feeling is just so seductive.
And when each pound drops ... I feel more in control."


The emptiness and sadness contained within those sites is almost unbearable. These women insist they want to be thin, that this is their choice and they have the right to make that choice. But then they expose the underbelly of their feelings. One wrote that she was "ana because it is a slow form of suicide." I can relate to that.

She went on to say how very worthless she was and that everyone would be better without her. This does not sound like a choice to me. It sounds like someone being hounded by Ana (or whatever eating disorder she suffers from.)

This is not a choice. It is evil.

My first act toward recovery will have to be destroying my Ana doppelganger. It will hurt like hell; she's all over the Internet now, Tweeting and making friends on Facebook and even starting a blog (still empty of posts.)

The pro-ana blog is what really made me realize how very powerless I am against Ana. Because I will never write another word before I write anything else that encourages anorexia or any other eating disorder as a lifestyle 'choice.'

The last thing I would have chosen to be in my life is this demon from hell.

I may be powerless against anorexia. But that doesn't mean I don't have weapons, too. It just will take all my strength to fight such an evil opponent.

"Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo . . ."



lisalisa said...

I am so glad you are going to get out of the pro ana community. From time to time I come across something that triggers me yet i can't look away. It just fuels something inside me, the need to be thin , to be sick. That's not the life we want anymore. I can tell by your writing that you want to be well. Keep moving in that direction!

I Hate to Weight said...

i like the idea of surrender. we don't have the power, but we can recover through our own strength and intention.

maybe you didn't do everything you would have hoped to in Haiti, but you contributed more than you know.

i hope you can frame things a little positively. your anorexia came with some intention of meeting your need.

i don't really hate my eating disorder, my alcoholism, my call to drugs. i hate how they make my life so dangerous and hard, but i understand why they all came to me.

if you can be easier on yourself, i think it gets easier to recover. self-respect (a hard one, right?) helps us treat ourselves better.

do i sound bossy and so opinionated? i'm well-intended.

finally, years ago when i was getting all deep and analytical, a friend said, "melissa, just put down the crack pipe". it made an impression.

angela, get off the pro-ana sites, even if it means blocking them. stopping tweeting and twittering, if need be. write to us and your therapist.

protect yourself. you are so worth it.

Katie said...

Hi Angela :) I found your blog through a comment you left on Carrie's and this post really spoke to me. I have also come to the conclusion that I am powerless over anorexia, but I use that to help me in recovery. I know that I can't control my eating disordered behaviours - if I lose 5lbs or cut the amount I'm eating down things will start getting out of hand - but I CAN control my recovery. I can keep telling myself that the anorexic thoughts are just symptoms of this illness, not fact, and that if I want to stay in control of my mind and my body I need to keep my weight and my intake up. Powerlessness over one thing doesn't have to mean powerlessness over your whole life. I wish you luck in getting out of this relapse :)

Jessie said...

Katie is absolutely right. I know that I am powerless as far as anorexia is concerned. If I start restricting food (even skipping one meal) or try to lose just 5 pounds, I will not be able to stop myself. It's nothing to do with willpower or choice. It's just a plain fact. I won't be able to stop. And that's helped me in recovery. Knowing that if I start slipping back, I won't be able to stop it. I've gone that road so many times thinking that I'll just cut back for a little while or I can just lose two pounds. And it never works. I always end up back in the grips of anorexia. And I think knowing this gives me power.

Anonymous said...

angelaelackey.blogspot.com; You saved my day again.