Goodbye, My Dearest Ana – Quitting Anorexia

We met when I was really young.  I was really small when I heard my mom say she was fat, when I heard my dad tell me how lazy and gross people were that HAD fat.  Ana was there, then.  She held my hand tight and told me that no matter what, if I was with her I would never be THAT.  “Stick with me.  We’ll never be fat.”  Even though I didn’t need her help then, I always knew she was there.  She was my safety net.

At age seven and eight I started hearing praise for how skinny I was.  “You’re so small.  You’re so THIN.  LOOK AT HOW SKINNY YOUR LEGS ARE.”  Ana didn’t do much at that point to earn that praise, but she liked it.  It FED her.  She felt happiest when I heard such things.  I felt happiest when I heard such things.

Things with my family were rough at times.  When I was hit or punished excessively I would get ANGRY, and Ana gave me a place to put my anger.  “FOCUS HERE.  CONTROL THIS.”  Every time I was pushed into emotions that I didn’t know how to deal with, Ana was my go-to friend.  I turned my anger and hate and sorrow and fears inward, and Ana held a black box for me to put the feelings in.  She shut the lid, put the box on a shelf in my mind, and then took my hand.  We created pain in my guts so the stuff in the box was forgotten.

It wasn’t until high school that I really felt like I needed Ana.  Need.  There was a boy…  after he cheated on me he told me things I thought were true, that if I was skinnier or blonde maybe he could love me.  I didn’t understand the blonde part, but the skinny I understood.  NO ONE wants a fat girlfriend.  Ana and I hung out a lot for a couple years.  My junior and senior years in high school were never lonely, because I had her.

Ana got a lot of praise.  By default I got a lot of praise.  People told me how nice I looked because I was thin.  I liked how they looked me up and down with envy.  I liked when they’d tell me how great it was that I was thin.  Ana liked that.  She’d brush back my hair from my super thin face and tell me “See, the hurt is totally worth it.”

I liked to wear big and baggy clothes to hide.  Even when we’re doing a good job abstaining from food, it’s still best to hide inside giant clothes.  One time a teacher asked me if I was seeing a professional therapist because I was losing so much weight.  I said “No, I’m okay,” but I was dancing inside because SHE NOTICED.  She saw that I was thin.  I remember that not eating that day was really easy.  I knew that it was working and I wanted to do it more.

I remember feeling a bit awkward not eating when everyone else did, but she sat with me at the cafeteria table to watch my friends eat.  When I felt hungry she’d talk to me about what we’d eat, what was okay and what wasn’t.

I remember standing in front of the vending machine, talking with Ana about which snack to get so I could make it through class.  “I have to eat SOMETHING,” I told her.  It had been three days since I’d eaten.

I wanted cookies.  She said “NO, you don’t want those, those are fat food.”  I got the cookies anyways and ate four.  They were small, about the size of a silver dollar, and had a small spot of jam in the middle.  The first cookie was amazing.  My blood sugar was so low and my body so desperate for sustenance that I got a head rush and endorphin kick from eating it.  The second cookie was eaten slower.  It was sweet and tasty, but I started to feel bad.  As the sugar hit my brain I was able to think.  “This will make you so fat.”

My body stopped enjoying the food.  The third cookie was flavorless.  The fourth tasted like self-hatred and fat thighs and a disgusting blubbery stomach, so I stopped eating.  I folded the top of the bag over and stuck it in the front pouch of my backpack.  I kept the bag just like that, half full in my backpack, the whole rest of the school year to remind me of how ugly they felt.

To this day I can’t eat a thumbprint cookie without thinking about Ana.

We got down to 105 lbs.

I went to college.  I joined a sorority because my mom felt it was a good step and I believed my sister when she told me that lack of friends was a personal flaw.  I thought it would be fine, that there would be someone I knew to walk to class with and maybe I’d make a friend outside the ones that lived in my head.

I hated alcohol.  And I hated drugs.  And I hated sex.  And in the sorority there was excess of all of those things.  I went from top of my high school class to a barely average college student.  My hesitant beliefs about women were solidified into concrete convictions:  women are catty, malicious, ugly, self-centered, and absolutely without common sense or self-restraint when it comes to sexuality and male attention.  I was on a sleeping porch and shared my bedroom with six other girls.  It was introvert hell.  Not ONE SINGLE MOMENT OF MY DAY WAS MINE, but with Ana I still had something in my fist.  I could very much control what I ate.  And HOW I ate, and how often.

I moved out and got a job.  I had to pay for things myself, and it was very expensive.  Going to school took second place to paying rent.  Sometimes I went without groceries.  Ana didn’t mind.

On really bad days when work kicked my ass, she was there.  I’d clock in for a double shift, work thirteen hours straight, deal with people and coworkers and customers and bullshit for the whole day, and the one thing that kept me grounded and focused was the pain through my middle.  The tightness in my back, the ache behind my ribcage.  I felt Ana closest when my head felt fuzzy and seemed to float above my shoulders.

When my marriage was falling apart and collapsing around my ears, she was there.  When my heart was breaking and I didn’t know if I’d ever be enough for him, when I found evidence that my physical self was not enough to maintain his interest, she helped me do everything I could to be enough by being smaller.  When I didn’t know if he and I would make it, or if we SHOULD make it, Ana held my hand.

When I finally accepted the truth that nothing I was would be enough to make that marriage work she held me tight as I cried, kept me company late at night when I laid awake with guilt and grief, stood strong by my side when everyone else I ever thought I could rely on abandoned me with disdain to deal with the baggage that my decision had caused.  At the roughest, deepest, darkest, heaviest, saddest, most horribly painful time I’ve ever experienced, when the whole world was shifting under my feet and nothing was stable, the only solid thing in my whole life was her welcome, purposeful, secure bony fist of hunger pushing into my stomach.

When the kids are fighting and I’m neck deep in work to pay medical bills and I’m not sure what I’m going to feed ANYONE because I haven’t had cash for groceries in a while and my mom is angry with me for being in her space and my sister isn’t speaking to me and I’ve got so much to do and not enough time to do it and everyone needs something from me and The Mister and I are arguing about something stupid and the house is a mess and the yard needs weeding and the grass needs mowed and if I don’t do the work I don’t know that I’ll earn enough to compensate for rent…

…my dearest Ana.

Whenever the world gets to be too much, when my heart feels so big and swollen and putrid and infected that it threatens to rupture and consume my whole everything with emotional maggots, when I feel so gross that I just can’t cope with living one more second inside my own skin, Ana helps me to feel NOTHING by making me feel EMPTY.

She is always there.  Whenever I need her.  Whenever I need HELP.

Whenever I NEED.

She’s never left me.  And she’s never said I was ugly, or fat.  She’s never judged me.  She’s just HELPED.  She’s helped me be less disgusting.  She’s helped to gloss over the pain in my life, given me something to focus on, given me a solid rung to grasp tight when the others under my feet were falling to pieces.

When I’m with her I can be enough.  With her I’m on my way to Perfect.  When I’m with her I can be lovable.  Because of her the man in my life will complain less.  They will want to stay.  My body will be worth touching, and I’ll be attractive enough to keep them from seeking sexual fulfillment elsewhere, through videos or pictures of other girls.

With her help I am beautiful.

No matter how bad things are, no matter how much garbage is piled up on my life or in my head.  No matter how hard things hurt, no matter how heavy they weigh on me, no matter how much I wish I was somewhere or someone else so I don’t have to deal with ALL THIS SHIT.  There has never been one single problem I’ve had that she hasn’t helped me feel better about.

She is the only one that has never left.

And really, through her there is always one thing that I can control.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh….   there it is.

The issue.

THE. Issue.


Ana and Mia are disorders of control.  ADDICTIONS TO CONTROL.

I am not addicted to Ana, I am addicted to control.

….well, maybe both.  I really do like Ana.

I am addicted to control, and I DEFY anything and anyone that tells me “you can’t.”  I defy anyone and anything that has control OVER me.  Food has control over me.  I prove my control by defying food.

Ironic that my addiction, the thing I have no control over, is my desire for control.

I’m not even sure what to do with that.  My brain is literally folding in on itself.

No matter how bad my life got, no matter how rough things were, HOW MUCH I ATE was always one thing I could COMPLETELY CONTROL.  EVERY TIME I was in charge, and ALL THE WAY.  I get to choose how much and when and why.  I LIKE being in charge of things.

I really, really like to be in control of my life.

Who doesn’t?

Over the years I’ve learned where my circle of control is drawn.  I know what I get to choose and what I don’t.  I know that the only people INSIDE my circle of control are me and my kids.  Not The Mister, not anyone I have working for me, not my family or friends.  I can INFLUENCE them, of course, but I don’t get to control them.

I wonder why my circle of control around myself is drawn with such a hard, solid, dark line?

I’m sure part of it is due to the abuse I suffered.  Part is due to my upbringing, baggage handed down to me by my parents.  Part is due to the long track record I have for dating cheating men, and the reason my marriage failed.

Mostly I’m sure it’s because I’ve always been ME, and I like to be in charge of things.  I believe it’s in my hardwiring.

Regardless, my circle of control has been drawn with a permanent marker.  And then built up with a wall of brick a couple layers thick, and then rigged with Gatling guns and motion sensors.

Nothing gets in, nothing gets out.

Even my circle of control is under tight control.

Everything now, except Ana.  She’s kind of taken over.

Addiction is a fancy word for “habit.”  When we talk about addiction, we assume that addiction is something negative.  That the THING is bad for the addict, that the addict will self-destruct.  That’s not always true, though.  I would speculate that almost every single person has an addiction of some kind, an impulse or compulsion or desire they can barely control.  Obsessing about Jesus, reading every single label to make sure you’re “clean eating,” exercising like a maniac to be sure you’re in top condition.  Working seventy hours a week to climb a corporate ladder, praying fifty times a day, drinking two gallons of water, spending money on things without restraint even when the things you buy are useful, not spending any money at all so you’ve got a nest egg that would carry you through the next century.  All of those things are excessive.  It’s all addiction.

Addiction is not just “I have to do bad things,” it is ANY lack of control over behaviors and impulses.

In my last post I talked about the five stages of grief, and that I was toeing the line between depression and acceptance.  I think through this post I did finally reach acceptance.  I feel like the black, cloying, thick fog has lifted some.  It’s still dark and scary, this road to recovery, but for the first time I see a bit of light.  I can see that I’m standing at the head of a path.  The path is a little narrow, but it’s wider than it felt when I was blind and in the dark.  I can’t see the end of the road, or even where it’s headed, but I CAN see my feet.

For the first time ever with regard to Ana, I can see my feet.

I can see my feet and enough of the path to point my toes in the right direction.

And I can take a step.

The first step is letting go of control.

…….those of you that know me, I can hear you chuckling……

Or maybe not letting go, not trying to CONTROL control, but focusing on something different.  Shifting my habits to something more productive.  Focusing that will-always-be-there-just-a-part-of-my-personality control on things that matter.  Like working out.  Or eating ENOUGH, or eating the right things.  Or loving my kids more, and seeing myself through THEIR eyes.

No matter how improbable it seems, it is not IMPOSSIBLE.  I can try.  I WILL try.  I have to try.  I WANT TO TRY.

And now it’s time to really say goodbye.

Goodbye, Dear Ana.  Thank you for the time you’ve spent with me.  For your loyalty, your arm across my shoulder and your tight embrace around my middle when I felt like nothing in the world was solid.

Thank you for getting me through things that I couldn’t get through by myself.  No matter what I was, thank you for telling me that I could be more when I was with you.

Thank you for your affection when I felt none from everywhere else.  Thank you for making me feel lovable when I had no love to give even myself.

Goodbye, old friend.

From this day forward, from this minute on you will be nothing more than a memory, like a piece of newspaper left out in the sun.  You will fade.  You will crumble, and the story you tell about me on your pages will become irrelevant.

Eventually you will be nothing more than someone I used to know.

I will stop wanting to see you.  I will stop missing you.

I will never seek you out.  I will never try to find you.

My life with you is over,

because now it’s time to live.