Last night Ana got me.
I was at a staff party where everyone brought a plate of food to share. Whilst stood talking to a group of colleagues I was facing the food table which meant I could not concentrate. All I could think about was the food.
“When are we going to eat the food? What food am I going to be able to eat? Will people be upset if I don’t choose their food? Will they think I’m strange for my choices? How much should I take? Will we go up for seconds?”
I was first in the queue and managed to get a few things that I felt comfortable to eat. It went ok, so feeling more relaxed I went up for another helping of safe foods. I was taking some popcorn and exclaimed to a colleague “I love popcorn!” and she replied “I can see that, you’re single-handedly demolishing it!”
Which was probably a light-hearted comment, it probably meant nothing to her and she’s forgotten all about it. However to me it meant a dark curtain coming down in my mind. Out steps Ana and she’s carrying a mountain of shame for me. I feel ashamed for eating. I feel disgusted in myself and my mind is torn between two impulses: not eating any more or binge eating.
In my confusion I comfort eat some chocolate cake I shouldn’t eat because of food intolerances. Ana mocks me for my weakness and I want to cry. I go to the bathroom and touch my distended belly. I feel huge and disgusting.
At home, in bed, I do cry. I cry because Ana is being so horrible to me. I cry because I thought I was past this and strong enough to fight her. I cry because I’m exhausted and confused. I cry because I’m scared about tomorrow, about how long Ana is going to be back.
In the morning I drank my smoothie without much thought because I was in a rush. I saw my reflection in a window and thought I looked slimmer today in my black uniform. At lunch time I was hungry but still felt ashamed when my colleague didn’t eat as much as me. My head is full of contradictory thoughts; my rational mind versus Ana I guess. I have enough going on this week without Ana coming for a visit but perhaps that’s why she’s here, because she can feel my stress and knows I’m weak enough for her to get me.
It’s been building for a while. When I moved here my appetite increased and I began to eat more which was scary but I thought it was positive. Lately I’ve felt less in control. I’m eating lots of chocolate and biscuits full of sugar, wheat and dairy. I eat because its there, because I’m bored, because it’s sociable, because no one is telling me to stop. Some may say its good that I’ve loosened my rules but I’m not so sure it’s healthy. But maybe that’s just Ana confusing me again. That’s the worst part in all of this: I don’t know which voice in my head is the one to trust.
I haven’t posted for a long time because I’ve made a lot of new friends on Facebook since moving to Bristol and I’ve been feeling too ashamed to risk them reading about my health problems. However it is the support of my friends that helps me to fight Ana, so this is me being brave and standing up to Ana’s shaming and asking for understanding. This is me trying to help other people who might be struggling with their own health problems to feel that they are not alone. Until I get Ana back in her box again I might be weird around food. I might struggle to decide what and when to eat. I might go quiet or be stressed and snappy particularly around food. I might eat loads or eat very little. Going to the supermarket is a nightmare scenario I am trying to avoid but I know I will run out of food soon.
Bear with me, I’m fighting hard.
image credit: http://armyreservistwife.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/ashamed.html