It was in my distant and depressing middle school days, that I’d become well-acquainted with a girl named Ana. I can remember, quite vividly in fact, when we first met during the first trimester of the sixth grade. Those were the days; those elementary school days. Though my peers and I were younger and much more naïve back then, I cannot help but feel so conclusive that, despite of our lack of worldly knowledge, we were still so inexcusably cruel. The experience was unlike those of later years to come. Indeed: it was much more scarring. Perhaps, that simple expression “words hurt,” is what led me to Ana.
She was the ideal kind of girl; little Miss California, Ana was. Her lengthy, slim figure could sell any sort of attire that adorned it, and her translucent, glowing, pale skin sparkled in the light of the sun just as flecks of quartz would in a sidewalk. But it was her hair, and her eyes - oh her eyes!- that everyone, the boys and the girls, fixated their adoration upon. Her porcelain features were framed with a full head of hair that naturally switched its hue to another in the wide spectrum of color. From flat-ironed golden tresses to wavy brunette locks to the artificially-dyed rainbow tendrils in its splendor, each strand altered its shade in sync with the others, every-so minutes. This- her eyes did as well.
In one day, in a six to seven hour period, the tint of her irises changed eight times (at a minimum.) I remember; I counted. One moment, her eyes would sparkle as a soft, self-conscious aqueous-blue, and the next, they would gradually dim into dark, dull, accidental coffee stains.
It is not necessary to hold my claims in high-regards, in fact, I’d expect that five-out-of-five subjects would scoff at my words, and decide them to be the mere hallucinations of a disturbed child. But oh no, Ana was real; she is real, and she exists, walking the ground of our populated soil to this day. I know; I’ve seen her, I’ve met her… I was Ana.
She was more than an alter-ego, not just surfacing only when I was in times of great distress or anxiety. No. That is not the role Ana played in my life. She didn’t sing for me when my voice trapped in my throat during the sixth grade talent show; that day when their eyes pierced my trembling countenance. Salty tears leaked from a reddened forehead and from both tear ducts and pelted the newly-waxed auditorium stage, but did Ana dare speak up? Did her always-steady, always-certain alto sing its way out of my lips? No, it did not, for Ana does not take up such petty tasks like the aforementioned.
It was when my classmates decided to be generous and began to bestow upon me terms and phrases that I’d never even thought to insert into my mental dictionary that I grew closer to Ana. With these new additions to my maturing vocabulary, my self-esteem deteriorated. On top of this, my “home,” which was meant to be my sanctuary, was congested with memories and occurrences of emerald blemishes and more generosity of some new, fresh speech to add to my long list of suppressed burdens. At this point, the clenching of fists and red beads strewn in intricate patterns on the palms of my hands was not enough to relieve me.
She knew this very well, Ana did, perhaps even better than I did. With this knowledge, she decided to give me a quick visit, which slowly, but surely, escalated into somewhat more of a vacation. Her disease contaminated my mind, soul, and body. I skipped one meal, two, three… One day turned into one week, and her stay within me began to display the extent of the effects of the toll her presence had. I struggled with the temptation to skip or to purge what little food I’d managed to consume. I tried to fight her, but it wasn’t before long that others began to see the difference as well.
My pink, puffy, juvenile cheeks started to shrink and revealed the fact that I actually had cheekbones. My chubby, but eye-crinkling stubs of legs underwent the same process of fat-loss, and within weeks, they displayed a clear, obvious outline of my knee joints. Darkened circles enhanced the droopy state of my eyes, while my precious locks became thinned-out and brittle (almost toothpick-like but stripped of half of the material.) These were all the consequences of Ana’s visit, yes, but the worst part? That was the recovery phase.
The most difficult, most scarring stage of this experience was not paying the price, nor was it when I was becoming Ana, but when I had to teach myself to look in the mirror again, accept me for me, and learn how to willingly eat like before. The process was excruciating, not physically, but emotionally. I dreaded to even glance at my reflection, for I couldn’t do so without criticizing the grotesque appearance of my spine and my ribs poking out from underneath my dry, pale skin or the uneven complexion of my face slapped by the heavy hand of Ana. It took half a year to bleach away the haunting trail that Ana left behind her…
Ana was real; she is real, and she exists, walking the ground of our populated soil to this day. She walks among our youth and sometimes, even among the matured. Ana lives, and she thrives, hidden by the innocence of timid blue eyes or hazy brown orbs. Ana is real. I know; I have seen her, I have met her… I was Anorexia.