I awake to face the monster. It is both my friend and foe, both my strength and weakness, enveloping my existence with its rigid claws until I can think of nothing else. I won’t give it up though. I can’t. Not yet. Only a few more pounds left to go.
My name was Angelina. I am not so sure anymore. My whole identity has been swallowed by the mental beast that shares my days, who dictates my actions and determines my fate. I am twenty years of age. I was born in an insignificant town on an insignificant day, but the last six years have changed my life and leave me as I am today.
So, I wake this morning and take my place at the table among the other captives in my residence. I can feel the sense of solidarity, as we unite under one banner against the common enemy. It is seven a.m. and breakfast time at the zoo. At least, it feels like a zoo. The atmosphere is voyeuristic, nurses stand guard, stationed at every corner, watching every move. There is no escape.
“You can’t leave until it is all gone”, they say, “you have been on the drip for long enough now, it’s time to get some solid food down you, here, let me help”.
I have heard this all before, so I take my usual stance. I push my plate away, firmly cross my arms in defiance and sit, like a stone. Every morning it is the same. I am presented with the same plate of scrambled egg on toast, followed by a bowl of cereal topped with lashings of full fat milk. It is the words ‘full fat’ that do it. They echo in my mind.
“No”, I firmly tell myself, “don’t give in now”.
After this small victory, I am returned to my cell and once again, chained to my enemy. It’s poison flows into my veins, I can feel myself expanding as it does so. The beast is angry. I feel sick. The colour drains from my face and I pass out.
Dazed and confused, when I open my eyes, I find myself in a strange room. There are people I have never seen before and I find, to my dismay, I left bedridden, constrained by an amalgamation of wires attached to various parts of my anatomy.
“Where am I?” I demand of the nearest stranger.
“You’re in intensive care dear,” the nurse replies, “you passed out after your breakfast while you were on your drip”.
“Oh” is all the response I can muster. My body convulses in pain. I can feel the agony permeate every fibre of muscle, every cell of my body.
“What is wrong with me?” I pant. I begin to worry. Never before, even during the days I would run fourteen miles at a time, have I ever experienced torture like this.
“You see sweetheart, you have done your body a lot of damage over the years”,
“I know that”, I snap involuntarily. I do hate to be patronised.
“Well,” the nurse continues, undeterred by my defensive tone “you are ill.’
I can see the pity in her eyes. I know what is coming yet strangely I am not afraid. I can feel no fear because I have no heart. The monster numbs my emotion. I feel no pain, no love, no excitement, no joy, but that is the way I like it.
“In fact,” the nurse continues, now rather uncertain, “your heart is very weak, the doctors are very worried. We are doing everything we can, but it is important you rest for now. We have called your parents and they are on their way, is there anyone else you would like us to contact: a friend or boyfriend perhaps?’
“No”, I scowl, “and I don’t want to see them”.
“Ok dear, just rest for now and I’ll come back and check on you in a little bit”. She nervously withdraws obviously unsure of what to make of my aggressive stance.
I groan through another surge of pain, it comes thick and fast now. My body writhes with agony, my bones pierce the flesh. The voice comes to soothe the pain, “it is proof you are thin,” it says and it is right. My mind calms as the pain eases and I return to the situation of my parents and their forthcoming arrival.
My parents have never understood my choices. They could never understand why I chose the life I did. Sometimes, even I don’t understand my existence: rise at six am, go for a run, come back and do some work, have an apple, go out for another run and then finish the day with a bowl of soup and settle down with a book. I like to read. I can escape inside a world outside my own. It satisfies my lust for life, the yearning for the life I will never have. I can experience life through the eyes of others and I feel contented.
Life, the way it is now, started as I teetered on the brink of womanhood as my final months as a carefree adolescent slipped through my fingers. Then came my period. The sight of the blood was enough: I was repulsed. Everything the blood symbolized, everything it encapsulated utterly appalled me: sexuality, motherhood and responsibility.
I like to know where things are going, planned and organized to perfection, right down to the finest detail. I like to be in control.
Therefore, the uncertainty of adulthood, the vague outline I had of my future life filled me with anxiety. Independence and responsibility became for me, synonymous with fear and unease so much so that I became convinced, if only I could make myself smaller, I would never grow up. It was then that I stopped eating. It really was that simple, I have always had a disposition prone to determinism and so, when I set my mind to it: that was that.
I began to love my bones, the shape of my skeleton appearing in the mirror, the loose flesh left my body, as I slowly became a picture of fragility, an ephemeral being, desperately clinging to her beloved youth. As I became smaller and smaller, so the voice grew louder and louder: it was happy only so long as I obeyed its command so, I embraced its words of wisdom, adopting its holy mantra as my sacred text, allowing it to guide my daily existence; willingly, I continued to starve.
That brings me to where I am today.
Yes, I fainted, but does not everybody have license to faint occasionally, is it such a rare occurrence? I refuse to lay blame on the voice; it has been my only friend and companion for so long, surely it deserves some credit? So, serendipitous as this occurrence may have been, I became prisoner to the hands of fate; against my will, I became captive. Still, like a brave soldier, I fought.
I know, I can’t go on forever, the human body, delicately tuned to sustain our existence, when, abused for too long, will at last falter. That is why I am not afraid. I do not expect your sympathy and I understand and accept my choices have been selfish. I have lived a life cocooned within my own self-absorption as a figure of isolation resting proudly on the fringes of society. Yet, it was my decision, rightly or wrongly, for better or worse, this is how I chose to live my life.
My name is Angelina. I am twenty years of age, born in an insignificant town on an insignificant day. I weigh four stone five pounds and for the last six years I have been anorexic, but, at last, I can silence the voice.