I was required to submit a creative writing piece for my A Level English course. I decided to write a letter to ‘Ana’ – the personification of anorexia – to try to explore the thoughts, feelings and emotions of someone with an eating disorder. I recognize that anorexia is an extremely complex condition, and by no means am I trying to suggest that everyone with experience of an eating disorder feels or has felt this way. I have used my own experiences with mental illness and my sister’s experience with anorexia nervosa as inspiration.
We had the talk again today, mum and I. She’s worried about me. Past worried, actually. I know what you think of her worrying, but it’s different this time, Ana. That’s why I’m writing this letter.
Let me explain.
It all started when she knocked on my door this morning. I wanted to tell her where to go. I couldn’t face her constant nagging. I know she thinks she’s helping me, but she does my bloody head in. Of course, I didn’t really tell her where to go. I’m a pushover. I know, I know, you want me to stand up for myself. Stand up for us. If only you and mum could learn to accept each other, my life would be so much easier. I already know how you’ll react to that one. “Idiot,” you’ll call me, “how could you be so stupid?” You’re right, of course.
Anyway, she came into my room carrying a tray. “Brunch,” she’d called it. I hate that word. Brunch. I tried to sit up in bed, but I felt so weak, I could barely move. I can already hear your voice whispering in my ear, “You know the real reason why you can barely move, you fat cow!” You’re right, of course. It’s kind of funny. No one has ever been so honest with me, Ana. I really need your honesty. It helps make me better.
She brought me a blueberry muffin and a glass of orange juice. 377 in the muffin, 118 in the juice. 495 in total. I can already hear you laughing in my head. You have such a distinct laugh, Ana. Has anyone ever told you that? When you laugh, it stays with me for days.
I know you’ll be proud of me, Ana, for not touching the muffin. My stomach rumbled, but I tried not to want it. I didn’t want to want it. As soon as I looked at the plate I could hear you chanting, “FAT! FAT! FAT!”. I stayed strong. I didn’t eat.
Ana, I drank the juice.
I’m weak. Pathetic. The guilt is consuming me, Ana. I was just so thirsty – I know it’s no excuse. I know you’ll want to punish me, but don’t worry, I’ve already taken care of it. God knows what mum would say if she knew about that.
This just proves how much I need you. You help make me better. I won’t give in again. Promise.
Mum just sighed when I refused to eat. I could see her trying not to cry. Again. I hate upsetting her like this, but she just doesn’t understand. Nobody does.
Except for you.
“Have you been in touch with Rebecca?” She asked me. Rebecca is my best friend. Well, she used to be anyway. I suppose you could say we drifted apart over the summer. She would call round the house every now and then, but she hasn’t done that in ages. Last time she came over, she took one look at you and stormed out. That was the last I heard from her. Don’t know what her problem is.
Mum got angry when I told her that I hadn’t had any contact with Rebecca. How dare she?! She’s not allowed to get angry. She’s not the one who got abandoned by her best friend for no apparent reason. Then she told me that my dad had been in touch. Can you believe it?! It’s been, what, nearly four months? Apparently, he’s worried about me too. They’ve been trying to think of ways to handle the situation. That’s all I am to them, Ana. A situation. I’m so angry with him. Does he really think he can just waltz back into our lives like this and have a say?
They’ve decided, without me, that I’m not allowed to go back to school. How do they expect me to catch up with my old friends if I can’t go to school? Apparently, I’m not well enough to go. Pfft, please! I’ve never been thinner.
She was throwing words around like “therapy” and “treatment”. Isn’t that just ridiculous? Only crazy people need therapy. Only sick people need treatment. I’m neither of those things. That’s what I said to her. “I’m not sick, mum.”
I couldn’t believe what she said next. “Yes, darling, you are.”
They want to send me somewhere to get help, and that’s why I’m writing this letter. I need you to know. The thing is, Ana, she thinks you are a bad influence on me. She thinks it’s your fault. She said that ever since you came into my life, four months ago, that I’ve spiralled out of control. But that’s just it, I’ve never had this much control! She says I don’t eat, I don’t drink, I don’t speak to my family, and I don’t see my friends. But why can’t she see it from my side? I don’t need those things. I don’t need my friends, I don’t need my family, I don’t need to drink, and I certainly don’t need food. I have all I need, right, Ana? That’s what you told me. All I need is you.
Then she pulled out her “research”. She’d been on the internet again. I knew I should have talked my dad out of buying her that laptop last Christmas. “Anorexia Nervosa”, she kept saying to me, over and over. All I could think was, “Huh, that’s strange. Ana never told me that she had a last name.”
They expect me to leave you behind, when they send me away. That’s all this is, isn’t it? They want to split us up. Of course, I’m not really leaving you behind. How can I? You’re part of me now.
It’s like you always say, Ana. I’m nothing without you.