In June I posted Opening our eyes to pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites, to alert parents and pediatricians to the existence of an online world of eating disorder websites. Some of the sites include tips and tricks to hide one’s condition from others. I received a number of emails after that post; some were happy I’d shared the info, others felt I’d unfairly slighted the pro-ana sites (by lumping them with pro-anorexia sites), and others thought I’d done a disservice by linking to some of the sites.
In this guest post, Angela E. Gambrel Lackey, a 45-year-old woman on a journey of recovery from anorexia, shares her personal perspective on pro-ana. The post first appeared on her blog, Leaving ED.
The Lies of Proana
by Angela E. Gambrel Lackey
My mind feels as if it were split in two by anorexia. Part of me is pulled toward eating less and losing weight. The pursuit of thinness feels so strong, ready to pull me under. But is it really being thin that I want? I don’t think so.
People say I am too thin now; losing more pounds feels rather pointless and yet . . . I look at pictures of those who are young and thin; fake photos to draw me in and trap me. I will never look like that. It is a lie. I won’t tiptoe between raindrops nor walk across snow-covered fields with nary a footprint.
The Lies of Proana
Il Faut Souffrir Pour Etre Belle
(One must suffer to be beautiful)
Welcome to the world of fantasy
Where slender young women
float through life
untouched by the ravages
of their starving bodies
Did I ever believe any of this? Do I still? Is my mind torn in two? As I struggle to eat, both believing I need to lose weight and then seeing the truth, I wonder whose mind is it, anyway? Who is in control here and am I that easily manipulated? Or am I sometimes drawn toward this fantasy world because I find it too hard to escape the reality of anorexia? I wonder …
It is so easy to believe the lies of proana. The women pictured look flawless — smooth, delicate skin, slender bodies and glossy smooth hair. Who could resist the allure of these images?
Proana says all you have to do is not eat. Of course, not every one of these websites actually say you must starve to achieve this imaginary life. Starvation is sometimes just a whisper behind the positive posts of eating less and exercising more; of ways to avoid food and how much better you will feel the less you eat.
Some proana sites go further, trying to make starvation sound virtuous; a state to aspire to:
“Starvation is fulfilling.
Colors become brighter, sounds sharper,
odors so much more savory . . .“
LIES! I wish I could reach through the website where I found that and shake the person, yelling You are starving, that’s why things seem different and strange. Starving!!! Lies which help perpetuate the downward spiral of so many women. More fulfilling??? I remember in some of my worst restrictive times I would suddenly get an urge to snatch food from someone eating in front of me. The smells and imagined taste almost were too much. And yet part of me was (is?) susceptible to this and it scares me.
The other, healthier part of me wants to break free of anorexia forever. I am tired. Tired of counting calories. Tired of worrying about every single bite I put in my mouth. Tired of fighting with my mind all the time. I struggle to maintain some semblance of a normal life and at each turn, crouching in every corner is anorexia.
Tired of thinking about a life without my husband, a life without love and joy.
The anxiety is the worst. I wake up afraid of everything. Having sex with my husband. Food. Getting out of bed. The fear that I will amount to nothing. Eating. Not eating. Facing the day. Taking a shower and deciding what clothes to wear. Completing assignments.
Nothing is untouched by anxiety. Nothing.
The other day my husband told me he was leaving unless I made a real effort toward recovery. I thought I was. I was thinking about what I needed to do, writing about it, trying to work through the fear of eating and gaining weight.
I felt I was making an effort. I was thinking about it; doesn’t that count for something? Of course, I also was talking about not gaining anymore weight and possibly losing more. I feel fine, I said. Why can’t I stay the way I am? Why can’t I just accept I have anorexia and live with it. I could give up treatment and let things happen,
What did I expect? For David to say, sure that’s fine, being under one hundred pounds is perfectly okay by me?
I’m such an idiot sometimes. I cried more that night than ever before . . . I promised to do better and I do truly want recovery. It’s just so hard and I’m not as strong as people seem to think.
Last night, I told my doctor I want one of two things — either anorexia to kill me or to be free. Anorexia nervosa purgatory just isn’t working for me.
Then I had an — epiphany? A revelation? Maybe a word from God, I don’t know. I suddenly thought, What if I just stopped worrying and started eating like a normal person? What would happen? Would I literally explode? Would it kill me? Or would I start becoming the person I was, only better?
I think of the past and dream of the future, thinking of the possibility of a rich and normal life . . .August 11, 2010