Ana: A Sketch Essay

*Trigger Warning* 

*THIS ESSAY CONTAINS SENSTIVE CONTENT AND EXPLICIT DETAILS OF EATING DISORDERS, SEXUAL ABUSE REFERENCES – READ WITH CAUTION* 

Ana: A Sketch Essay 

She is present and she is absent. She is cold and unforgiving. She is bold, and unwanted. She is thoughtless, careless and the saddest creature you will ever encounter. She is the mistress of manipulation. She is inside my head.

 Think of a tangled mess of bare branches that are attached to an aging, creaking, once flourishing- now spiky Red Wood tree carcass. Nails on a chalkboard, her bones creak and break with every step she takes. Skin as white as snow, eyes black as holes with tear ducts streaming a nile of endless sorrow. Her hair is long, black and stringing with grease. A grotesque little thing she is. Her smile sends shivers down spines – reaching earlobe to earlobe and curling at her gums, exposing yellow pointed teeth and a slight empty laugh -Ana’s smile is frightening enough to make anyone run. Her official name is Anorexia, though I personally know her as Ana. She does not appear this way physically to the world, and is constantly attempting to dismantle my confidence into fragmented pieces.  

Ana reminds me of the pretty girl who I used to walk by in the hallways of my highschool. That outwardly looks like she had absolutely everything at her perfectly polished fingertips. This girl had eyes that were as bright blue as a California spring day, that were always overcast due to the pain I saw herself putting through. That same girl walked through the doors of one of my group therapy treatments when I was a sophomore in high school, hand in hand with her laxative addiction. She was a perfect abstraction of outwardly false confidence, but still one of the most striking girls I have ever seen. It does take one to know one. Some people kill for beauty, even if it means themselves.

Ana and I have known each other for quite some time, for ongoing ten years. I first met Ana, diagnostically, when I was fifteen, in my personally infamous year of 2012, though I now have presumptions that she and I had been acquainted for some years before that. I met her on a first name basis in a tiny doctors office – a day that is forever in my mind as a core memory. Of course, Ana did not reveal the horror of her true identity to me all at once. It was only after she was identified, named and defined as a negative narrative that I now live with for the rest of my life, that she revealed how ugly she can get. 

 I wondered as I got older where Ana came from. Did she come from  the inhumanly disproportionate, plastic Barbies my mother used to get for me? I had always secretly wished as a little girl to grow up to be as beautiful as those late 90’s Mattel manufactured Barbie dolls. Was it the Victoria Secret catalogs that would come in my family’s mail? Could it have been watching my mother, going through the blood, sweat and pain of the 2000’s toxic diet culture trends? Thinking to myself whenever she broke out in a hungry induced fit of anger, that I would never want to end up in her condition and having to go through the same thing.  

I had grown up with pretty things all around me. Princess this and pink that during childhood. Now almost grown up, I have developed a love for fashion, dresses and fragrances. I am considered to be a girly girl, and do take care of myself routinely. One of my greatest fears is that I am as ugly as Ana. How can I not be? I heard the saying “what is psychological is also physiological” from an old psych teacher once and for a longtime, I had applied it to be the logic behind my insecurities. Anorexia (Ana) is a life-long diagnosis with no cure and no medications to cleanse her from the person she inhabits. Only treatments, programs, the threat of being fed through a tube, and constant care repetitions. Having Ana in my mind feels like a minefield inside of my own head – being triggered to the front of my consciousness at the drop of the right pin.

My entire life I have had my parents and loved ones comment on what a pretty and petite thing I am – though it doesn’t penetrate Ana’s smoke screen around my self-confidence. I was even a child model and actor for quite some time, shouldn’t that tell me something? For a disorder that is rumored to be motivated by fat-phobia and vanity, Ana is quite in fact a gruesome thing to the host she resides in. She is a personalized deadly energy for said individual, if fed enough attention. She has no remorse and will relentlessly attempt to anchor me, or anyone she inhabits in her many demonistic forms down, if given even the slightest amount of time. I constantly find myself worrying: Do I look like this Ana on the outside? 

Having Anorexia does not mean that I am fearful of becoming overweight (all the time) but it does mean that there are more days than I would like to admit where I avoid my own reflection in the funhouse mirrors that seem to follow me everywhere I go. Body Dysmorphic Disorder comes as a buy one get one free with having an ED. Just the other day while exercising we were asked to place our feet hip distance apart. My instructor came by and corrected me – pulling my feet from 7 inches to about an inch and a half apart and said “Julia, your hips are not that big”. I felt embarrassed knowing that was a body dysmorphic disorder move, at its finest. 

 

The amount of times I have put makeup on and heard Ana’s taunting voice in the back of my head is tragically sad: 

“You think that concealer can cover those fine lines?”

“Is that a double chin I see forming?”

“You’re the ugliest thing I have ever seen”

“Give up Julia, you’re just not good at this pretty girl shit” 

I then cap my Chanel lipstick and take a deep breath as I take a step away from the mirror and feel warmth flush over my face as tears swell into my eyes. I just want to feel pretty. I wish I could just like myself at this moment, but even though I don’t – I go back to applying my makeup to the taunting tune of Ana’s nasty and untrue comments. 

I hate to admit that Ana knows me very well, but not all of me. She knows nothing of my true self. A happy, ambitious and loving individual who is confidently excited for everyday I get to live. I am the friend who always has a smile on her face, rings any environment I am in with laughter and will always go out of my way to help those who I love and need it.  Ana only knows my vulnerabilities, my triggers, destructive coping mechanisms and what presses my anger. I hate to say that on the days where I see her lurking in my shadow – there is a battle of self conflict between myself and Ana. 

She tries to remind me that she was trying to save me when we first met – I was diagnosed with Anorexia when I was also unknowingly being molested, in that infamous year of 2012, at just fifteen years of age. Ana came to my as demon disguised angel who planted the toxic and permanent seed in my head:

 “Starve yourself till you are so small,  no one will be able to touch you, see you, he won’t be able to touch you anymore – you’ll be invisible” 

Today I am twenty-five and Ana is still a chip on my shoulder, a pain in my ass and an unfortunate part of me. As I have grown older, I have learned to treat myself better. Exercise, eat well, practice mindfulness. Ana’s kryptonite is positivity and self love – light. It is me versus Ana on the days where she comes crashing into my psyche, attempting to poison and pick apart everything I have done to build myself into an independent person away from the engraved attachment she and I have. 

I tell you, Dear reader, of the horror that is having Anorexia to attempt breaking the stigma that Eating Disorders are a form of fatphobia – and remind society – eating disorders do in fact exist. There are many examples in my life where I have gotten unwanted comments on my body that I know come from these assumptions, somewhere. 

“Her waist is as big as my thigh”

“Aren’t you just the teenisest, tiniest person I have ever seen?”

“You don’t need to workout, you’re so skinny already!”

“Yea, all ten pounds of her couldn’t help me”

My eating disorder was manifested from a series of traumatic events that started from an extremely young age and that was born during one of the hardest times of my life. In no way do I look at other people who are bigger than me and think to skip a meal so I won’t end up looking like them. I don’t keep certain foods out of my diet to look like anybody else – and certainly do not choose to be mentally berated inside my own head, just to keep a slim waistline. 

There are some days where I feel as small as Thumblina. The unprecedented commentary from other women just feeds into Ana’s darkness in ways that I have yet to figure out. And that is what I intended to do, confront Ana time and time again until I can look in mirrors without seeing a false reflection. I want to enjoy a treat and not rip myself apart from eating it later, I don’t want to skip meals because of a bad day or stressful situation. Eventually I want to bring awareness to the Eating Disorder community and society: that instead of treatments and therapy, consisting of increased calories and limited physical activity – that we need to learn how to be confident and love ourselves. We need to know how to ease the clench around our throats in order to speak to ourselves nicer inside our own heads and most importantly, find healthy coping mechanisms when things get tough. 

At the end of the day I am strong enough to know that this is my life, not Ana’s. And though living with her some days feel as though I am as haunting looking as she is, I soak up every moment I get where she is not present inside of the day or thoughts. I take advantage of these moments by writing mantras to myself, finding new things to experiment with in fashion that are both comfortable and to my liking. I shake off the comments from others because I know they have no idea who I truly am, where I have been and what I live with. With everything that I have been through, I know one day I’ll be able to live in health and clarity with myself – and even smile at my own reflection. Later to become an active voice, guiding those who relate to my story to light and love in the ED community.

Ana is a ghastly creature, but that doesn’t mean I am or have to be either. Exuding kindness and graciousness in all areas of my life is what keeps me going. As well as knowing that I too will tell my story and have it be widely known as a learning lesson: We truly do not see ourselves as others think we do. And to always, speak to yourself as kind as you would to someone you love. 

 

Julia Katherine Publications – Copyright 2022

Sprouting: A Reflection By Julia Katherine

Dear reader, 

2021 has been a closed chapter in all of our books. I wanted to share with you some of my reflections and most integral experiences last year. 2021 was  filled with incredible achievements, flourishing with bright and vivacious days. I do not know if the memories of my friend’s smile were shining brighter than the summer sun, or if I just remember it that way.  

Of course, not every day was so great. 2021 introduced me to a new side of my anxiety I had never encountered. I started the beginning of the year by losing my beloved first pet and went through phases of crippling overthinking. I reached peaks of stress from battling the over-achiever that was born in that year. I watched walls that I had spent so much time and pain building up disintegrate, as I transformed them (and myself) into new, healthy boundaries and habits. I opened myself and my mind to small and big things in life – these days, even I look back in awe. 

  The biggest difference I see in myself now is instead of  numbing those bad days away- I confront them and sent them straight to a place in my brain I like to call ‘processing’ – a mental note to self to learn from my mistakes. I also don’t make habits or patterns that are harmful for me anymore – though there have been some days where wine doesn’t taste as bitter. I like this little part of me that takes tabs on behavioral patterns and choices not to repeat again. 

  Take it from me reader, it is not expected of you to change into an entirely new person overnight. I tend to also comfort my anxiety by reminding myself, Rome was not built in a day, though a wise friend told me that it only takes that long to burn it all down. 

At the beginning of the 2021, I was working as a Starbucks barista (again) and had just applied for Arizona State Universities online B.S program. I was contemplating going back to the local community college in my area, but my boss at the time (a wonderful lady) gave me a pep talk to take the chance with applying to the Starbucks ASU program. After the application process, I anxiously awaited the answer of whether or not I got into ASU and put my head into a spin. My GPA plummeted when I was abusing substances and I saw little to almost no light for my educational dreams. Though I didn’t get accepted initially – I was put into ASU’s pathway program. This was a program that included taking courses for credit but I had to maintain at least a C average or better GPA. And I learned fast, grew faster. 

I created a completely healthy, disciplined and dedicated routine for myself when it came to studying and turning in assignments. I would wake up before the sun came up on my days off and pound out work at my desk – some days were as long as 8-10 hours. I want(ed) not to only succeed – but to soar. Avenge myself in a way, that would put as far of a gap in between my old self as I could. And that’s exactly what I did. The scores started to rack in at 100% and I became addicted to my own success. There was something about surprising myself with the level of commitment that drew me in further, made me more curious – and motivated me to always give my best if not more. 

This is where I believe my anxiety and the long road of learning not to be so hard on myself was born. Immediately I was overcome with self-induced pressure, I felt as though every assignment I turned in was an art piece made of glass. One wrong move and all my hard work could shatter away. My anxiety would conjure fears, like my professor dropping me from a class just for missing a piece of information. I know that’s pretty dramatic to say, but when has anxiety ever been known to be rational? After turning in big projects my mind would race as I would try to fall asleep some nights: 

“Shit…did I use the right headers? Should I have triple checked that assignment? What if I fail all over again…”  

 

Between this, interning and working I had my hands full. Deadlines, Zoom meetings, intern interview assignments, getting up at 3 AM to get up for an eight hour shift – I put in work during 2021 to say the least. Which naturally led to the days where the pressures of it all simmer over and come out emotionally. There were 7AM crying fits, crippled by the fear of failure, because I had seen it once before. If you dear reader have also expressed stress attacks due to high expectations for yourself, even as early as when you first open your eyes to the pounding repeated sound of your alarm – you are not alone.

 Stress comes in nasty forms for each individual. Whether it be under or over eating, using any sort of substances, nail biting, skin picking, trouble sleeping or being mentally paralyzed by the rapid thoughts reminding you of all you have to do or improve on. Stress can do things like poison the mind in thinking that the people you love do not love you back and that all your hard work is for nothing.

 What I have learned is: Stress attacks happen and there’s nothing we can do to prevent them. What we can do is aid ourselves, learn from it and repeat. How we pick ourselves up and continue on afterwards is what matters.  I found in 2021 that truly taking one thing at a time is a helpful tool. Don’t let the amount of times you have fallen or life has held you down be the reason why you do not ever get back up. 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results – then laying in bed and letting anxiety consume you while expecting it all to go away tomorrow- is a contestant of insanity. There is a difference between visiting our comfort zones versus being consumed by them. This is a topic I visited in my writing last year as well. I knew that I had to get up every I felt the weight of all my tasks was pushing down on me. There was no other option but for me to keep going. This mentality worked swiftly and rewardingly for myself. 

The happy ending to my ASU story is I received my acceptance letter from my first choice program, on my twenty-fifth birthday. I raised my GPA to a semester 4.0 and calculated 3.71 and still have that today as we enter Spring 2022. 

During 2021 I tested boundaries and limits I had once falsely assigned. I gathered myself together by creating a foundation for myself of hard work and consistency. Slowly but surely new patterns and parts of myself emerged that have taken many, including myself, by a positive surprise. I started becoming aware of not only what I was thinking but also saying. I finally wasn’t scared to get to know myself.

For me, that goes very deep. Due to the work in progress with my traumatic past – I didn’t want to know myself or let anyone else get the chance too, for a long time. One of the many discouraging feelings that carries into one’s adulthood when they have been sexually exploited as a child, is that you’re a fifthly person. That since I was used in such a malicious and disgusting manner, for the pleasure of a monster, that must mean I am one too, right?

 

WRONG.

Once I started detaching from that decade old mentality this…beautiful person started to make an appearance in around spring of 2021. I blossomed, with the trees and roses all around me. My smile grew more genuine as the sun rays came out on warm California days. My self confidence started to immerge once again. I now have the dream support team that includes a group of young women who are superheroes, a loving family and my incredible Ian. All of these people, individually, are why I believe Earth side angels exist. 

Dear reader, I am going to end on a happy note because I am not a writer who accepts sad endings. If any of my words strike your heart and churn in your thoughts then let that transpire into action. The strength of human resilience is innately inside us all. It is most commonly said not to let other people dictate your life for you, or hold you back. What I think needs to be said more, don’t let YOURSELF hold you back. 

 

I’m off to work on a few other projects. And I cannot wait for my first novel debut. 2022 is my year, and yours too. 

 

Love and kindness, 

Julia