Thursday, 16 May 2013

Saying goodbye to Ana and Mia

I was always an anxious and insecure child. I used to chatter to anybody who'd listen, mostly out of a fear that if I wasn't talking or making noise I would be ignored or forgotten. When I was ten my father started to sexually abuse me, at that point I stopped being quite such a chatter box. I preferred to be ignored, the more invisible I felt the safer I felt. The last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself. I never did feel invisible enough however, my father still noticed me on a regular basis.

Somehow, I lost my ability to talk to people easily and make friends. By the time I started secondary school I was a bit of a loner, though I made a few friends with some other shy, socially awkward girls. They weren't friends I could talk to though, not really. I didn't have the words to explain what was going on, how unhappy I was or my secret desire to vanish. It was during my first year at secondary school that I made the aquaintance of Ana.

I could tell Ana anything without fear of judgement. We'd make up stories together about how I'd already eaten, then we'd sit in my room until all hours unable to sleep but full of ideas. Ana held me close and promised to save me when my father abused me. Ana gave me the ability to smile and laugh at lunchtime, the confidence to appear a happy girl so that no one noticed or asked why I didn't eat. Ana was with me when I stood on the scales and watched the numbers go down, watched me get closer and closer to the dream of being small enough to hide.

By the time I started my second year people were starting to notice Ana. Ana hated the attention, the interference. We were worried that people would start to try and split us up. Ana was even more private than me. So Ana introduced me to somebody else, a new friend to add to our trip. Mia.

It was Mia who stuck with me when I ate to put people off the scent. Mia was with me late at night when I snuck downstairs to raid the cupboards. When I ate still frozen cheese cakes. Mia and Ana stood on either side while I threw everything back up again. Mia soothed me when the numbers on the scales went up again, Ana delighted when they went down.

For the next five years we played this see-saw game. Mia helped me get the numbers up, until people stopped caring. Ana helped me drop them again until the attention became too much. Then my two friends started to fall out. Mia let me get too big, Ana wanted me smaller. Mia thought it was perfectly OK to eat and eat and eat, so long as I got rid of it afterwards. Ana thought Mia got in the way, stopped us reaching our goal. They fought for a year.

The year I started university, Ana won the war. It was Ana that guided my steps as I dropped out, then moved out of home to avoid awkward questions. It was Ana who shut me away from life with just the scales and bottles of diet coke.

It was Mia who came to my rescue, when Ana had left me too weak to even leave my bed. It was Mia who picked up the pieces, who made it OK to eat again, as much as I wanted. So long as it didn't stay in me for too long. It was Mia who let me live a semblance of life, who helped me make new friends. I loved Mia so much. Mia stayed with me for the next decade, giving me permission to stay at home and eat instead of go out to work. Mia who encouraged me to end relationships when I was caught being sick after meals. Mia who said I didn't need to vanish completely, but just stay thin enough to feel like I could if I wanted to.

So it continued until one day I realised that it was Mia who denied me a career. Mia who denied me love. Mia who was never going to deliver on all those promises of happiness and a future.

Saying goodbye to Mia was hard, particularly with Ana waiting in the wings, hoping to step back in to the best friend spot. But I had finally realised something important. Ana had never been able to keep me safe or make me invisible, any more than Mia had been able to ensure happiness. Neither of them granted the promises they made so easily, yet I had given over half my life to them.

I needed new friends and real support. So I told people, I dragged Ana and Mia out into the open everybody could see them. I made myself visible again, and in doing so I found a world of hugs that were only hugs, safe and loving offered with no expectations. I found people willing to listen to what I had to say about things far more interesting than the numbers on the scale.

Ana and Mia still hang about the place, they aren't ready to go away without a fight. I argue with them every day and slowly but surely I'm getting there, with the help of my new friends.

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