FAQ’s about Being Ana
Why did you title your book Being Ana? Who is Ana? How can it still be a memoir if it’s about someone called Ana?
Ana is a nickname for Anorexia that is commonly used in the eating disorder community. Ana is short for Anorexia while Mia is short for Bulimia. Unlike with other disorders a person with full-blown Anorexia will become another “person” (Ana) exhibiting all the stereotypical traits and characteristics and behaviors of Ana that are defined by the “symptoms” of the disorder of Anorexia Nervosa. So the book is about me because it’s a memoir but more than that the entire narrative is written through the filter of living with anorexia. Living as this other person––Ana. I wanted to give readers and understanding and a visceral insight into what being Ana or being anorexic is really like.
When I self-published my book in 2010, this was the image that I used. The new cover is a different image. This particular image holds a lot of meaning for me because it’s a self-portrait I shot of myself in my bedroom mirror while at the peak of my disorder. I was learning photography at the time and my assignment was to take photos of stuff that interested me. Well, the only thing that interested me was my body from my torso down to my ankles. I used this shot as the cover image because it epitomizes my self-obsession with my body image during my anorexia.
The irony is that when people see this image they often comment that my body looks healthy and ‘normal’. But that’s how deceptive an image can be. I was severely underweight at the time I took that photo. So much so, that had I had the opportunity, I would have been admitted to a clinic because my BMI (Body Mass Index) was extremely low. You would never be able to tell that just by looking at the image itself and what’s more is you would never be able to tell how tortured my mind was and how cut off I was from the rest of me.
Someone said to me that it reminds them of the term “navel-gazing” which is from the Greek word: Omphaloskepsis which translates to Omphalos (navel) and skepsis (the act of looking). Navel-gazing means “excessive absorption in self-analysis or focus on a single issue” which really relates well to anorexia and one’s obsession with their body parts and weight and calories. As an anorexic you no longer care about the world around you or other people because your entire worldview gets refocused on your body as a way of coping with overwhelming emotions.
I know someone who is anorexic. What treatment do you recommend she does for healing from her anorexia?
I’m not a treatment provider so I would refer her to a network of resources such as the National Eating Disorders Association. There are many different treatment modalities and I don’t advocate for any. I never went to a treatment facility but I did have weekly individual therapy for years, I attended ongoing support groups and worked closely with a dietician to increase my caloric intake and start to eat healthily again. I did tons of introspective healing by myself and practiced yoga and became focused on spirituality and trying to find meaning in my disorder. All this helped me to recover.
LSD helped you heal so do you recommend LSD as a treatment for all anorexics?
There is a scene in the book where I took LSD (Acid) and it was absolutely the most transformational experience of my entire life. I took it at a party without any intention for it to begin the healing process, which it did though. LSD is a highly potent chemical substance that is banned along with other drugs in the U.S. However, being one of the most powerful psychedelic substance out there it has such innate self-realizing properties that its accidental inventor––Albert Hoffman––went on to call it an elixir and medicine for the soul. That said, it is a highly potent substance that if taken under the wrong circumstances or in the wrong environment or by someone with known or unknown mental instability can have very dangerous consequences.
So, just because this happened to work for me by acting as a powerful catalyst to my recovery, I’m not advocating that all anorexics follow this path. My book is a memoir, it’s a narrative, it’s my personal story that is meant to inspire, encourage and show people that if I recovered, they can too. It is not a self-help book or how-to manual. What worked for me may not work for another person. But I do believe strongly that because anorexics are so stuck in their negative mindsets that it often takes something radical to shatter that mindset. For me, it was LSD.
Will only people with an interest in anorexia be interested in your book?
No. A lot of my readers have had no interest in anorexia when they started reading my book only to find that they still enjoyed the story and learned a lot about themselves during the process. One woman told me she is taking my book to her therapist to work on all her neglected issues. Even though she never went through anorexia, she had her own dark side to wrestle with. My dad’s seventy-something friend read it and loved it. He said it read like a thriller. Other people have said that it’s a book about one’s search for one’s self and for meaning and that is a universal theme that anybody can relate to from any culture or background. Anorexia happens to be the prism of this story but it is not the beginning and end of it. Once you read it, you will understand that anorexia is just the mask and underneath it is a spiritual quest for happiness, really.
Your book has some hard stuff to read in it, do you think it’s appropriate for younger readers?
Actually, I was interviewed by a woman who is a children’s book buyer at a well-known bookstore in Seattle, WA and she said that it should definitely be read by younger readers/teenagers (thirteen and up). Teenagers today are exposed to so much more violence, sex, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders than I was growing up as a teen in the 90’s. If they can become inspired by my story to know that whatever they are going through, there is a way out and that they are not crazy or alone in their pain, then that’s great. Teenagers need to be able to read stories that resonate with them without the fluff. Someone said once that my book was too raw and that’s great! That’s reality. That’s what teenagers are going through. It is raw and it is rough but it’s real. If they can know others have successfully overcome challenges, it gives them reassurance that one day they can too.
Are the italicized parts in your book from your real journals or did you make them up?
The italicized parts are verbatim, meaning word for word, from my journals. They are unedited except for typos. I especially did that to show readers the reality of what goes on in the crazed mind of an anorexic. How thoughts are contradictory and repetitive and relentless. How thoughts are incessant and spiraling and erratic and desperate and confused. These journal excerpts formed the foundation for my book. They were written in the tiniest, scribbled hand-writing so as not to take up too much space, which is a common trait among anorexics who don’t want to take up too much space in the world, who want to remain invisible, untouchable. Some people find these journal entires detract from the narrative so they skim over them and that’s fine. Others feel it’s the meat of the story and are grateful to know the inner workings of the anorexic mindset––especially mothers of sufferers who are desperate to know what their daughters are thinking around the dinner table when they are staring into space with a look of angst on their faces refusing to eat.
Isn’t anorexia just chicks who want to be skinny and look good?
Absolutely not! Unfortunately, in the past, it has been portrayed as such in popular mass media but anorexia is a deeply complex psychological disorder that manifests on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. It is a very serious psychiatric disorder that has the highest fatality rate of any psychiatric disorders––20%. It is also the hardest mental disorder to treat because of its complexity and layers. It usually starts off as a superficial, seemingly innocuous diet but if someone is vulnerable to low self-esteem, peer pressure, insecurities, inability to cope with their emotions, this can soon become their coping mechanism until soon enough they can get trapped in a dead-end pursuit of thinness and calorie counting that can be extremely difficult to get out of no matter how strong your will power or mind is. Someone with full-blown anorexia is often emaciated (which can look very different depending on your original body shape, height, weight) and they have gone way beyond being skinny to ‘look good.’ People who look good are people that are happy inside no matter their weight or shape, because their self-esteem and confidence radiates from within.