Ariel is a 17-year-old girl who battled anorexia. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
I named my eating disorder Ursula, the villain from my favourite childhood movie ‘The Little Mermaid’. In many ways, my anorexia had presented characteristics that I saw in Ursula.
Anorexia – Ursula – is devious, manipulative, and controlling. She claims to be my friend and says that she wants the best for me when in fact she only wants me to do what’s best for her. She convinced me that I needed her help to reach my weight goals when I felt helpless and out of control, and told me that listening to her would give me happiness and power.
Ursula is like a snake oil saleswoman. She has a talent of making great sense and making persuasive points when trying to strike a deal. Listening to her only made me lose an important part of me just like Ariel lost the voice that was very special to her. The more attention I paid to Ursula, the more powerful she got, and the tighter her mighty tentacles wrapped around my body to get a good grip on me.
Ursula caused me to isolate myself and hide away from my family who became increasingly worried; the same way Ariel deviated away from her family and caused her father much distress.
She changed me into someone I wasn’t. I was no longer a happy, healthy and cheerful girl, but instead I was in constant misery and despair as I lost myself and had become weak, sad and continually exhausted.
Ursula planted very negative thoughts in my mind, which I still fight to this very day. Things like “You are not good enough,” “You can never succeed,” and “I’m the only one who can help you. Do not listen to anybody else,” got embedded into my subconscious mind. When I’d give in and listen to her, she became greedy and wanted me to do more, go further. She was never pleased with whatever I had to offer, constantly nudging me to stop eating. The truth is, she never will be pleased until she kills Ariel – me.
The more time and attention I paid to these negative thoughts, the bigger they grew, and the stronger Ursula became. It was only after being taken to the hospital for what Ursula had done to me and sought help for my disorder that I realized Ursula’s weakness was having someone stand up to her and challenge the thoughts that she tries to make me believe.
I have learned that to defeat any ruthless force, whether anorexia or some other villain, the key is to fight back and never give up. Whatever battle I am going through, I remember that I am Ariel, and I am not alone.
Ariel is now 19-years-old. Here is her update of her journey a few years later. Her name has been once again changed to protect her identity.
After treading crashing waves, and going through the hectic storm that is called recovery, I could finally say that I reached calm waters and claimed my voice back from Ursula. The process of negotiating to get my voice (and life) back, was very intimidating and challenging. I had to realize that I couldn’t live without my voice, or as a hostage of Ursula; that whatever my idea of perfection was, is just not me, and is non-existent. I realized that Ursula was not a friend whose intentions were to help through a friendly deal, but instead a greedy, evil, and selfish enemy that wanted me dead ultimately. She tricked me into thinking that she will give me the “perfect” body that I wanted without any consequences. What a painful process it was to create a so-called “thigh-gap” in my mermaid tail, when naturally, I am just not made to have one. How dangerous is it to be so determined to be someone else that you risk your life in the process? No matter how hard you try to be that other person, at one point you will crash and realize that you were perfect just the way you were in the beginning.
The good news is that it is never too late to go back. I’m definitely not saying that it is easy, but I can assure you, from the bottom of my heart, that it is so worth it in the end when you’re out of your misery of trying to be someone else, and finally loving and being kind to yourself. Then, your life will start coming back together like pieces of a puzzle. Things will start working out again. You will start enjoying life again: hanging out with your loved ones that you were too isolated from; indulging in your favourite foods that you were too terrified of; engaging in your old hobbies that you lost interest in when all you could think about is food; succeeding at whatever you’re up to in life, because you now have energy and motivation that will not be sucked up by Ursula, but that will go into something good instead. More importantly, you will grow deeply and really get to know yourself more than you ever have.
Bottom line: You will kick Ursula in the butt and get your precious life back because it is too short and too valuable to be stolen by an evil sea witch. You’re meant to do incredible things, even if that is hard to believe. You’re so much stronger than you think you are, so just keep swimming forward. The waves will get calmer and you’ll get stronger and better at fighting through the rougher ones. Soon your voice that was once stolen by Ursula will be soaring and she will be scared into a tiny, irrelevant background noise.
To anyone whom Ursula has made victim: I believe in you.