At the age of 19, Christie Begnell went through a bad break up. Unlike most break ups, however, it was just the beginning of something much worse. Begnell entered a spiral of depression and suicidal thoughts, using food to cope with the negative emotions.
“For a few days, I did the stereotypical thing of eating ice cream and crying,” Begnell told the Mirror. “But then I saw myself in the mirror and even though I’d only put on a few kilos, this voice appeared in my head, telling me I was disgusting.”
For many people with eating disorders, Begnell’s story may sound familiar. A fairly innocuous event setting off a domino-effect that allows the mental illness to fully bloom into anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or another dangerous form of disordered eating.
At first, she limited herself to just 1,200 calories a day, but it quickly accelerated until she was down to a paltry 300 calories a day – mostly from diet coke and energy drinks.
“My struggle with anorexia happened hard and fast. Once the voice was in my head, telling me not to eat, it was impossible to ignore. … I wasn’t thinking clearly. Every day that I survived on just a few liquid drinks, was a good day to me.”
The good news is that Begnell found treatment relatively early. “Luckily, I was already seeing a psychiatrist for my depression issues, who picked up on it pretty quickly and got me help,” the now 24-year-old Australian said. “But that voice is still in my head, every day, telling me not to eat because I’m too big or too fat.”
It was during her time in treatment that she began to use her experience as inspiration, expressing her feelings and thoughts through art.
“No one really understood what I meant, so I started drawing what was going on,” she said. “I gave the voice inside my head a name, Ana, and I’d draw all the things Ana was promising me and telling me to do. It was really helpful, and now that I’m on the road to recovery, I decided to put it together as a book to help others.”
The book was self-released on Australian publishing site Blurb. While the brutally honest images can be hard to look at, Begnell believes those who have lived with experiences may find solace in knowing there are others who have been through the same thing.
“I really hope that by releasing a book of my artwork, it will help other people living with anorexia. Not only can they use the book to show others how they’re feeling and what’s going on inside, but I want these sufferers to know they’re not alone.”