The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.The image accompanying this text is not a generic stock library photograph for which I paid a royalty fee, although it could be. We all know decapitated, limbless, faceless, nameless women are all the rage in advertising. It would make the perfect backdrop (bar the luminous green Lycra sweatpants) for catchy text lambasting women’s brains in order to sell ‘wonder’ beer. Instead, it’s more personal than that. It’s a photograph I once shot of my own body, while posing alone in front of my bedroom mirror to capture everything I cared about at the time.
I chose to use this photo for the cover image of my recently published award-winning book, being Ana: a memoir of anorexia nervosa because it represents a snapshot of my entire worldview in those days, fifteen years ago, at age twenty when I felt invincible and unstoppable on Anorexia’s thin throne. It doesn’t show, however, my relentless self-loathing, my perpetual guilt, my spiraling negative thoughts, my psychic agony––the intangible shape and form of an anorexic mindset.
Many people don’t realize the excruciating psychological mess that goes hand in hand with a disorder like Anorexia. My intention is for my book to destigmatize society’s dangerous glorification of female thinness, which in many cases contributes to eating disorders or at least creates a public consciousness that condones it. I would like for readers to realize that behind every uber-thin body is a severely starving mind––a mind bereft of ideas, inspiration, creativity, intellect––and a dying soul.
There is a passage in my book that reads:
“I passed by the full-length mirror on the wall near the door. I caught a glimpse of a very thin girl with dead, straight, long, dry peroxided hair and a skimpy outfit like a whorish doll. I turned sideways to look at her. I saw a child. I saw a witch. I saw a dumb blonde. It took a few seconds for my mind to register that the girl in the mirror was me. I looked her up and down. I was thin, blonde and tanned and I was still not happy.”
I was at the peak of my disorder in that scene and had finally attained my long-awaited, hard-earned goal-weight (which was a weight that constitutes severe malnourishment, and had I seen an eating disorder specialist at the time, would have compelled them to admit me to treatment.) It is also the same time in my life when I shot the self-portrait that is now my book’s cover photo. Ironically, many readers comment that I look “normal” in this image, which goes to show how brainwashed we are by the media’s artificial “beauty” standards and just how deceptive images can be.
It took me eight years of deep introspection, questioning and writing being Ana to fully comprehend that such meaningless strivings as to be thin, blonde and tanned are only the superficial symptoms of the disorder. The true roots of Anorexia go much deeper (on physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual levels) and are far more twisted and entangled than one can imagine, which is why Anorexia is one of the hardest disorders to treat and has the highest fatality rate of all psychiatric disorders.
After many years of unraveling the roots of my own Anorexia, I now consider myself fully recovered and believe wholeheartedly that with the right kind of nourishment in all areas of a sufferer’s life, she (and all girls and young women) can realize that her worldview does not begin and end with her body as it once had for me. That her whole sense of Self has nothing to do with the sum of her body parts. And that her body is absolutely not a walking billboard for beer ads.
WINNER of 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Memoir category.
WINNER of 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards in the Women’s Health Category.
FINALIST in 2010 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year in the Memoir and Women’s Issues categories.
FINALIST in 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Women’s Issues category.
FINALIST in 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards Memoir and Addiction & Recovery categories.
“This powerful coming-of-age memoir is a beautifully written, heart-wrenching, and sometimes shocking exploration into the soul and psyche of a young woman struggling with Anorexia Nervosa. From its opening scenes, in honest and engaging prose, Raviv catapults the reader on a wild journey into the rigid chaos of this perplexing disorder. An entertaining page-turner that reads like a novel, being Ana offers the ultimate message for sufferers: hope, relapse, and finally, full recovery.”
About the Author:
Shani Raviv is a South African freelance writer, writing teacher and author of the award-winning coming-of-age debut book, being Ana: a memoir of anorexia nervosa. Ten years ago she surrendered and began her healing journey and now considers herself fully recovered. Shani gives talks and readings for being Ana and leads creative writing and mini-memoir writing workshops because she believes in the healing power of sharing our hearts through our words. To read more or to read an excerpt from her book please visit shaniraviv.com.