After a bad breakup at 19, Christie Begnell’s depression spiraled into suicidal thoughts, and she started to use food as a coping mechanism. “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.”
Christie cut her daily calorie intake to 1,200 but quickly found herself eating less and less. “As I saw the changes in my body and I became skinnier, it was strangely addictive,” she said. “My weight plummeted very quickly. In just a few months, I went from a healthy 65 kgs [143 lbs.], to almost dipping below 50 kgs [110 lbs.].” She was then consuming only 300 calories a day and subsisting on 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.”
Her illustrations can look painfully accurate to anyone who has dealt with disordered eating or body image issues.
“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.”
While in treatment, she started to draw to show people what was going on in her head. “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.”
By compiling a series of cartoons that illustrate the internal battle of anorexia, Christie hopes she can help others who are struggling. “Now I’m even bigger than I was before I got sick. I weigh 73kgs [161 lbs] and am a size 12 [U.S. 8], but ‘Ana’ is still in my head. She always will be,” she said. “That’s why my drawings have helped so much. It can be really hard to verbalize what’s going on, and the illustrations have helped explain it.”
“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.”