By Rebekah Scanlan
An anorexic has started a new chapter in her life overcoming the deadly eating disorder by illustrating a powerful book about how she beat her demons.
Brave Christie Begnell, now 24, developed anorexia after suffering with serious bouts of depression through her early teens.
After a bad break-up when she was 19, Christie was flooded with suicidal thoughts and used food as a way to cope.
Living off a diet of just water, diet coke and energy drinks, Christie slashed her calorie intake to just 300 a day.
At her lowest, the 173cm tall beauty, from Blacktown, in Sydney, Australia, weighed a tiny 53kgs (eight stone) and had a dangerously low BMI of just 17.
After seeking help, she struggled with her recovery and began to draw, to help explain to others what was going on inside her head.
The result was a series of powerful illustrations, that demonstrate the internal struggles an anorexic victim suffers with every day.
Now, the brave battler, is releasing the eye-opening cartoons as a way of helping other sufferers to explain their inner thoughts and emotions to loved ones as well as helping them to realise, they’re not alone.
Christie, who is now a healthy size 12 and 11 stone, said: “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.
“My weight plummeted very quickly. In just a few months, I went from a healthy 65kgs, to almost dipping below 50kgs.
“Luckily, I was already seeing a psychiatrist for my depression issues, who picked up on it pretty quickly and got me help.
“But that voice is still in my head, every day, telling me not to eat because I’m too big or too fat.”
Christie added: “No one really understood what I meant, so I started drawing what was going on.
“I gave the voice inside my head a name, Anna, and I’d draw all the things Anna 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.”
Christie explains that aged 19, withholding food from herself, was a way of punishing herself for all the bad things happening in her life.
She said: “My anorexia developed from an underlying mental health issue I’d had for many years.
“As a teenager, I went through some difficult moments, and had severe lows that I didn’t tell anyone, not even my parents about.
“So when my boyfriend of two years and I broke up, things spiralled really quickly.
“For a few days, I did the stereotypical thing of eating ice cream and crying.
“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.”
After Christie first heard ‘Anna’ she began dieting, first using a calorie counting app to monitor what she was putting in her body.
She said: “I started really small, by cutting my calories to 1,200.
“But as I saw the changes in my body and I became skinnier, it was strangely addictive.
“Especially when ‘Anna’ would tell me what a great job I was doing. Looking back now, it’s actually pretty scary how quickly it all happened.”
Within three months, Christie had dropped her calorie in-take to just 300 a day, and was living off fizzy liquids to keep her feeling full.
Christie said: “I had no self-identity. It was all controlled by ‘Anna.’
“She would make these promises to me, and they were all things I desperately wanted.
“If I lost another kilo, I’d have more friends and would be more liked.
“Anorexia was a by-product of my depression and it played on my weaknesses to such a point, I was putting my own life at risk.
“But I wasn’t thinking clearly. Every day that I survived on just a few liquid drinks, was a good day to me.”
As her body started to dwindle into a skeletal frame, Christie’s psychiatrist spotted what was going on and rushed her in for treatment.
Christie said: “I was only battling with ‘Anna’ alone for about three months.
“During that time, I lost over 12kgs, which when I think about now is totally terrifying.
“Over the next months, I was treated in an eating disorders clinic but even as my weight slowly started to go up, it was clear the mental issue wasn’t going anywhere.
“That’s when I started drawing, showing exactly the thoughts of guilt, hate and fear that were going on in my mind.
“Now I’m even bigger than I was before I got sick.
“I weigh 73kgs (11 stone) and am a size 12, but ‘Anna’ is still in my head. She always will be.
“That’s why my drawings have helped so much. It can be really hard to verbalise what’s going on and the illustrations have helped explain it.”
She added: “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.”
Christie Begnell’s book, Me and my ED is available here for $10.99