Iliana was born in Kavarna (a small city on the north Black Sea cost) 26 years ago. Now she lives in a small flat in Sofia. She graduated from the National Art Academy and paints for living. Alongside with these common biographical facts, Iliana has a parallel and frankly admirable paragraph in her biography. She defeated a monster that kills thousands of girls around the Globe each year – anorexia.
Today Iliana has a painting studio of her own*. Her works adorn the covers of books and textbooks, amongst which is the Bulgarian edition of “Neo-Reichian Theories” of Prof. Valdo Bernasconi. “My memories preceding the studio are like memories from a different life, so distant and foreign” says Iliana. The story of her monstrous disease is trite and simple, and is probably familiar to many girls passed or passing along this path. Iliana came from Kavarna to Sofia when she was fourteen years of age to study at the Art High School. She found herself alone, bravely wading in puberty and full with imaginary expectations of countless parties and glamorous career. Reality did not match her expectations, but her naïve attitude remained unchanged.
First steps in anorexia
In her striving to receive validation and to identify herself, Iliana clung to self-cultivation and perfectionism. She became interested in the healthy life styling and separate eating; she started spending more and more time alone in her room, painting, with the motive that she was working on her artistic growth; saving money on food, not to burden her parents became also one of her fix ideas. “I reached the daily portion of 2 toast and coleslaw and I thought that is good both for my budget and my slim silhouette”.
At first Iliana began to avoid conflict situations and over time – any situations at all. Soon she moved out from the school dorm to live alone in a rented studio flat, so she could be able to paint undisturbed. Not long after, she cut off her social contacts completely.
Friends and sex
Before she came to Sofia, Iliana had hard times in school with the boys in her class. She developed faster than the other girls and became an object of sexual harassment. This made her close into herself and deny her sexuality. When later she moved in Sofia, she had a relationship with a guy who abused and beat her. “I thought that this was what I deserved. I had such a distorted perception of the world and myself”. In this period, she had a couple of situations, that led her very close to add a “victim of rape” in her autobiography. Luckily, she managed to escape. The only person she was able to share her fears and doubts was a girl trapped in drugs. Together, they formed a kind of sick grip, in which no one helped the other; instead they were pushing each other deeper in despair. “When you want people to like you, you become naive and trusting, and the situations that follow as a consequence, further exacerbate your feeling of guilt.” Having never managed to find solace and support, Iliana returned to Kavarna.
In deep water
“When you don’t eat and your brain gets no food, you start to think how pointless everything is and that the world can run without you. You lose the point of your own existence, of everything that you do” and so Iliana hit the
hard bottom of suicidal thinking. How to end her life and how to hide her food disorder became the only two thoughts dashing in her overly depressed and starved being. She locked herself in the vicious circle of hiding and stalking. “You don’t feel when you plunge in the imaginary world of surreal feeling. In your sick desire to be established and accepted, you start to behave in ways that are far beyond the healthy behaviour and logical thought. This turns a vicious circle in which real and surreal intertwine and lead you straight to hell. ”
Her parents noticed her eating problem only when she returned home. After a couple of conversations about “her wrong behaviour”, Iliana learnt to eat in front of her mom and dad, and vomited the food afterwards. She grew craftier and craftier – to induce vomiting faster she began to overeat. “I drank at least a litre of water after throwing up and threw up again to make sure my stomach was clear. The thought that food can go down my body made me panicked” says Iliana. Soon, though, the leftovers in the sink and the dead from her stomach acid flowers in the garden gave her dark secret away. One evening Iliana found her mom crying in her room and it was then when she realised that her parents are actually worried about her.
”It was like someone or something wanted me to get better. That very same evening, when I saw my mom crying I watched a film about anorexia and something in me turned over.” On the next day, Iliana called a green line, thinking that she would just share her problem. However, the women she spoke to directed her to a professional help and after some weeks, she started seeing a psychotherapist. Her recovery took four years, going through personal and group therapy. “Everything seemed like a whole new world of beauty and love; my life got this whole new meaning. Now I feel great, even being a bit over weight,” Iliana is laughing at the end of our conversation and some years after her last therapeutic session. At the end she makes a warning sum up – the treatment is strictly individual as are the reason for the disease but it is a must to seek help, otherwise my biography would have stopped then and there.
* Also has a beautiful baby girl and is more happy, glamorous and femininе then ever.