Saturday, March 28, 2009
Engla Louise Lernäs is 29 years. She weighs 24 kg (53 pounds) and is lying with an intravenous drip in the emergency medicine department at Uppsala. Yet it is uncertain whether she can stay. There are plans to move her to the psychiatric department, where she cannot get any physical care.
It began when she was only eleven years. Engla Louise cut thin, thin slices of the bread and she became thinner and thinner. Even at that young age she sought psychiatric help in Uppsala. But she was too young to have any real treatment for anorexia.
Now Engla Louise lives in a white room at the University Hospital in Uppsala. She has a needle in her arm and a bag of intravenous drip pumps slowly entering the nutriment into her body for her to survive. A few days later she went down two kilos more and when doctors tried to give her food the body said no. She was simply too weak.
“I became unconscious several times, but the doctors managed to resuscitate me,” she says. There and then she got the will to fight against the disease.
Since February, she has lost 22 kg and now weighs only 24 kg. She wants to show herself and talk openly about her illness to prevent others to end up in the same situation.
Now Engla Louise is living at Capio Anorexia Center in Upplands Väsby. She is still bedridden, but she will soon start exercises with physiotherapists. She is weighed at regular intervals; she meets with a therapist once a week and eats six servings a day. She is served small portions of food at precise times. The staff is extremely careful to serve it at the right time.
It has been tough for Engla Louise. The anxiety is strong and it hurts to have to put food into you. An internal voice says she should not eat. At the same time she knows that she cannot stay there if she doesn't eat the food. So she is fighting against that voice as much she can.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that primarily affects young women, from young teens to the 30s. An eating disorder has different causes depending on the person. Both psychological and genetic factors may be behind the disease. Another factor is the Western ideal of beauty. Models, ballet dancers and elite athletes are some groups that have an extra high risk of anorexia.
Text and photos © Sanna Sjöswärd
WATCH the exhibition
Seeing Sanna's important reportage about Engla makes me think of a young woman that I met in the late 1970s. She was charming, intelligent, her parents cared a lot about her - but she weighed just around 30 kg. It was my first meeting with a person suffering from anorexia nervosa and it was sad and chocking.
Engla Louise is a courageous woman. She says that she wants to show what anoreixia is about and she hopes to prevent others from ending up in a similar situation.
Sanna Sjöswärd has made a truly unforgettable reportage and I am glad to know that it was selected as one of the best photo documentaries of the year in Sweden (2008). Sanna is a great photographer, she has achieved a lot in just a few years. I expect her to bring us much more in the future. I know that Sanna is in California when this is published. I send you warm regards from Stockholm.
Born: Teheran, 1973
Latest exhibition: The picture of the year 2009, Galleri Kontrast, in Stockholm
Coming, planned: A book will be out in May; "My mother is a Persian princess" (Norstedts)
Inspiration (Photographers): Sune Jonsson, Annie Leibowitz, Laura Greenfield, Nan Goldin, Anders Petersen, Lars Tunbjörk, Richard Avedon
Inspiration (other): Fernando Botero, Pedro Almedovar
Film, digital or both: Both
Quote: ” I am very difficult person but l am confident that God make me this way” Ludwig van Beethoven 1824
A favourite photograph: Sune Jonsson, picture of the Estate auction in Holmsund Umeå 1954