Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

status updates

 

 

wordle.net

This post is sponsored by my Questions Page, the question being:

“What do you think of people psting triggering status updates on facebook? I know youve adressed pictures, but when people post status updates, often they claim it is for support and not to trigger others. Where do you think the line should be drawn between looking for supprt and triggering others?  Youve talked about how NOT to use facebook, how do you suggest someone with an ed SHOULD use Facebook for support? What do you suggest people do when their freinds are being triggering on Facebook? After all, its not exactly easy to say, sorry girl, youre my good friend, but we can’t be facebookf friends…”

 

Status updates.  I believe I know the type referred to in this question:

  • I’m having such a shitty day with my meal plan but I’m sick of people getting on my case.
  • I can’t believe my doctor wants me to eat all this!
  • I can’t believe my doctor wants me to go IP.  He’s full of shit.
  • Really struggling today and would prefer to be left alone.
  • Really worried about my doctor’s appointment today.  He’s not going to be happy.

This last one always makes my day.  I want to ask, “Why the hell are you telling us this?”  Do you want us to say, “Oh, I’m sorry.  Hope it goes well.”  or “I’m sorry, hon, it will all be okay.”  or “I’m really worried about you.”

Every single one of these status updates asks for a response from people, which is typical of any status update, but these are a bit more manipulative in nature.  Posting as your public update that you want to be left alone is contradictory and is only asking for a bunch of “what’s wrong, sweetie?” responses that will feed right into whatever moodstate made you write the status to begin with.

Then there are the more obvious triggering updates:

  • The doctors put me on bedrest again.  It’s so annoying.
  • My heart’s beating funny.  Maybe I should have had my ensure earlier today.
  • I know my doctor will be mad at my weight tomorrow, but I just don’t have it in me to eat today.
  • I don’t give a fuck anymore. Fuck everyone.  I’m off to be with PW.

Yes, I’ve seen that last status before.  I’ve seen all of these status updates before.  The last one is particularly upsetting as PW stands for Polly Williams, one of the four main individuals featured in that awful documentary Thin. Polly was also my real life friend long before Thin was even in the making.  And it’s a slap across my face for someone to post this update.  Why not tell people you’re going to swallow five bottles of pills and a bottle of vodka while you’re at it?

Status updates like this put people in a helpless position.  And they trigger those individuals who are still struggling.  “I’m not sick if I’m not in treatment.”  “I’m not sick if I’m  not on bed rest.”  (seriously, why post that? Are you proud of it?)

Most of all, how is someone who is trying really hard to recover supposed to feel when reading all these status updates from people who don’t really want help and are broadcasting it to facebook?

My advice, and this is tough to hear, and it was tough to take when I was at that stage: do a facebook cleaning.  Take those friends off your list.  You do not owe them anything.  If they don’t respect other people enough to care about how their words affect you, then unfriend them.  You primary responsibility is to yourself right now.  When you are stronger, healthier, you can go back and maybe help those other individuals.  But right now, focus on YOU and getting YOU better.

I know some people know each other in real time and not just through facebook.  If that’s the case, bring up his or her status updates through a private message and say how it is affecting you and that you need to focus on your recovery right now.  If he or she cannot respect this by changing their status updates, then say, “I’m sorry.  I’m not in a place to read them right now.”  Block them from showing up on your newsfeed and don’t go to their personal pages.  Or unfriend them.

Sounds harsh?  They will say so.  But how are you supposed to recover if you keep yourself planted in the same unhealthy environment?  Plant roots somewhere else.  Find people who will support your efforts toward recovery and who will not trigger you on a consistent basis.  It’s not being selfish.  It’s taking care of yourself and respecting yourself.

You come first in your recovery.  Always remember this.  You come first.

 

 

 

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November 25, 2009 Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Survey Monkey!!!

I am submitting a proposal for a paper for a conference. (Association of Popular/American Culture)  My topic is about the eating disorder community on Facebook.  There has been research done about media, magazines, advertising, and pro-ana sites.  I think it’s time we look at how healthy Facebook is, whether it encourages recovery or not or whether it encourages an individual to stay stuck in his or her illness.

There are two parts to the survey, only because I only have a basic account and can’t have more than 10 questions on any one survey.  I am asking you to please take a few minutes and answer 20 questions, 19 of which are simple multiple choice questions.

Facebook and Eating Disorders:

Survey One

Survey Two

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , | Leave a comment

thin tastes like . . .

(photo found here)

 

Just my two cents on the whole Kate Moss bit.  Some people have crucified her since she’s a role model (cough cough) and said, “Nothing tastes and good as thin feels,” with the fear that this comment, from her, will spur more eating disorders.

Perhaps someone will hear these words from her mouth and go, “oh, so I can loose weight and it will be fun, or good for me.”  Whether or not this will trigger an eating disorder, in my opinion, is debatable.

On one hand, yes, the comment is obviously harmful.  And yes, vulnerable people will hear it.  And yes, it’s false in its very premise (you can’t taste anything if you don’t eat).

But I don’t see Kate Moss as a role model.  It’s not exactly as if her cocaine use and prior history with eating disorders have been kept secret.  People who already have an eating disorder use her pictures as thinspiration.  People who want to lose a large amount of weight already keep her figure in mind.  Sadly, she’s known for these things.

And it’s not like she’s the first person to say that.  I read one blog that said Oprah was the first person to use that phrase, but I’ve been hearing that phrase long before Oprah came along.  It’s one of the main thinspo quotes.  It’s found in pro-ana sites, facebook groups, and regular old health and fitness magazines such as Shape and Fitness.

Eating disorders are already on the rise.  I honestly don’t think her comment will affect this trend.

Do I think she should have said it?  No.  I do think public figures should think a little before the speak.  In an ideal world they would have some privacy, or the editor would realize that’s not the best thing to keep in, but we don’t live in an ideal world.  Actresses and models and singers and public figures are all going to say things and do things that contradict what is healthy.

I don’t have stats, but I don’t think people thought doing cocaine was okay when that whole story came out regarding Kate Moss.  I don’t think a significant number of people will change from “eating disorders are bad” to “maybe I should have one” just because she said this one comment.  I think the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of this comments are those individuals who are new to recovery or who are ambivalent about making the first steps towards recovery.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Justifiable Illness

 

http://illeg4le.deviantart.com/art/disease-53011579

Disease

 

So every so often I get off my ranting high horse  and ignore the issues at hand and just give you a plain old update of how I’m doing in this thing called life.

This post may be a combination of all three, although the ranting will be considerably tamed down.

For the past few months, I’ve noticed a lot of changed with my body.  Not feeling well in general.  I’ve gotten sick more often than normal.  Some general symptoms I won’t go into here because of TMI.  And, of course, the unexplained weight gain, which I have talked about in other entries.

We chalked it up to stress.  We chalked it up to post-surgery healing.  We chalked it up to side effects of my medications.

But if I learned one thing during this heart journey over the past several months it’s that if you know something is wrong with your body, if you can feel in every cell, don’t settle for maybes or ifs or perhaps.  Settle for answers.

This previous week I saw my regular internist and was, as usual, frustrated that regardless of me doing everything right to get back to my goal weight, it has plateaued at this higher-than-normal-for-my-height spot.  Significantly so.

In March and August I had elevated TSH levels–just under the limit for hypothryoidism.  Then the next test would come back normal.  Well, my last TSH was above the limit.  Enough to make it clear that my “thyroid gland has been slowly petering out” (words of my doctor).

It was a relief.  On many levels.  I could finally say it wasn’t my fault.  I could say I was right, that all of these strange symptoms were related and not just stress or due to surgery.  I could take a pill and hopefully see and feel improvement.

What makes me angry is that the TSH level was ordered while I was in the hospital in October.  A month ago.  Meaning the doctors there ignored it.  Which falls into this pattern of “You’re just a head case so we aren’t going to listen to your symptoms” that I’ve gotten from almost all doctors.  Cardiologists (it’s just the eating disorder.  stay hydrated.).  Psychiatrists (“Well, you don’t have a UTI according to this lab result” — at the hospital in October after me complaining of a bunch of symptoms.  None of which got any further attention.)

How much of my own mental well being would have been buoyed by me knowing what was going on in my body, by me not thinking it’s all in my head?  Why do doctors think that just because we have a diagnosis of mental illness on our charts we don’t know when something is wrong with our physical bodies, that we aren’t histrionic or a hypochondriac?  A doctor’s job should be to make sure that his or her patient is in sound condition.  But if we aren’t even listened to, how will that happen?

My advice, if you don’t get an answer, go to another person.  You are the consumer.  You have the right to be heard, and when it comes to your health, you need to be heard.

 

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, health, heart | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

follow-up to yesterday’s post

Yesterday’s post on Pro-ana and Pro-mia sites didn’t generate as many comments as I imagined it would.  I had honestly hoped for more.  I did delete two comments that ignored the content of the post entirely and resorted to name calling (me) and attacking (me).  I don’t mind if you all disagree with me, and I expected that yesterday, but I really don’t want to be called vulgar names.  Just for having an opinion.

Cheryl brought up a point:

“You could pretty much say that everyone is prone to an eating disorder with the media and the way the world is about food/weight, add proana in the mix and it increases the chances.”

Okay, then. Not everyone is prone to an eating disorder.  The media does not make someone prone to an eating disorder, they provoke eating disorder symptoms in people who are already prone to one.  There is a big difference between the two.

And if media is making people prone (it’s not, as I said in the prior paragraph, it’s just encouraging people who are already vulnerable to succumb to an eating disorder) to eating disorders, then let’s delete Facebook.  Sure we know we can type in “anorexia” in the search box in the group pages and find thinspiration pages galore.  But there’s another type of insidious form of pro-ana/mia sites on Facebook: the unbelievable number of treatment site groups.  Seriously, how many Frew Crew groups do we need?  Or Remuda groups?  Or any of the main treatment centers that have multiple groups.

You Know You’ve Been to Sheppard Pratt When . . .

the sound of trays rolling by gives you a mini heart attack.
you predict how good your day will be by whether or not your juice is frozen at breakfast.
you can look at your arm and make jokes about being a junkie.
you know the flobotomists on a first name basis.
you will hate wednesdays for the rest of your life.
flushing the toliet amuses you.
you can beat all of your friends at rummy.
getting to go to the bathroom makes you really happy.
when sitting at the table with your friends, you randomly suggest that they all play a table game.
just thinking about ensure makes you sick.
replacement tray=death.
you get super excited on the rare occasion that peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches make it onto the menu.
when you consider shaking ensure as a form of exercise.
when you’ve prayed to gain exactly 0.2 kg per day, no more no less.
if you’ve memorized dining etiquette, word for word.
you’ve sung songs about having a pocketfull of prozac and a body from ensure.

sure some of these are cute–beating all your friends at rummy.  But these groups, and this is a VERY tame one, contribute to the idea that eating disorder treatment is fun and glamorous and something to take pride in.  You should be proud of surviving the eating disorder and recovering.  You shouldn’t be proud of what particular treatment center you went to.

Here’s a great group about Remuda:

I Drove the MHTs crazy!
if you…
-got several redirections a day
-was offered supplement quite frequently
-argued with the dietician for hours
-exercised in your room at night
-ran to breakfast on your last meal
-ate your resource cookies in a circle (they aren’t good any other way)
-whispered about MHTs behind their backs
-walked to Cherokee without wearing a sweatshirt
-pretended that you were signed up for shaving every day
-sneaked all of your nail polish up into your bedroom so that you could give yourself daily manicures and pedicures
-never sat at privleged table
-always argued about how much syrup you had to use for french toast dippers
-was on couch rest more than once
-made up songs about different MHTs
-always moved your feet when you sat down and got called on for excessive movement
-asked to use the bathroom all of the time…especially after meals and snacks
-tried to skip drinking water after leisure walks……

I know people who join treatment center groups in mass numbers for reasons such as this.  I know girls who have joined this group because they were on their way to Remuda and now have a list of ways to try to get away with things, AKA delaying recovery.

So why aren’t we protesting these groups?  Is it because they’re closed?  Is it because they have this guise of recovery until you start reading posts and discussions?  One thing I value is honesty, and I respect people at pro-ana sites who at least know where they stand.  They aren’t flaunting it.  They aren’t recruiting people.  (THAT does get me angry.)  but they’re honest.

I made a group for fun:

Sheppard Pratt Helped Me Save My Life!

[we welcome people from any treatment center who feel this way, who will acknowledge that no center can save someone’s life, but that the center can give you the tools to save your own life.  If you let them help you.]

FINALLY, a group to celebrate the POSITIVE aspects of the RESULTS of being in a treatment center.

This isn’t about all the “fun times” or “cool friends” or “tricks pulled” or “stupid rules” or “strict staff” or “stupid groups.”

It’s not to say “treatment kids are rad!” or “I got kicked out of rehab!” or “I drove the MHTs crazy!” or “I was bad in treatment!”

THIS is a group to say, “Hey. It sucked that I was there. I DON’T MISS IT. I don’t miss the people, the helpful staff, the environment.”

And most importantly, “I DON’T MISS BEING SICK.”

I went to treatment. Maybe I laughed and joked while I was there, and yes, I made friends. But I will not make light of driving the MHTs and, therefore, the other patients, crazy, nor will I declare myself cool for having been to treatment, nor do I think it’s funny to be kicked out of rehab. And why in the world would you want to join a group, “I was bad in treatment”? Is this something you really want to be proud of or make light of since it most likely held you back from recovery?

I’m not going to refer to an eating disorder-a deadly illness-as Ana, Mia, or Ed. It’s an illness, people, not your friend.

I did the work to get myself better, but there is no way that could have happened without the help I received from Sheppard Pratt.

 

So this is just a follow-up.  I’d really like more discussion on these topics.  I think we need to discuss them.  Calmly.  Rationally.  And with a willingness to at least consider other people’s points of view, if only for the time reading the post.  Suspend your own beliefs and convictions and try something else on for fit.  Then if you think it doesn’t fit, state why.

We learn, I think, by discussing these things.  And I don’t think we should ever stop learning.

 

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

pro-ana?

So here it is.  The promised entry stating what I think about pro-ana and pro-mia sites.  I’m sure I’ll get a lot of comments with questions or alternating view points because I tend to have some controversial opinions regarding these sites.

Here’s a couple of things I want to throw out there, however, before we all start jumping down anyone’s throat who says they have a pro-ana site or are a frequent visitor of one:

A) When a lot of us were ill, before we wanted to recover and during the ambivalent stages of recovery, we went to pro-ana and pro-mia sites.

B) A LOT of users at pro-recovery sites such as Something Fishy (an absolutely wonderful site.  I have one of their stickers on my laptop.) also visit pro-ana and pro-mia sites at the same time.

(And for simplicity’s sake, I will now use “pro-ana” to refer to both pro-ana and pro-mia sites. Ana=anorexia and Mia=Bulimia.)

Okay.  I don’t believe they should be shut down.  I don’t believe they should be censored.  For one thing, we’ve tried to do this before and the main sites reemerged within hours under different URLs, which ended up hurting the original reason for shutting the sites down.  At least when you typed in “anorexiasplayground” (or something similar) you knew what you were getting.  When you type in “famous panda” (not an actual pro-ana site), however, and suddenly get “thinspo” and “pro-ana tips” as a result, that can be problematic.  You actually end up reaching more people, the people who knew how to get there for the pro-ana information and the people who were legitimately searching for panda information but who are also susceptible to an eating disorder to begin with.

But there are two important reasons, to me, why I don’t believe these sites should be shut down or censored.

1) If you shut them down or censor them, we give the users of those sites the message that they should not exist and that they do not have a voice.  This is already a major problem for people with eating disorders: the silence, the voicelessness. Just because you may not like what someone has to say does not mean they should be silenced.  A lot of us grew up that way.  Keep it in.  Keep it down. What did that amount to?  Isolation.  Shame.  Eating disorders and other self-harming behaviors.

But they’re talking about eating disorders in a positive light, encouraging each other to keep the eating disorder, right?  There are sites like that.  I tend to call them the more militant pro-ana sites.  But the most of them admit that they have an eating disorder and that it’s not a lifestyle choice and that it’s pure hell having one.  Most of the sites warn people to leave if they don’t already have an eating disorder and state that you can’t “become” anorexic and that they will not help someone do so.  A lot of sites have memorial pages dedicated to the ones who have died.

What do they talk about?  Yes, weight loss/weight gain.  Food.  Sizes.  Exercise.  All the same things two people with EDs will talk about if left alone and if they are not recovery oriented, but on these sites, it’s in the open.  But more importantly, these sites are a place where people get support and get heard.  They can’t voice their fears on boards like Something Fishy.  They can’t talk about their ambivalence towards recovery there.  Because everyone is supposed to want the eating disorder to be gone, right?  Except think back and remember how long it took you to want to let go, if you’ve gotten to that point yet.  These men and women are honest in the stages they are at in their illness.

But if someone wants to get better, everyone tries to convince them not to do so, right?  Wrong.  Some of the main pro-ana sites have had owners who were pro-ana and then decided to recover.  Members of these sites know how hellish an eating disorder is, but they know they are not ready to let go. But when an individual decides she is ready and strong enough to try to recover, she will find support there, and will often get responses such as, “I wish I was in your position.  Maybe some day.”

2) The second reason I’m against banning or censoring the sites is related to the first.  Let’s say we silence them-which is impossible.  What would happen is that the sites would once again go deeper underground.  The sites would be more difficult to find.  That’s great, right?  Wrong.  Because then the individuals that use those sites are more difficult to find.  And if we can’t find them, then we can’t talk to them.  We can’t engage in a dialogue with them.  We can’t understand where they are at, where they are coming from, and what they need.  And if and when they decide to recover, we can’t be there to help them.

Silence=Shame=Death.

I was inpatient once with another young woman who had talked in groups and was working very hard toward recovery.  And the rest of the girls on the unit supported her.  Then in one group she announced that prior to coming into treatment she had shut down her pro-ana site and was nervous about going home and finding a different online peer group.  From that group session on, the rest of the treatment community shunned her because they were outraged that she used to be involved with the pro-ana community.  It didn’t matter that she was now throwing herself wholeheartedly into recovery, that she was compliant with all of her treatment plan, that she had shut down the site.  The therapists were not equipped and/or didn’t want to mediate the situation, and the girl ended up leaving AMA because of the now harmful treatment environment.

No, I don’t believe the sites are healthy in terms of the weight loss tips and tricks and the thinspiration pictures.  But read almost any eating disorder memoir and you will find the same exact information.  I have only read one memoir that didn’t provide thinspiration or tips and tricks: Good Enough by Cynthia Nappa Bitter.  It’s actually about recovery.  Open up weekly tabloids, watch the television, go to the movies, read cookbooks or cooking magazines or fitness magazines and you will find the same exact information.  Open your eyes and look around you at school or at work and it’s there.  If you want to use something as thinspo, you will, regardless of how anyone else sees that object or person.

We need to have open discussions with individuals in these groups.  We need to know what needs are being met in pro-ana communities.  Until we understand these things, we can’t meet those needs in healthier ways.  And if deny ourselves the opportunity to learn about these communities, we deny a significant number of people the opportunity to heal.

So there it is.  Lay it on me, folks.  Politely, please.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

My NG tube

 

 

IMG_3759

I have no idea why I chose this. I just wanted a picture

I was challenged in a comment yesterday.  Why do I mention my own NG tube if I am appalled at all the pictures? And why do I mention the NG tube and things like the ER visit if I am supposedly recovered?

I only mentioned the NG tube in the pictures entries because I wanted to highlight the fact that I wasn’t proud of it and didn’t take a picture, which seems contrary to the norm these days.

I hadn’t thought about my mentioning these things as showing I wasn’t recovered.  They are a part of my past that I cannot deny or change. I am not proud of them.  I am ashamed of some of the things I put people through.  That NG tube experience was traumatic for me.  I volunteered to eat.  But it was the standard policy of the hospital that if you were anorexic and AT ALL underweight, they started you on a tube.  I cannot imagine taking pictures of it.  I still wish it had never happened. It wasn’t a status symbol.  It was just this awful thing they did to me.  And it is now in my past.  I mention it.  But I am not proud of it.

But this was ten years ago.  I don’t know what I would have done five years ago.  Would I have seen it as a status symbol?  Maybe.  I was the girl who compared herself to the girl sitting next to her in class, who purposefully sat next to here when I could have sat someplace I wouldn’t even have seen her.  Maybe it’s a good thing that the hospital I went to my last two times only use the tube as a last resort.  Maybe I would have given in and let them tube me rather than struggle with the meal plan.  But thankfully, that never happened.

Let me say one very important thing: I do not disapprove of the use of the tube in cases where it is necessary.  And there are cases where it is necessary due to severe malnutrition or patient noncompliance that leads to malnutrition.  I do disapprove of the recent increase of individuals who choose to have a tube rather than take in nutrition orally.  I think in that case a tube delays the inevitable, unless you are going to walk around with one forever, and that is the fact that at some point you will have to eat real food.  And yes, there is a culture now that feels the NG tube or PEG tube is a status symbol.  That worries me.  Because it affects people who are sick but are not yet at the point where they need an NG tube but will now think, “If I keep losing weight, then I will be tubed, and I will be seen as a legitimate eating disorder patient.”

I said this is my introduction on the right hand of the screen in response to the inevitable “how sick were you?” question:

I was sicker than some, not as sick as others.  I’m alive, though, and a lot of people who were not as “visibly sick” as I was, are not.  If the one thing you take away from this page is that you don’t have to be thin to die from an eating disorder, I’ll be happy.

The NG tube should not be used as a status symbol. It should not be promoted.  It should not be made light of.  These things are drawing too many people into the idea that it’s acceptable to have an eating disorder and have a tube.  When I did have my tube, I will be honest, I shouldn’t have.  I wasn’t one of the ones who needed it physiologically (and that is my wise mind talking), and I wasn’t one who was noncompliant.  But it was the treatment center’s protocol.

I mentioned the fact that I had an NG tube during the pictures entries and (I think) the fashion wear entries.  I don’t dwell on mine.  Like I said, it was in the past.  Ten years ago.  I can’t change that past, though.  So I’m not going to avoid discussing it if it is relevant to the topic at hand.

 

November 15, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My approach

 

 

IMG_3672

She's my quarterback kitty

 

I’ve been asked why I do this, write this blog, and why I write in the style I do.  Which, I know, can be blunt, tactless, and in-your-face.  I’m not going to shy away from topics just because they might upset people.  The whole “let’s not discuss it” thing never worked for me.  I mean, that was my MO for the first 28 years of my life, but it led me down some very self-destructive paths.

And I’m not going to (or maybe I will, but only very very rarely) give you a (what I call) la-la-foo-foo entry of how you should just love yourself and come to peace with your struggles and then move forward, honoring the fact that you deserve treatment and help and health and life.  I will not try to convince you of these things.  I will state them.  But unless I know you and know how you think and can counter your emotion mind, I can’t engage in that discussion.  That sounds rather cruel.

But I never believed I was worth recovery or life or fighting until I was almost ready to be discharged from my last treatment center.  No one could convince me I was worth it.  I could not come to any peace.  I was in hell.  And I was rather selfish in that hell.  I needed to be shocked out of it.

I needed to be taken to the ER and scratch at my throat, frantically whispering I can’t breathe over and over again, while a fiend sat by my side, helpless.  A friend who had lost his daughter to bulimia a little over two years before this particular ambulance ride.  A friend who had to borrow my cell phone and call his wife in the middle of the night and let her know what was going on.

I realized my actions had personal consequences for other people.

Obviously, it took a lot more than that one event to convince me I was ready and able to recover and was worth it.  But I thought my behaviors affected me.  I was the one who got sick and I was the one who went to the ER.  But other people saw me on a daily basis, watched my slow decline, worried that I would pass out in class (this came from the mouth of one of my profs).  Professors talked to other professors, trying to figure out what to do, how to help.

I sat in one class my first year at my Master’s program and compared my wrists and fingers to the girl sitting next to me.  I made sure I sat next to her every single time.  Convinced she was thinner.  Looking back, she was an underclassman who hadn’t finished puberty yet.  I was 28, fully developed.  And I was thinner.  I have no idea if she had an eating disorder or if she had body image problems.  But what if she did?  My presence, my constant pushing up the sleeves to show off my slight forearms couldn’t have helped her.

And it certainly didn’t help me at all.

So that’s why I do this.  Some people need calm, peace, and gentleness and, yes, some people may not want to discuss the topics I do.  But some people need a literal slap across their face to wake up and smell the consequences of their actions.

And there’s room in the world for both approaches and more.

 

 

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Communication, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Seriously on the pictures, folks. . .

This is a personal rant. Again.  Concerning Facebook.  Again.  Concerning pictures.  Again.

So after my last entry on pictures, bemoaning the plethora of albums chronicling weight loss or celebrating being in treatment, there seems to be an increase in them today.  Or maybe I’m just sensitive to them.

Today, as I wrote in my previous post, is To Write Love on Her Arms day.  You write “LOVE” on your arm.  Hopefully people ask questions.  Hopefully there is education and awareness involved.

There have also been pictures involved.  Oh, not just of an arm with “LOVE” on it.

Pictures of the “eating disorder look at me and please comment” type.  What do I mean, in case you are confused?

  • pulling the shoulders in and allowed the chest to cave so the shoulders to make those collarbones stick out more.
  • Holding the arms so that the thinnest part is accentuated
  • sucking in your cheeks
  • Body shots take from above, elongating the body and making you appear thinner
  • tank tops.  in cold ass weather.  but what a way to show the clavicles.
  • short shirts that show just how much you have to cinch your belt

Don’t think we don’t notice. Don’t think it’s not obvious what you are trying to do: make yourself appear thinner than you are.  Why?  So then you can feel worthy of having this label called an eating disorder.  Because, after all, only the thin deserve it, right? Only the thinnest are the sickest, right?  Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

A) Why do I have a list of people who have died from an eating disorder that weren’t emaciated when it happened?

B) How do you think these pictures make people feel who have an eating disorder but aren’t underweight?  There’s often a rift between anorexics and bulimics because of this.  People who aren’t “thin enough” often don’t feel they deserve to be in treatment.  These pictures reinforce that rift.

C) How exactly do you think these pictures make other people feel?  Do you honestly think it makes them feel good about themselves?  I’ll be blunt: it makes them feel like shit.  Eating disorders bring out the competitive nature in too many people, and combine that with the fact that few of us actually see our body as it really is, what do we get but, “I’m not as thin as she is.”  It’s the inevitable self-condemning thought that could spiral someone into self-hatred for never being that thin or that sick and bamm those thoughts of relapse come sneaking back in.

D) How the hell are other people supposed to respond?  There are no safe answers.  “Oh, honey, you look so thin, I’m worried about you. Love you.”  Yup.  All that does is tell the person posting the pictures Yes, I’m winning.  I look thin. yeah, well what a game to play when the prize is death.  And if you say, “You look like shit.  Get help,” you’ll get the same response. There are no safe comments on the way people look when they are struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder. How many “what to do if your friend has an eating disorder” sheets need to say that before we, including those with eating disorders get the point?

 

There is a difference between posting pictures of you taking part in life and not posing for the camera to highlight your thinnest areas and those pictures taken in the privacy of your bedroom, set up specifically to make you look thinner.  And then posting them on your profile.

Do yourself a favor.  Do the friends you supposedly care about a favor. Think about how harmful the effects of such pictures can be. And delete them.

Sure, you’re not responsible for another person’s relapse.  We can only take responsibility for our own actions, but one of those actions is being respectful of other people’s well-being.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

TWLOHA

 

IMG_4495

my 2010 TWLOHA "design"

As many of you know, today is TWLOHA day: To Write Love On Her Arms, a day to spread awareness about issues such as self-harm and suicide prevention.  The organization itself is amazing, and you really should check it out and donate if possible.  They have done a lot to raise awareness about the “ugly” issues that no one really wants to address.  But if you shove something underground because you don’t want to talk about it or confront it, more and more people are going to suffer.  And TWLOHA is determined not to let that happen.

Last year on this day, I handed out postcards to my students with information about the organization that had the suicide prevention phone number on it.  This year, student-less, I have stickers, one of which is on my laptop.  It’s a little thing to do.   And I have a shirt.  And sometimes people ask me what it means, and that gives me a chance to expose someone to something they may not be aware of.  Or it gives me the chance to correct common myths.

  • MYTH: “cutters” aren’t just failed suicide attempts.

People who cut do so because it meets a need.  It relieves anxiety.  It calms them down.  It numbs the pain.  It lets them escape the world for awhile.  It’s the same result as when someone drinks or uses drugs as a means of escape.

  • MYTH: People who cut can just stop.

This is like saying the person addicted to cocaine can just walk away.  Self-injury is not just a behavioral addiction.  When the body is injured, the body releases endorphins, natural opiates.  That take away the pain.  Take away the thing that masks the pain, and you will have an individual going through withdrawal.

  • MYTH: People who cut are stupid.  I mean, who would do that to him or herself?

I was salutatorian of my high school class and voted most likely to succeed.  I had a 4.0 during various semesters in college, graduating summa cum laude.  I began cutting when I was twelve.

  • MYTH: There is no hope for people who cut.  Obviously they want to cut.

Most people who cut have a love/hate relationship.  They love the results of cutting-the escape from pain-but they hate the fact that they cut.  I hate that my arms are covered in scars and that I am self-conscious every time I step in front of a classroom wearing short sleeves. But there is hope.  There are treatment programs for self-harm now.  There are treatment modules developed specifically for people who engage in self-injury.  I did an intensive inpatient program for self-harm and was IP for three months, followed immediately by a three month outpatient program. Both used Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and I still find those skills helpful on a day-to-day bases.

There is hope.  There is a way out.  Like anything else, you have got to want it hard enough, and you’ve got to work like hell to get there.  But it is possible.

 

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments