Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

pictures pictures pictures

. . . and yet a post without pictures.

The internet is a great thing.  We have information at the tips of our fingertips.  We can mapquest driving directions.  We can email and connect with others through Facebook.  We can also use that information to plagiarize.  Mapquest isn’t always right.  And Facebook, well, sometimes Facebook is harmful environment.

There are groups devoted to thinspiration and pro-ana/pro-mia beliefs.  As I said in a recent entry, unless they are trying to recruit you (and most of them will warn you), I have very little problems with the pro-ana sites.  Maybe that will be an entry?

But with a group–you choose to join the group.  And if there is a group that is closed and has a warning and the email contact is, you have a good idea of what you’ll find.

What about people on your friend’s list, though?  I mean, I have almost 1,000 friends and that’s great, but I’ve met a fraction of them.  I’ve come to know a larger percentage.  But some are connected only through the thread of Facebook.  And yes, a lot of people have found me or I them, through the shared history of an eating disorder.

You’re not as sheltered when it comes to Facebook friends.  Say one of them relapses and suddenly her picture is one with an NG tube coming out her nose and she writes on your wall.  NG tubes have become a thing of status within the ED community; some people believe you are not actually sick unless you need one.  Or pictures from the hospital or treatment centers (totally tubular, folks!) with captions bemoaning your lack of health and pointing out to the onlooker how sick you are, how the days in the hospital were the worst days of your life.

And yet, you have an entire album, if not more than one, devoted to the worst days of your life.  You have an album chronicling your weight loss.

We don’t need this.  There was a time when people did not know the horror of eating disorders.  And we still have a lot of education and awareness to do.  But on Facebook, the people seeing those pictures are people with eating disorders, who already know what hell is.  Some of them may not be in a good place and may be triggered.  “If I don’t need an NG tube, I don’t need to go to treatment.”  Well, most doctors will attempt to avoid the tube and have you eat real food and supplement.  It’s healthier, physiologically (except in extreme emaciation) and psychologically, it helps patients adjust to when they do have to eat.  And the pictures of “the worst days of my life” in ERs and ICUs and regular hospitals.  Why?  To prove you needed treatment?

You don’t have to prove it to anyone.  If you have an eating disorder, you deserve help.  I don’t care if you’ve never had to go to the ER or have stepped foot inside an ICU.  It’s best to get treatment before you reach that point, anyway.

I just always feel that these albums showcasing the physical decline and the result of an eating disorder exist to prove something.  Look where I was.  Look what I did.  Don’t you do it, too. (Although the pictures automatically bring up thoughts of “I could go back . . . ” in a lot of people with eating disorders.)

Guess what?  I was there.  I did it.  I did not take pictures.  There is not a single picture with my NG tube.  No pictures exist of me inside hospital grounds.

I have pictures with girls from treatment when we went to art museums or met for *gasp* brunch and sat down with coffee and talked and laughed.  These are the things I will choose to dwell on.  For these are the things that make recovery worthwhile.


November 11, 2009 - Posted by | 1


  1. Thanks so much for this post Alexis. Even though I am no longer in that self destructive path to prove that I am sick or dig myself in a deeper hole, I can’t say that those pictures don’t affect me even if it is just the eating disorder voice in my head. In some ways, I feel like it even trivializes treatment and eating disorders. I am actually really shocked that so many treatment centers ALLOW pictures- shouldn’t that be an automatic NO ESPECIALLY with eating disorder treatment? I for sure know, even though cameras were not allowed where I was- people snuck them in and I always RAN AWAY ….I was mortified to have my pictures taken in treatment (except for when I went on pass during my last couple weeks there and that was OUTSIDE OF THE FACILITY AND WHEN WE WERE BASHING MY SCALE/ going out to dinner)….and yet sometimes when I see these pictures it makes my eating disorder voice say…I SHOULD have been in those illegal pictures so that I could have PROOF THAT I WAS INDEED SICK- so, I think I want to know WHY treatment centers ESPECIALLY the ones that seem to be the most “camera happy” aka Remuda and Renfrew Florida ALLOW cameras! Renfrew Philadelphia banned cell phones for a couple reasons but primarily because so many cells started to have cameras on them…

    Comment by Jessica | November 11, 2009 | Reply

    • I don’t understand how hospitals allow it either. If you’re malnourished at all–and this can happen with all types of EDs, regardless of weight–then you’re not exactly thinking with all your brain cells. What happens when you recover and decide you don’t want those pictures of you on the internet? You can delete yours, but what about all of your friends you have tagged you in theirs? And what about all the pictures where you’re not actually tagged? What happens if a future employer types in your name and looks at your picture (and they do do this, by the way)? What will their impression be?
      Time in treatment should be focused on treatment, not photo opportunities.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | November 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for writing about this delicate subject. I was appalled to find an album on one of my fb friends’ page, chronicling the progresive weight gain and loss in her illness. These pictures serve to perpetuate the myth in society that eating disorders are all about weight, and that anorexics are striving to look like supermodels. Perhaps that is true for some people, but a person isn’t going to become a chronic patient merely because they want to be thin. Weight is merely a byproduct, a result, of what is really wrong with a person inside.

    Pictures such as these reinforce the prevelant idea in society that eating disorders only afflict shallow, narcissistic people. This is false, but sharing such heinous photos gives the idea validity. I understand that eating disorders are usually used as a way to attract attention, both positive and negative, but there’s a huge difference between someone using their body as a cry for help and using facebook as a “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME” cry for attention. It’s sad.

    Comment by anon | November 12, 2009 | Reply

    • I do not understand the chronicling of weight loss pictures. They DO reinforce the idea that its all about weight, and I don’t know any treatment center would actually say that’s true. There are always deeper issues, and these pictures do a great deal of harm in MISeducating people.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | November 12, 2009 | Reply

      • Thanks for your response. That’s a good point about the pictures miseducating peole. They reinforce the idea that the illness is all about appearance and give ed patients a ‘bad rap’ of being shallow, superficial people when usually (hopefully) that is not the case. Perhaps I have become cynical in my recovery (lol), but I firmly believe the pictures are merely a demonstration of pride in the illness and a way to gain the upper hand in the ridiculous competition of who is the “sickest of them all.” If someone were truly in recovery, I have to believe they would be just as appalled at the idea of sharing such a horrible chronicle of weight loss. There is nothing glamourous about it and some things should be kept PRIVATE.

        Comment by anon | November 12, 2009

  3. amen.
    i was lucky enough that there are no pictures of me in the worst bits, and none again until i was in “recovery.” looking back, i only see how beautiful and happy i’ve become. i hate seeing pictures of people in treatment, with feeding tubes, all that. it makes me doubt myself. i think it’s important to remember that everyone’s definition of “rock bottom” is different. for some it may be the point of needing a therapist, for others it may be the ICU. just because one is “worse” than the other does not make the first less legitimate. we shouldn’t have pride in our eating disorder, we should have pride in our recovery.

    Comment by girl | November 12, 2009 | Reply

  4. Girl- I completely relate when you say those pictures make you “doubt yourself”. That is what they do to me too. This is semi-related but I had to go to the doctor yesterday for just a follow-up or what I call a “weigh-in”. I had not been for four months because I find going to the doctor very triggering. Since I am working harder in recovery and I am eating more etc, I did not feel like I “deserved” to go to my usual “follow ups” since I was less symptomatic etc. I am scared that I will feel invalidated once I go and I get the impression that the doctor is not worried about me or does not want to see me for a certain amount of time longer than usual. Well I faced my fears and went to the doctor 3 mo later than I was supposed to go and even told my doctor this time WHY I don’t ever make follow up appointments when she tells me too. She told me that the WEIGHT was only a TINY aspect of the reason why she sees me- but it is the vital signs, questions, concerns, blood work, etc that she is really MOST INTERESTED in, NOT the weight, and I honestly was SHOCKED. Even though she specializes in ED’s I thought that all she saw was the weight. I guess it just helped me reaffirm that even though I know ED’s are not all about the weight for OTHER PEOPLE, other people do not see me and my recovery as just a number either.

    Comment by Jessica | November 12, 2009 | Reply

  5. I definitely agree that pics posted on fb are damaging. I look at them from time to time and always regret it. It makes me want to be sick again.
    Here’s a question for you. I DO have an album from treatment. However, we had to sign a waiver agreeing to allow your photo to be taken, so the girls photographed DO know the possibilities of the pictures. And…the pictures are of us learning to live again. I didn’t post pictures of us (or even take any) of us in our hospital gowns or with scandashakes. I have pictures of loved ones visiting me to remind me that I AM loved. I have pictures of the girls and on with the horses and painting them, which was healing and theraputic. Pictures of us learning to enjoy meals. A funny picture the day I was allowed to flush my own tiolet ( a big deal!) Pictures of burning negative body images and “sick clothes”. And most important, pictures of commencing! The JOY seen in those pictures is worth it to me. I intentionally didn’t tag girls I was with because I wanted that to be THERE choice.
    What are your thoughts on that? I’m not asking if it’s “ok” because I know I don’t need that permission. But are those photos just as damaging in your opinion?

    Comment by Mindy | November 12, 2009 | Reply

    • I don’t think they’re damaging like the weight loss/ICU/NG tube pictures.
      I have to be honest in that I go back and forth about that album. There are no triggering pictures, and they DO show you learning to love life again, but I worry that people will think treatment centers are fun places to go to when they see that. Or that if they managed to recover without needing it, or if they weren’t at a point where they will need it, they will doubt themselves. The way that our minds play tricks on ourselves when we aren’t well is amazing sometimes.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | November 12, 2009 | Reply

      • I guess I get that, but to defend it–one might not even know it’s a treatment center by looking at it. I have people in my life that still probably don’t know what “selah” means to me. Also, the only friends I have that are part of the “eating disorder community” are from treatment. Aside from them, I have 2. So there aren’t other girls out there that I’ve never met, looking at my pictures hoping for thinspiration or comparisons or whatever they may be hoping for. Of course, girls on my campus could have eating disorders, but those same girls probably don’t know me or my story, let alone deduct that those pictures are from treatment.
        TREATMENT wasn’t fun. But life outside of the eating disorder IS. and to me,that’s what the album represents.

        To clarify- I’m not pissed at your opinion, because I asked. But I did want to defend it.

        Comment by Mindy | November 12, 2009

    • It won’t let me reply to your reply.
      I do have to agree with you–you don’t make mention of eating disorders or treatment in comments or title of album. And you don’t share that album with the entire facebook world.
      And I hope you can see this not as a defense on your part, but as a discussion on both of ours. I like discussions. i did not mean to put you on the defensive.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | November 12, 2009 | Reply

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