Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

ana/mia/rexia names

the aunt part of me

How do I define myself?  I’m a writer; I was a student (the was part is new so I still have a tendency to define myself that way); a reader; a knitter and crocheter and I like to make jewelry; I like to paint, even though it’s nothing special; I still play piano from time to time; I love to dance; and I absolutely LOVE being an aunt.

I have bipolar disorder.  Two very special things about this previous sentence.  It does not say “I am bipolar” nor does it say “My name is bipolar.”

I used to have an eating disorder.  HAVE. I never identified myself as anorexia.  But this seems to be the trend lately among a certain subset of people with eating disorders.

On eating disorder community pages on facebook, I see countless people who have names with things like “ana,” “mia,” “ED,” and “rexia” included, and I’m seen names set up to rhyme with “rexia” and “mia.”  In their names.  Linguistically, they are calling themselves by their eating disorder.  I don’t see cancer patients with “cancer” in their names.  I don’t have “heartsick” in my name to identify me by my heart disease.

It’s one thing to admit to having an eating disorder.  That’s an extremely crucial part of recovery.  If you don’t admit you have one, you can’t get over it.

But it’s another thing entirely to call yourself by that disorder, to identify yourself by that disorder.  You are taking the you out of the equation at that point.  You are only your eating disorder.

There are several problems with this, and I’ll mention only the ones that pop out the most or concern me the most.

One is that by identifying yourself by the eating disorder, you can’t let go of it.  How can you get better from the eating disorder when you are the eating disorder?  One of the problems many of us face while recovering is finding things to take the place of all the time the eating disorder stole from us.  By calling yourself by the eating disorder itself, you make finding new, healthy activities that much more difficult, if not impossible.  In order to recovery, you need to let go and you can’t do that if you call yourself “Anamia.”  (I’ve seen that precise name multiple times.)

The second thing is that these names are extremely triggering to people who are in the process of letting go.  The names serves as a reminder of what they are trying to separate themselves from, and this makes it that much more difficult to actually let go. These names give the impression that the individuals using them are pro-eating disorder.

And, as we all know, the eating disorder community can be rather competitive.  These names only serve to increase that competitive spirit.  “If I don’t have “ana” in my name, then I’m not as sick as the other person” is a sentence I have received in a private message.  We need to encourage others to pick up new, healthy behaviors; we should not be encouraging them to stay stuck and keep holding onto their eating disorders, which is exactly what these names do.

So I encourage each and every one of you who use these names to reconsider them and change them.  If not for you, do it for the people who come in contact with your name.


April 6, 2011 - Posted by | bipolar disorder, Communication, depression, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Good stuff, as always.

    Comment by Shelly | April 6, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thank you. This certainly applies to other things… something to think about.

    Comment by marisa | April 6, 2011 | Reply

  3. Hey! Awesome- def something to think about, you’re a super talented writer


    Comment by Lisa Guo | April 6, 2011 | Reply

  4. I agree with you to a point. As you can see I have a name that reflects the illness I am in recovery from. That said, I also have a regular name, a regular life and an identity separate from the online moniker. Furthermore, I do know people who have names like cancer survivor but I agree that is more proactive. However, I am proud of my recovery and I identify that with my name here. If I did not know more about you I might take issue with the words “admit” having an eating disorder and “holding on” to an illness. Yes, there are people who identify too much and don’t know how to recover but mental illness *is* an illness and there is a fine balance between identifying with the illness and identifying with the recovery. I will keep my name to remind myself that it is real, I do struggle with it here and there but that I have found a way to fight it despite keeping the name.

    Comment by kkessa | April 6, 2011 | Reply

    • Just to clarify, I never said any mental illness is not an illness. I lobby in DC to get legislators to realize that eating disorders are indeed illnesses. The use of the term “disorder” does not, linguistically, preclude “illness.” Just as Bipolar Disorder is an illness, just as my cardiac disorder is an illness. But as with any illness, physical or mental, there is a way of identifying with it and holding on to it, and that identity does need to be “let go of” in order to recover from an eating disorder.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | April 6, 2011 | Reply

      • I know that you believe it is an illness and advocate for it. I just think that as we push forward parity in law and in theory, the language we use will be very important and while I don’t think disorder precludes illness, I do think saying “admitting” suggests shame and “holding on to” while it is used for other aspects of other illnesses goes towards fault and blame. Not to say there are not many patients I think need to own more responsibility for their own wellness so your point (and points in the past) are well taken and the forum appreciated. I don’t think you meant to suggest shame or guilt or blame but our words can be taken out of context by people who will.

        Comment by kkessa | April 6, 2011

  5. I love your posts, thank you so much for sharing.

    Comment by 98bruises | April 14, 2013 | Reply

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