Monday, February 14, 2011

Pro-anorexia and why I can't hate it

Hmm, did I say I was going to do a post this weekend?  Well, I kind of got distracted what with all of the TV that required watching, books that required reading, and video games that required playing.  Someone's got to do it!  But now I'm at work and bored which always equals more blogging.

I mentioned pro-anorexia a few posts ago and thought that it deserved a bit more of a discussion.  I've read a lot about pro-anorexia from people in ED recovery and it's run the gamut from "it ruined my life" to "it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know."  The interesting thing to me is that every single ED sufferer (in the western world at least) seems to have some familiarity with it.  I'm sure there are exceptions but my guess is they're rare.  Like so many other things it seems it was made bigger when it was revealed to the general public as this huge scandal.  I certainly have had my experiences with it and I even missed the media blitz on it by several years.

Personally, I heard about pro-anorexia on a TV program.  It wasn't even a news program is the sad part.  At the time I was already restricting (as I had in the past) but I'm not sure if I'd quite crossed that eating disorder boundary yet.  I started looking around online immediately afterwards and found all the tips and pictures I could have ever wanted, including the Livejournal communities that I ended up being a part of.  Did pro-anorexia cause my eating disorder?  Absolutely not.  A genetic predisposition and the right conditions at the right time caused it.  I believe I would have gotten just as sick as I did on my own.  But pro-anorexia certainly sped that process up, made me feel justified in my behavior, and helped keep me sick longer.

Additionally, pro-anorexia gave me some symptoms that I don't think I would have developed without it.  This includes comparing my body to celebrities.  Even as a heavier teenager I didn't do that.  I can remember wishing I looked like skinnier classmates but I never looked at celebrity pictures or obsessed over how thin they were.  To this day I still do that now.

Considering all this you'd think I would be the first to jump on the bandwagon that supports banning all pro-anorexia on the internet.  The thing is that when I was sick it filled a hole that I don't think anything else would have.  To make things clear I steered far away from anything that handed out tips or actively discouraged recovery or supported competition between sufferers.  So for the most part it was just a lot of sick girls talking about their symptoms and telling each other they weren't the only ones.  True, no one ever told me that I should go to a doctor when I admitted to almost passing out but if they had I wouldn't have mentioned those symptoms.  Same reason I didn't mention it to my friends or my parents.  Online I could admit to things like crying when my flatmate accidentally broke my scale whereas when I mentioned that to a friend she stared at me like I was a crazy person and asked me if I had therapy later that day.  I think I might have exploded if I hadn't had a place to get out some of these issues.  And it's a very comforting thing to know that other people understand your pain.

Yes, I do think pro-anorexia helped me get sicker faster but when I inevitably reached that point that was the only support I had to tell me I wasn't alone.  So I guess I think the energy that's directed towards fighting pro-anorexia would be much better spent on working towards better ED treatments (with the obvious exception of sites that consider eating disorders a lifestyle and the like).  Because once I started recovering I left those sites behind forever and I have no urge to go back to them now.  If we help people recover better I think they'll naturally start to disappear on their own.

And let's be fair here.  Sure, pro-anorexia sites collected pictures of stick-thin models for me but who put them out there in the first place?  It's like treating the symptoms of any disease.  Until we address the deeper issues of weight obsession in our culture it's like trying to save the Titanic with a tea cup. 


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