Open Letter to the Online Recovery Community
To All of My Online Recovery Warriors-
Can I just start out by saying you guys are incredible? Seriously. When I was recovering from my eating disorder, this type of recovery kinship simply did not exist. From what I can recall, during that time period, the world-wide-web appeared to be dominated by pro-ana culture. The internet was a place for people with eating disorders to give each other tips on how to become sicker, and to feel safe from judgment when doing so. Instagram wasn’t a thing yet, and I had never even heard of the term “prorecovery” until well after I recovered.
Since that time, it seems like we have seriously taken back the internet. It’s amazing. Not since Alcoholics Anonymous has there been such a powerful, self-run, self-monitored community of like-minded individuals committed to a singular cause of bettering themselves and overcoming a specific mental illness. From Facebook support groups, to instagram recovery accounts, to blogs where individuals dispense recovery tips, we have really come into our own.
But just like AA, we have our issues. The online community isn’t regulated which, in and of itself, invites a slew of potential problems. And while, more often than not, I am uplifted and inspired by how well we do supporting ourselves and one another regardless of monitoring, there are a few nagging issues that keep popping up for me. Read on, and tell me if you agree warriors:
- Instagram bios- Specifically, listing number of inpatient stays in bios. This, to me, is unnecessary at best, and harmful at worst. I understand that, having been through hell and back, there is sometimes a pull to shout, “I’ve been though hell and back! I am worthy!” This is human. The problem is, it feeds the eating disorder mindset of “sick enough.” In a community of individuals who are trying to recover, lets just put our cards on the table and say that we all actively struggle not to engage in comparison with one another. Right? Right. But our ED voice tells us to do so daily. So when your number of inpatient stays is higher than her number of inpatient stays, her ED voice may just get a little bit stronger for that moment. And hey, I get that we are not in a trigger-less world. It is not our job to make sure that everyone around us feels free from triggers all the time. But if you are making the choice to actively engage in a community of individuals who are striving towards recovery, why not make an attempt to scream “I am worthy” louder than ED screams you are not, EVEN in the bio?
- Bios again!- Specifically, listing lowest weight, highest weight, current, weight, goal weight, you get the picture. Grrrr numbers. Come on now. See above. I’ve learned a long time ago that numbers are never helpful to the discussion of recovery and eating disorders. When ya’ll put that in your bios you are directly participating in eating disorder sensationalism. Even if you don’t mean to. You contribute to societal ignorance and misconception that eating disorders have to do with being underweight, AND, you charge up other people’s competitive ED voices. And your own, without realizing it. Because who are you really trying to prove something to by putting your lowest weight in there? In the end, when you really stop and think about it, it’s probably just your eating disorder.
- Food pictures. I LOVE food pictures. Love them. And contrary to a lot of other people’s opinions, I love the food pictures that look gorgeous. Why not make your pancakes look like art girl? If that helps you in your recovery then more power to ya. I just think that sometimes it is important for us to take a step back from the food pics and make sure that we are communicating/noticing all the other aspects of our lives. Recovery is about food. Definitely. But it is about so much more than that. And if you spend your time arranging your food and then taking picture after picture of it and then posting them all you might not get to share those other cool parts of yourself with the online community. So keep on keeping on with the food pics. But every once in while write a blog post about your favorite hobby. Or post a make-up free #fearlesslyme selfie. Recovery is about living life again, which can be expanded into so many directions-the possibilities are endless!
- Hashtags-I’ll make this short and sweet. We need to be more responsible with the hashtags. Hashtags are a way to be found. They are a way to make yourself vulnerable, but they are also a way for the vulnerable to find. Please PLEASE stop posting things that are intentionally triggering and hashtagging them with #edwarrior, #prorecovery, #bopo, #everybodyisbeautiful, etc. It’s toxic and counterproductive.
- Reaching out - So the online community is a supportive forum. I get that. I get that people want to post things that they are dealing with and reach out for support. I think that it can be a great recovery tool! My only advice would be to use caution. Instagam, Facebook, or even your blog can be great, but they are not you, in a room, alone with your best friend or therapist. As I previously stated, these are self-regulated, as in you are not sending an SOS out into a group of professionals. Hence, especially if the forum that you are using is completely public, you may not always receive the most healthy or kind feedback. When you are feeling your most down, or vulnerable, I would say to use caution and make sure to ask yourself- do I post about it, or is this a “call a friend/therapist/family member” moment?
So there you have it online warriors! We are a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure. Despite the issues listed above, I feel an immense amount of pride towards the online prorecovery community, and everything that we are doing together, everyday. But what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Are there issues that I didn’t list that you have noticed? Comment! Your thoughts matter!
C, PHEAL Blog Manager