The Pro-Ana Movement – What the hell is going on?

This article is written by  Helen Butcher and she’s asked me to share it here to help bring awareness for this terrible illness, and the harm this can do to both sexes.

———————-

Pro-Ana’ Movement – What On Earth Is Going On?

In a former life, I worked in mental health services. It was a job which wrenched my heart on a regular basis, and frequently made me very angry with the incompetency of society in general (and health service managers in particular [1]) when it came to mental health. But I never got frustrated with the patients themselves. Until, that is, I came across the ‘Pro-Ana’ phenomenon.

‘Pro-Ana’, if you’re not familiar with the term, is short for ‘Pro-Anorexia’. ‘Ana’, for some of the movement’s adherents, is a kind of goddess – a deified personification of weight loss and beauty. Her devotees willingly sacrifice their meals, their sanity, and (sadly) their lives in her service. The ‘Pro-Ana’ community offers its members ‘thinspiration’ over the internet, including extreme tips on calorie elimination, and advice on how to hide one’s eating disorder from friends and family.

This is where it gets weird. ‘Pro-Ana’ individuals are frequently all too well aware of the fact that they’re ill. They KNOW that they have an eating disorder, they KNOW that it’s making them miserable, and they KNOW that they are putting their health in extreme danger. This isn’t something unique to pro-anas. Many people with eating disorders know that something is wrong but nonetheless shy away from getting anorexia or bulimia treatment [2]. Pro anas, however, wear their disease as a badge of honor [3]. They are proud of their illness, and will do all that they can to advance it. Pictures are posted on forums of jutting clavicles, stick-thin thighs, hollow cheeks, and drumskin bellies. These pictures are in turn torn to pieces by the frequently vicious community, who pick out imagined imperfections and exhort the posters to go to even more dangerous dietary extremes.

Which brings me back to my frustrations.

I could kind of understand the Pro-Ana movement. If I worked at it, I could frame it as a method of coping for mentally ill people – a way of presenting their illness to themselves in a manner which meant that they did not have to feel weak and humiliated by it. While I did not necessarily approve of the method, I understood the motive, and could assimilate it into my non-judgemental view of their illness as a symptom. Indeed, some ostensibly Pro-Ana sites do come from more of a ‘moral support’ angle than an ‘encouraging anorexia’ angle – and that’s kind of laudable when done properly [4]. Where I fell down, however, was on the treatment meted out to other sufferers within the community. Eating disorders are dangerous enough on their own. Many of the eating disorder patients I saw had horrendous trouble drowning out the repetitive thought-cycles in their own heads, which poured scorn and loathing upon them. To have this internal chorus reinforced by the sufferer’s contemporaries on the internet put a lot of my patients in very real danger of death.

I remember one patient in particular – let’s call her ‘Sally’. At the age of sixteen, when Sally should have been studying for her GCSEs, she was instead going back and forth between mental health units, hospital, and her family home. She had anorexia, and – as is so often, sadly, the case – it had not become apparent to her loved ones until her extreme weight loss became noticeable. Generally, by this point the disease has quite a hold upon the patient. This was certainly the case with Sally. However, while in our mental health unit, Sally displayed a willingness to recover which was unusual in anorexia patients. She made determined efforts to eat, and participated to her fullest capacity in our therapies. This gave us a lot of hope. With this kind of attitude, there was no reason why she could not make a full recovery and live a long and happy life. Yet every time she was discharged, she was hospitalised and then sent back to us within months.

What on earth was going on?

Basically, every time Sally was discharged, she’d head straight online. She was seeking support from those who were experiencing the same kind of thing as she was – perhaps tips on how to get healthy. But what she found was her own disease, given voice and writ large across the internet. Her efforts to defeat anorexia were screamed down with extreme vitriol, her body derided as fat and unattractive, her whole life picked apart by the community she thought would help her. Yet she kept on going back. Someone that deep into self-loathing will do anything to gain a sense of ‘tribe’ – even if their chosen ‘tribe’ is almost literally destroying them from the inside out.

Needless to say, I was horrified at the extent of the damage fellow sufferers can willfully inflict upon one another [5].

Sally’s story has a reasonably happy ending. Once her parents discovered what was going on, they began to monitor her internet usage closely, and sent her to a therapist who specialises in helping young adults have a healthier relationship with social media. Sally is on the road to recovery – although it’s likely to be a long journey for her, and the years of anorexia have taken an undoubted toll on her health.

For the hundreds of eating disorder sufferers who get lured into these Pro-Ana forums, however, it may well be a very different story. And that troubles me. It troubles me greatly.

[1] Daniel Boffey, “Leaked report reveals scale of crisis in England’s mental health services”, The Guardian, Feb 2016

[2] Bulimia, “Bulimia Treatment”

[3] Sarah Rainey, “Secretly Starving”, The Telegraph, 2013

[4] Mandie Williams, “Unpopular Opinion: Pro-Ana Websites Were A Positive Influence In Helping Me Recover From My Eating Disorder”, XOJane, Apr 2014

[5] Geraldine McKelvie, “Revealed: Scots student tells how he starved himself to the brink of death after being bullied by anorexia trolls”, Daily Record, Aug 2013

Advertisements

Happy New Year – Onwards

I’ve kinda been putting off this sort of post, because the last two months have been so hard. As usual sometimes the only thing that keeps us going is the day to day normality of life, and the wonderful people around us.

But, there comes that time when you realise that sometimes it’s just not enough.

Christmas always brings with it reflection and makes you feel so much more, and this year has certainly not been the best.

As a moderator on some of the best groups on facebook one of the worst things with social media is finding out about an accident involving a loved one. This is something we’ve had to strive to fight off because it’s so easy to push that button and post a picture.

Then there’s this other side, that your lifes in a public setting and everyone and anyone can eventually find you. Yes, I get my fair share of stalkers too. Sometimes so many, and you get fed up of the Direct Messages, or naughty pictures ahah. Instant delete and block on facebook and twitter. Those internet sites will never change.

We were told through facebook over the holidays that my husbands brother had passed away. His estranged family contacted him through facebook. He doesn’t do facebook and it was a weird thing because I don’t often check out his profile. Moments after the message had been delivered, I got the same message through on ‘requests’ on my own page.

I don’t need to say anything, and I won’t. A life lost is a shame, and we’re in shock and mourning. Though once again it makes you realise that not everything is as it should be and that you need a kick up the backside to do something about it.

I won’t make any new years resolutions, I just plan on ‘doing’ I already spent my time over the holidays looking at new things to do with my life. There are some very good opportunities around my local area at the moment, and fingers crossed that will be one thing that will make some very nice changes for me, and my family.

So with a little luck on my side, and a positive attitude, I am looking forward to 2017 and no matter what the next month brings. Will deal with it the best way I can.

Feeling a little lost :(

There is a lot going on at my home at the moment, we’ve had two weeks of building work and so many other little things that have been bounced about over the last month. I can’t really catch you all up on things to be fair.

But today, I saw something that made me feel really sad. When someone touches your life in a very amazing, supportive way, and then all of a sudden they’re gone. Taken from this life we live, far far too soon.

What we live with, with mental disorders and eating problems of all aspects, nothing can hurt more than seeing someone so bright.. vanish.

I’ve witnessed this morning a lot of friends over this so so upset, and today. I am not sure how I feel, sad of course. To tears, yes. How do you grieve for a friend you never really met, but meant so much to you on such a personal level that not many can understand.

So this I guess is a heartfelt and sorrowful post. Hug those you love, share with those you can’t hug, the love and friendship you have with them. Support each other, talk and laugh. Life is so tough sometimes, and not everyone of us knows when that might end.

x x

Saying Goodbye

Today is a day where we get to say goodbye to a very close old family friend. Ronnie Docker.

It is not going to be a good day.

It will be, however, a day of reflection and one of many assaults on all my senses.

This year has been one of the worst for a few reasons. This being one of them. I don’t deal with death, or dying very well at all. It’s something I can’t see. Like literally I can’t see.

It might seem cold, and it isn’t. I just can’t deal with it. When my nan died on my dad’s side. She’d been very ill for a long time. I loved going to see them. But, the more she deteriorated, the more I couldn’t cope, in her last few weeks. Both Paul and my dad tried to get me to visit but I couldn’t.

Anorexia and depression already had me in it’s horrible grips as I was awaiting my call to go to Cheadle Royal hospital.

It was at her funeral that the beast took hold completely and over the next few months I lost around more weight than I should have. That day took me back to my earlier years you see, when my grandad died, to where I was being bullied at school left right and centre.

I don’t ever pertain to understand the complex way my mind works. Or in the how I deal with things. I don’t deal with some things very well at all, and that voice in my head just takes over instead. It is what it is. A coping mechanism for feeling.

I am where I am today because of those people and the ED that made me internalise all the things
hateful things anyone ever said.

Today, I am going to allow myself to feel. I am going to say goodbye to a gentleman who brought many things to my life. From your cantankerous old ways to the laughter and fun.

I know who I am, I will remember where I have come from, I will not go backwards, I will be okay.

Ron, where ever you are, be happy. We will miss you lots and lots.

~ Dawn

I’m so excited :)

Hey all – it has been a busy week.

One thing I have found in plotting over the last week is no matter how well you know your story. That sometimes the characters can surprise you.

Book 3 has really had me stumped for some time. The end goal and Kendro’s Death being one of the damned hardest things to get through ever, because I’ve known it and it’s been written in the TV series for many years and something which was hard then.

Leading through Book 1 and 2 Kendro totally stole my heart. I don’t and never want to kill anyone, but when you go through and live and learn with your characters through a few hundred thousand words, getting to that point is bad.

The fact that he tries so hard to avoid all conflict leading to his demise is noble, but the outcome still the same. Just in a very different way. I lose him.

Today, I built up the chapters leading to this. The ultimate battle between worlds. The situation is dire, there is nothing anyone else can do. And it’s been an awesome day!

Nano isn’t for everyone. I totally understand that. The fact that you’ve to hit targets some people can’t deal with, but I find it liberating. The support from other writers around the world is amazing, and with camp you can set your own goals… even better.

So, roll on April the 1st! I’m all set to go! and totally excited for it… how is your WIP treating you? are you taking part in camp nano?