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.

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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

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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

Life – poem

Life is not the best right now and I could do with a rest.

I believe it’s just a test right now, yet I still feel so blessed.

What hurts me, and makes me cry, also makes me fight.

No, no, not flight… I might have once turned and run.

Wether it be just a test or the best, I am not done.

Where would be the fun.

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hugs

~ Dawn

x x

 

Listening to your own work as an audiobook!

 

Well it kinda says it all really. The last few weeks and well the whole of this year so far almost seem a blur, from one thing to another, ups and downs as with life always…

Yet today I had plans, I woke early and couldn’t focus, back on the good ole plan (lipotrim) to get me in the healthy zone in the docs. I did so fab last year, but I’m still at the top end of the weight I want to be, and what is healthy for me, so almost 2 weeks in and feeling the pain of it all haha, the second time is so much harder. But the benefits are worth it, I know they are.

So yeah, no focus and you know when you really need it and it’s just not there yeah. So, ibuprofen, some paracetamol and lots of coffee and I just about started to come around.

I have always so much to do, that never ends, write up crits for the team on Scribophile, (which I’m near done on) and continue with a script I’m working on, I did sign up for camp nano and my cabin is awesome, yesterday I hit the ground running with a few wordwars after work to write 3.5k on my futuristic SO with my fav female character, Sarah Mendoza. I have to warn everyone this is a little out of my comfort zone, space battles and hardship I can handle, but she’s leaning towards a slightly erotic tone of content, haha, I love her but boy she’s opening my eyes.

But, I had an email late last night… A good one, squeeee and cue all excited jumps etc. I had the go ahead to go over the first section of audio for both TSK’s book 1 – Lethao narrated by Greg Tremblay and for our Shorts, The Truth Hurts narrated by Holly Adams.

I’ve only just got into listening to AudioBooks, so the experience of living inside the world someone else created for a few hours is just settling into my mind.

It’s a whole different ball game when someone else is narrating your world, your characters and their story.

It’s not like I write it and forget the story, no, but it’s like experiencing it all for the very first time.

I still haven’t done as much as I’d like, a house to clean and stuff to do here, but I listened to Holly’s work twice (loved it) and then moved onto the first book which I’m now up to chapter 4 on. This might take me all weekend. Haha, but I’m loving it. Kinda here thinking, I didn’t write this did I? but yes, I did. I’m very proud of the team where we’ve come from and where I hope we’ll go.

Thanks for being there with me @TeamSecretKing you brought to life what was only in my head. Now it’s free for everyone else to enjoy or hate, hehehe

Hugs –

 

Dawn

The RollerCoaster of life stuff

 

I always feel that I should post positive stuff, you know because life for TSK and my writing is so exciting at the moment. Honestly… that side of work couldn’t be better. 🙂

But, this last week’s been one of the hardest emotionally. I can’t lie, in fact the whole month of Feb has been a roller coaster of ‘life stuff’ It’s always the way, I seem to be excelling for TSK and then the crapper hits the fan at home and well without TSK and the team I think I’d be curled up in a corner somewhere hiding from the world. I never get the chance, and for that I’ve very thankful for. The guys around me are amazing.

The life stuff –

We lost my Aunt Muriel this last week, the last living relative of my mums side of the family and after last years string of ‘death’ I had hoped that we could start off with a better year. In one way I’m glad she’s not suffering anymore but then it just makes you think about how truly short life really is, even at the age she was.  95….

Then there’s some ‘other’ problem that I can’t talk about, but a few of my closest friends know of. It makes me very sad that the world is such a cruel place and I can only ask that you think of me in kind light over the next few months, this will not be easy. But, I will support those around me, and keep on smiling, because I am a survivor. That is what we do. Smile when inside you feel like giving in.

I feel the downer side of this week is because of the time of year, and today more so because it’s an anniversary of a friends death from many years ago. The fact it’s been Eating Disorder Awareness week, always brings home that terrible pain and time of my life where I was giving up and I think that in itself has made the week harder than it might have been any other time.

The fact I’m here and doing some of the most exciting things in my life is testament that I won’t ever give up fighting. I’m fighting for other things now, things that bring me passion and joy, not just the right to ‘eat’ and barely survive.

I am hoping that March will let us breathe at least a little, our family could use some  good news…

hugs x