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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SciFi Blog Tour – Heather Hayden

Today I’m interviewing Heather Hayden for the SciFi blog tour! I’m excited for this because I love the cover. 🙂

 

Bio:

Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. Her latest release is a short story “Beneath His Skin,” which is part of an anthology her writer’s group put together called From the Stories of Old: A Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings. You can learn more about Heather and her stories through her blog and her Twitter, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.

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Questions:

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t dwell on the dark times. When things get rough, reading and writing will help you make it through. Don’t abandon your books or your stories, because that will only make it worse. Do things for yourself, not just for others. It’s not selfish, it’s taking care of yourself. Run on the beach at night. Take long bike rides. Read.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

It depends on the book. A short story might get a few days or a week. A novel might get a month or even longer, in some cases. Augment didn’t have that luxury because I had a strict 6-month window in which to write, edit and publish it. But its sequel, Upgrade, had a gentler deadline and took closer to ten months to complete the first draft.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Eventually I would like to earn my living through writing. Though it may take a few years to reach that point (or longer), it’s how I want to live. I’m not looking to become the next J. K. Rowling or anything, just earning enough to afford an apartment or a house, food, and travel; that last is especially important, since I want to see the world, and plane tickets can get pretty pricey depending on the destination.

I’m not as proliferous (yet, anyways) as other writers I know, who can release an amazing book every few months, but I’m working hard and eventually I hope to reach that goal. I’ve already released Augment, a YA science fiction novel (2015), and From the Stories of Old, an anthology with other writers (2016). I hope to release Upgrade early this year, with other publications later in the year.

What drew you to write science fiction?

Ever since I was a child, fantasy has fascinated me. When I started reading science fiction, I found it just as captivating. For that reason, I read both genres and also write both genres. Augment, in particular, drew a lot from my knowledge of computer science, genetics, and implant technology. Augment was my Senior Project (a requirement for graduation at my college), and in it I combined all my passions—for writing, for science, for science fiction. I’d written science fiction before, but never to the level of technical detail thatAugment required. It was challenging, but also rewarding.

What hobbies do you have, other than writing?

My hobbies tend to vary, depending on where I am and who I’m with. Sometimes I enjoy beading—usually making bracelets, since the loom I use is small. Other times I spend more free time gaming—often Minecraft, but also a variety of RPGs and 4X strategy games. Or I might play a lot of the card game Magic the Gathering. I’ve done knitting (scarf), crocheting (afghan), and cross-stitching (various projects) in the past, too. As a bookworm, I also read a lot, but I don’t consider that a hobby—more like sustenance for life.

Author Interview – Wesley Britton

 

“The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters, and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories.  Don’t let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you–this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes.”

–Raymond Benson, Former James Bond novelist and author of the Black Stiletto books

 

Hello everyone, I’m Wesley Britton, author of all sorts of things including the Beta-Earth Chronicles ebook series published by BearManor Media. Book One, The Blind Alien, came out in Sept 2015; book five, The Third Earth, was just published this Nov.

 

Book six, Return to Alpha, is presently in the hands of an editor but the most exciting news I’m announcing here is that, throughout 2017, the series is coming out as paperbacks! This is to meet the demands of readers who prefer their books in the old-fashioned way, and reader requests has much to do with everything I do!

 

The epic opens when Malcolm Renbourn, a young history teacher, walks into an ordinary bank on an ordinary day. Suddenly, he feels excruciating pain. Unexpectedly, he loses his sight and discovers he has been drawn against his will across the multi-verse to a slave-holding country on a parallel earth. He doesn’t understand a single word he hears, but he soon comprehends that he  is the focal point in the quest to end  a plague that kills three out of four male babies their first year on Beta-Earth.

 

Branded state property, he must escape, but where can a blind man in a strange world dominated by desperate scientists run? And on a world where polygamy is the norm, how can Malcolm Renbourn adapt into becoming the husband of five independent wives who never expected to be the mothers of a generation a planet hopes carry the genes that will change everything? And that’s just part of the story.

 

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So the original premise was exploring how an ordinary human can cope on an alien world after going blind—for which I draw from many of my own experiences.  Here’s what just a few reviewers had to say about the debut novel:

 

“An excellent work of new SF that hearkens back to the classics of Asimov and Heinlein. Told from the viewpoint of the different characters, it is a tale of a man from our earth (Alpha) being unwittingly transferred to a parallel earth (Beta) where he must learn to adapt to new cultures, attitudes, languages at the same time as coming to grips with the loss of his sight. Each of the characters are fully developed and well defined and being able to hear their thoughts about each encounter brings a richness to the narratives. Politics, religion, social mores and relationships are all examined from both without and within.”—Dave Massengale, Amazon review

 

“Spymaster and imaginative author, Dr. Wesley Britton has another big hit! His book takes the reader on a compelling journey of an Alpha earthling who has been spirited to planet Beta. Science-fiction, yes, but much more. The book explores science, medicine, commerce, education, spiritual life, family life and sex on an alternative planet which

at times is insightful and hilarious in its comparison to our own Earth. In an ingenious way, Dr. Britton has created a new grammar and vocabulary to continually intrigue the reader. A true winner!” –Bobbi Chertok, Amazon Reviewer

 

Find out more about The Beta-Earth Chronicles at:

http://drwesleybritton.com

 

And keep up with all sorts of entertainment insights and news at:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/295635.Wesley_Britton/blog

 

SciFi Blog Hop – Author Interview – Imogen Keeper

 

For my first interview for the SciFi blog hop. I’m excited to welcome Imogen! 

MY BIO

Imogen Keeper started writing seriously after trying on a few dozen other hobbies, but in a lot of ways, she’s written her whole life. In third grade, she tried to write a mystery, and in fifth, she tried again, with limited success. College brought a passion for literary analysis and art history. So many papers written in those four years.

An MFA in design, and a brief career in Interiors, followed by the hard decision to be a stay-at-home mom resulted in a lady who didn’t enjoy sitting idle, a long-napping baby, and a lot of time on her hands. The result – fantasies finally getting put down on the blank page!

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The release date for The Bonding is 8/12/16….

So, what have you written?

I recently finished a full-length novel called The Bonding. It’s a very steamy sci-fi that was, quite honestly, a blast to write. I made every possibly mistake a writer could make, plot circles, dead spots, and filters. Editing was a disaster, but so much fun.

In so many ways, that was me at my purest, because I wasn’t hemmed in by all the writerly laws that I know about now. I just sat down at my computer and the words poured out. All my beta readers have torn through it. Reading it in a matter of days, rather than the weeks allotted. It’s been called addictive. I just wanted it to be fun, and I think I succeeded there.

Who’s your main character? What inspired you to write them?

I work on multiple pieces at once to keep my mind fresh and my level of engagement high. There are so many characters I love, bouncing around in my head…. How to choose one?

I suppose, at the moment Cara, from a story I’m working on now called The Night Market. I’ve been in her head the most recently. She lives in my take on an Omegaverse, and she’s one of the omegas. Poor thing. In my world they are called Felinas, and they’ve got a rough lot in life. She resists becoming just one more omega with teeth, nails, knives and spit. She’s a fighter, and she’s snarky, and she’s definitely not a pushover. I always feel invigorated after spending a little time in her head.

And then there’s Tam from The Bonding. My favorite creation ever. I’m not sure what it says about me that a gruff, potty-mouth alien came so naturally from my fingers as I typed, but he just poured out. I never had to pause to wonder, what would Tam do? I just knew. Tam curses, and kicks butt, but at his core, he’s just a good guy who loves his lady, Nissa.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I’m not sure I did. I quit working when I was in my 6th month of pregnancy. And I dabbled in every hobby under the sun. I gardened. I baked. I cooked. It was sad. I’m not lying when I say this: for about three months, I planned my menus a month in advance. My husband would come home, there would be music playing that coordinated with the country I’d chosen to cook that night. So Jamaica – reggae. Jerk chicken, mango rice, and black beans. Seriously. The amount of time I put in to finding popular Greek music on Greek night, or choosing what went best with Borscht on Russian night was pathetic.

Anyway, I nearly blew up the oven making wheat bread, and my husband and I had gained some weight, and it was time to say goodbye to cooking.

I painted until there was no wall-space left in our house, and one day just sat down at the computer with Tam and Nissa in my mind. I’d dabbled in their story for years, had the first seven chapters down, and the rest just flowed. As I got more serious, my writing got better, and I learned about plotting, and had to do some major edits. I sat down to write thirteen months ago, and in a lot of ways, I never really stood up again. If a day goes by without writing, I feel twitchy, and nervous.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

No. Find a way of telling a good story that works for you, or more importantly, your characters as you write. Forget the rules about what not to do…. I’d have said, “don’t head-hop,” about a week ago, but, recently, I was shocked to read – and enjoy – a story that hopped-heads like lice on a nursery playground.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

My son, though I’m not sure it’s an inspiration, so much as not having much of a choice. I think with longing of the lazy Sundays my husband and I enjoyed before we had a child. We slept until ten. Now we’re up at seven like clockwork. There’s nothing like a grinning toddler-alarm clock. He’s always happy, and even when I’m so tired, I can barely stand, it’s impossible not to smile when I see how happy he is to see me again.

Link to my blog is –
https://imogenkeeper.wordpress.com/