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

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

So busy, so busy…

That time when the voice from within is trying to break through.

That time when I say, no, and really mean I will always say, no.

—— poem 2016, – Dawn.

What happens –

 

What happens to you, when you’re so busy you don’t allow yourself to feel?

What happens to you, when your life takes  a turn for the worse?

 

Do you stop, and allow yourself the time to heal?

Do you allow yourself the time to turn it around?

 

Not always do we have the strength to go on.

Not always do we have the heart to believe we’re worth more.

 

Yet, somewhere there is hope.

Somewhere there is a belief.

 

Belief that we are what matters.

Belief that we are so much more than just thinking or feeling.

 

We are strong, we are better.

We are more than ED.

 

Feeling better :)

After being so wiped out with a chest infection last week, I am feeling much better. This is great for me because even looking back on last year, I hit Feb and was ill… then it got better, much better.

Contains triggering talk below…. just fair warning to some of my followers.

I made the similar decision to get back on top of me, like I did last year. But in a diff way. I don’t have 5 stone to lose anymore, but I do need to cut out the crap again, almost 12 mths off Lipotrim and I’ve put a little back on, my main concern is I’m still not technically in the healthy bracket according to my doc. Sigh. But, that means I can be.

I went back on Lipotrim on Monday, to shift that last bit of weight hanging about. Get myself back in the right frame of mind and to detox after Xmas etc. Don’t think I’ve been a week without drinking so I know that will do me good. I’m not going to be on it long, maybe 4 weeks. That’s just because of how strict the diet is and that I really don’t have much to go. I’ve got to be careful I don’t upset my family after all. Even if this is for me and for my health. Hubby’s been great, he understands, so fingers crossed. If I do drop too much, I have to come off, simple, but we’ll see how it goes. Talking to lots of people this is harder the second time around, so I’m not expecting the same results at all, only time will tell.

I will admit, it’s still very difficult. But once over the first week, I’ll be fine I’m sure of it.

In regards to my projects. Things are moving along well. I got a really good review this week on TSK, the reviewer really took the time to say everything and in my mind she really understood what I was going for in writing it.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R3LFDC9NDCWA6R/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0149F9NQI&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=133140011&store=digital-text

I’ve gotten the first set of script pages off to some friends on another collab project I’ve been helping on. That was a good move as I really love this gal and her work. So fingers crossed the pages are well received and we’re on the right path with it.

In regards to the TSK website, yey, it’s well underway now. The members only section has it’s first short published, and I’m excited to share the rest, as they’re just fab, not all written by me  (I might add) and that is really one of the best things about being and managing TSK now, it’s such a project that other people can write, draw, etc etc and it still fits into place, just like it was meant to. I love reading work that I didn’t write and it follows exactly those characters and how they could and would react in certain situations. It’s just amazing.

The artwork is really steaming ahead. Andrew’s just fantastic and I am thrilled to see them come together with the shorts. They show everyone visually what I see in my head and then some!

All in all it’s been a roughish start to the year, but it will be a very good one!

Keep dropping in, I’ll keep you guys posted. Book 2 is in final stages of editing! Squeee…. and working on cover ideas right now!

Love and hugs.

Dawn

 

 

 

So quiet….

This post may contain some triggers, please be careful.

Hey guys,

I wanted to jump in and try and tell you everything that’s been going on, but putting words to paper has been pretty hard for me the last few weeks. In fact too hard.

It’s been the year from hell, I know many of you already know about some things that have been going on. We lost my uncle, then my hubbies best friend and then my aunt. My mum’s been in and out of hospital having two operations, the first wasn’t diagnosed as skin cancer, but the second one has just been confirmed. There has been one other life changing event, which I can’t talk about for legal reasons, but it involves my husbands other close friend, and is very heartbreaking for both parties. And it’s affected us all a lot in the last four weeks, hence why I’ve been so quiet.

My focus as usual has been for TSK. I’ve been working with a crit team in the UG on scrib who have been super awesome. And I’ve just knuckled down and gotten on with things. Critting and writing.

Book 1’s cover is almost done! I’m even more excited to share this with you guys, a few weeks. Then fingers crossed for publication!

TSK’s book 2 is back in for beta in August. I’ve worked my butt off on this one. And the shorts are just doing fab. We’re almost half way through with editing and finalising them ready for our website! I can’t wait.

Writing is re-writing and I’m learning to love the whole process, honest.

————— trigger

With all this that’s been going on this year, I have to admit I kinda let myself not worry over what I was putting in my mouth. And it was getting harder and harder to get in my largest pair of work pants. I was at the bottom, totally about to self destruct. In fact if I am honest, more than half way there…. which was just making me feel worse and worse. The anti depressants helped for the first few months, but with everything that hit us it just wasn’t doing anything at all.

I don’t know what made me decide to do something about it, it was one of those things which just happened but I went into my customers a chemist one day and decided to try the plan they support there, called Lipotrim.

I’ve never done anything like this before. But, it’s something that I just had to do. I’ve everything to gain, and more than enough to lose.

I wanted to talk just a moment about how this is not my ED head working. This is my perfectly sane brain, taking control of what I was doing and turning this horrible downward spiral into something positive.

My chemist is aware of how and what I went through, my doctor and my nurse all know I’m doing this, and although it’s been met with some stern looks and concerns from my husband, my mum also backed my decision.

I am taking things easy with it, not exercising at the same time. It will be for appprox 4mths, which I’m in week 4 already. I’m not talking about the weight loss, because that isn’t why I’m really doing it. I’m doing it for my sanity and at the moment I can honestly say I feel 100% better. I’m sleeping properly which for the first time in 8 mths is a massive thing for me. I’ve more energy and my body is so much happier. My feet love me, instead of complaining all day long.

This won’t be something that I’ll post about a lot, because I know how it makes some people feel. And me too, but this is a journey that I have to go through. One I will come out the other end of, hopefully having gotten through the worst year of our lives to date.

It tells me a lot when my husband admitted to friends that he thought my eating disorder was the worst thing ever, but this years beat that hands down. I know it has, this is a life changing year, in more ways than one. For us two together, and for my family on the whole.

I love having this blog, it’s been the best thing ever for me when I’ve had exciting things to share, and the saddest of things.

Sending this out into the ether, breathe out the negative, and breathe in the positive! At least now I am fighting in the right direction. Not allowing myself to get any lower. It’s a long way off, but we will get through this year!

Love to ya all.

Dawn x x