Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pro-ana

This is a potentially controversial post. I like to try and write about things that bother me… it’s cathartic. I like to think that reading what I write could make somebody feel a little more reassured or a little less lonely. I know it’s not the most inspiring writing style, but I like to think it could potentially help somebody.

Anyway. I’m going to make it clear straight off: I am NOT pro- anorexia. I would never encourage somebody to eat less or lose more. I do not believe this illness is a lifestyle choice or a good thing. I really, really dislike pro-ana websites and blogs. They scare me and I think they’re dangerous places. But…

Pro-ana stands for pro- anorexia. Pro-mia is pro- bulimia, and pro- ED is pro- eating disorder. That’s where the simple part ends. Pro-ana has been defined in so many ways now.

At one end of the scale, there’s the twisted sites out to promote anorexia as a lifestyle choice, and give the disease to unsuspecting children. The other end is the ‘support forums’- places that fully support recovery, but are full of girls and boys who currently feel unable to make that step.

So which one is true?

… I used to visit pro-ana sites. A lot. I’m prepared to bet that quite a few people reading this did too.

Did I encourage people to fast or lose weight? No. Did I believe it was a lifestyle? No. Did I want to entice young children into eating disorders? Of course not!

It took a little while before the reality of what I was doing sank in and the ‘honeymoon period’ ended. I think that’s the same for a lot of people. For a while it was new. I was losing weight, I was feeling rewarded, and it was exciting. Yes, I was able to see people with low BMIs and think ‘they are too thin… I’m scared for them’- but I never thought to apply that to myself.

But of course, that changed… it had to. It always does. It stopped being fun. I wasn’t ‘choosing’ not to eat anymore- it physically was not an option. And that was when I turned to those sites the most. I wanted somebody who understood what I was going through, who could appreciate the shitty crappy disordered thoughts. I wasn’t ‘ready’ to recover. I didn’t feel I could. I just wanted to speak to somebody who ‘got’ it, and those sites offered me that chance.

Now I’m a bit wiser, I know there are hundreds of places where you can get that support… thousands, in fact. Helplines, recovery based websites, friends, family. But I didn’t know that then. I clung to pro-ana because that was all I knew.

I’m not denying that there are places that will offer the kind of thing the newspapers like to report about. But I am saying that not everybody is like that. Not every single person who has ever used a pro ana site is out to tell your kids they’re fat. I’d take a risk and say that the majority are not.

Are the sites themselves bad? I believe they’re very, very dangerous. If they were made illegal or all shut down, I would be happy. So yes, I think the sites are ‘bad’. But this is not about the concept of pro-anorexia or the sites that carry variations of its message. This is not even about the people who run them. This is about the people who use them.

I think that most of the people are just plain sad. They’re hurting. Eating disorders hurt. Saying somebody is evil for using pro-ana is telling them they are evil for suffering. It’s lonely, it’s crap, it’s sad. Most of us have been there. That’s why I clung to those sites for so long… to try and make it hurt even a little bit less.

I am NOT saying ‘go on a pro-ED forum if you have an eating problem’. Absolutely not. I wouldn’t advise those sites to anybody. I would encourage anybody who is on them to leave them and seek alternative- and to be blunt, better- means of support. There is only so much help you can receive when surrounded by triggers with every click. The bad definitely outweighs the good.

I think what I’m trying to get across is that it upsets me when people label ‘pro anorexics’ as vile, disgusting trash. I wish they didn’t just take what they read in the newspapers and magazines for granted. Calling somebody who already hates themselves a bad person is going to help how, exactly?

And if you ever associated yourself with that 'pro ana' label- I don't want you to feel bad for that. I don't think you need to feel ashamed of that. I definitely believe you need to keep strong and stay away from those dark corners of the internet- but I don't believe that you are not a bad person for having used them. I genuinely don't.

Hate pro-anorexia all you want. Hate anorexia all you want- I certainly do. But don’t hate the people who just clung to it because it was all they knew they had.

What do you think? Did you ever go on pro-ana sites? If you did- how do you feel, looking back on it now?

Endless love,

Jess xx

PS: if you're currently stuck on pro-ana, google 'recovery forums'. There are lots with varying degrees of 'strictness'. There are helplines and anonymous chat forums that can be useful too. Speaking to a friend or family member can be hard but helpful. If you're of school age, there might be a counselling department you could contact for confidential help. Pro-ana isn't something that makes you a bad person- but it's something that is ultimately only damaging you further.

3 comments:

  1. I used to go on what some may label as "pro-ana wesbites," although it didn't encourage people to get sick. But, it didn't really encourage me to get better. It was just a lot of triggers. With a lot of time, I've finally managed to avoid these websites and start my recovery! I don't often comment on blog posts (mostly because I get lazy haha) but just know that I always love reading what you girls have to say!

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  2. I am contacting you as a recovery blogger, hoping that you might be able to help me with something. I'm looking for people who experience their ED or "ED voice" as female to share written reflections (stories, letters, poems, or whatever) based on that personification. I've noticed that people in recovery are reluctant to refer to their eating disorders as female, to separate themselves from pro-ana/pro-mia groups. I want to "reclaim" female personifications from the pro-ED camp by publicizing recovery-oriented descriptions of a female ED, to make these descriptions just as much a part of recovery dialogue as the popular (male) "Ed" image. I hope you will consider writing something, and/or share this information with others who might want to contribute. I can be reached at reclaimingana@gmail.com, and more information is available at http://reclaiminganaandmia.blogspot.com/

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