I Am More Than A “Before and After”

Every now and then, a meme of an emaciated woman pops up on my newsfeed captioned, “She has anorexia.  Like this for a prayer” or sometimes on Instagram transformation accounts, there is a side-by-side of a bony girl with a feeding tube in her nose and the same girl flexing her muscles or smiling with chubby cheeks.  This is usually followed by a captain, “She kicked anorexia’s ass.  I’m so proud of her.”  The comment’s section usually ranges from “So inspiring” to “She kicked anorexia’s ass too hard.”  The misusage of these photos undermines the goals of recovery.  It reduces recovery to numbers, appearances, and spectacles.

Widespread pictures and memes only acknowledge a fraction of a story.  They capture physical differences, but not the psychological, spiritual, and physical pain caused by the illness.  They do not depict the trial and error, panic attacks, joy, tears, or fights that recovery entails.  Instead, they are a snapshot with such dramatic pictures that people find them entertaining.  Some people will even go as far as to tell the person that she is “glorifying obesity” by sharing pictures of herself and asserting that she loves her body.  To assume that she is glorifying obesity is foolish.  In sharing her story, she is releasing herself from the illness that once led her to believe that she should be ashamed of herself.

When I share pictures, I do not aim to inspire people or promote anything.  Instead, I am usually reminding myself that life is better when I am not sick.  It is to remind myself that I don’t want to lose my hair, have dry skin, faint, fail tests, isolate myself, or obsess over my weight.

As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder for more than five years, I understand that noone else knows the intimate details of my struggle.  I would hate for an Instagram account or a Facebook page to exploit my story by sharing pictures and feigning sympathy.  I am not a zoo animal to be gawked at.  My story is not a story of triumph or brokenness or romance or drama; it is just a story of a girl who is figuring life out.

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