The Importance of Support
I'm not a huge fan of social media. I think it encourages bullying, isolation, dissociation and general negativity. However, it has several pros. Perhaps the most important is that it makes people who are suffering feel a little less alone. It allows them to connect with like-minded individuals, which can either help or hurt them.
Before I started recovering, when I was simply contemplating the idea of it, I had no example to turn to. No idea what recovery could possibly mean for me besides "fat and disgusting." So, I turned to Instagram.
Unknown to the mainstream public, Instagram has a large community of "recovery" accounts where individuals document their eating disorder recoveries. This ranges from people with tens of thousands of followers who've been recovered for years and preach their experiences, to people who are just beginning to wade through the abyss of mental health reform. I followed all of these people, absolutely enthralled by what they were talking about and what it could possibly mean for me.
And this is why I created my own Instagram. To align myself on the right side of this fight. To encourage. To show people this is possible, this is serious, this is REAL LIFE, and we've been fucking around for too long. Too many people shy away from recovery because they don't think they can bear the weight gain, but deep down it's your eating disorder telling you you can't be successful in health. She's whispering in your ear, "You'll never be happy." But you have to know that's wrong.
It's surreal to think about, but two years ago I was crying out for help and I didn't even know it.
As I'm sure we all know by now, I would get up at about 4 a.m. to go to the gym for three hours every single day. Towards the end of my eating disorder, I was beginning to admit (only to myself) that something was wrong. So I did the only thing I was familiar with: researched the hell out of it. And that led me to Instagram.
I had gotten to a point where I basically refused to engage with other people in person. It was difficult to open up or seek help - I couldn't fathom it. But towards the end of my eating disorder, I would come home from the gym, go straight to my room, turn on my little space heater (no one in the house was ever as cold as I always was) and curl up into a little ball in front of it. I would sit like this for up to an hour, looking at myself in the mirror and hating everything about it and feeling like I might never get off the floor again. And then I started using this time to look at other people on my phone.
Despite myself, my mind began to swell with hope. This woman in the UK had been recovered for two years and she looked amazing, and this other woman in Spain was recovered and strong enough to start ballet dancing again, which she now does professionally. Yet another woman in Canada looked about my size and wasn't eating enough calories still, but she was making an effort. Maybe I could too.
They seemed happy, these women. They went on and on about the beauty of life, and I realized mine didn't have any. I was losing, losing, losing.
I began reaching out, writing these spirally, manic, overly detailed messages to people all over the world. How quickly did you gain the weight? When did your bloating go down? I want to recover but I'm scared to become fat? You look so good though, how are you doing it? Do you still exercise? Do you think it's okay if I still exercise? How did you bring yourself to do it? How quickly did you gain the weight?
We know how this ends now: I recover. But at the time, the future was lush with possibility. I could recover, or I could not. But at least I could recover.
If you are struggling and you want a little perspective but don't know who to turn to, turn to your phone. We do that all day anyway, so why not make it worth it? Start by following @taycovery on Instagram (yes, a shameless plug) and take it from there.
You will find your way. But don't forget that you are the only one who is capable of recognizing it.