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The danger of To The Bone

Author:
to the bone

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

Content note – eating disorders, anorexia

Netflix have done it again. They’ve managed to create something dangerous, and they’re trying to pass it off as helpful, a conversation starter. The show Thirteen Reasons Why (which, somehow, is being renewed – help us all) came under a significant amount of criticism, all of which was completely fair. The show was trivialising, unnecessarily graphic and triggering, and may have even inspired tragic actions taken by viewers.

Unfortunately, Netflix hasn’t learnt its lesson following the response to their show. Either that, or it really does value money over peoples’ lives – because the sad fact is, people are drawn into media such as this, especially when they’re already vulnerable. This is what concerns me most about the site’s new film, To The Bone. If you haven’t already heard about it, To The Bone is about anorexia. It’s about a middle-class white girl who is conventionally attractive, cisgender and heterosexual. It’s a story we’ve all seen before – because media surrounding is very much a visual phenomenon. And that is a major problem.

The trailer alone was enough to be upsetting, and caused considerable damage instantly. Stills from the 2 minutes and 24 second teaser have been put up on pro-ana sites, and tagged under ‘thinspo’ on Tumblr. Some might find this shocking, but I’m not at all surprised. As an eating disorder survivor, with anorexia at the heart of my history, that trailer made me deeply uncomfortable. Even though there was much they got wrong, the images portrayed were familiar – painfully so. The close-up shots of Ellen’s – the main character’s – protruding bones looked just like the images I used to scroll through, just like the image of ‘success’ I had pinned in my mind. I am ashamed to admit that my immediate response was not to be upset or even angry. I paused the trailer on the shot of her jutting spine and I thought “that used to be me”. I thought “I could be that again”. I thought “I could do even better”.

The makers of the film have defended their choice to use imagery such as this. They have said that it is meant to ‘serve as a conversation starter’, not to glamorise eating disorders. Whilst that’s a worthy intention, there would have been far better ways to go about this. They may not have wished to romanticise anorexia, but that is precisely what they’ve done. Depicting how sick and unhealthy it is to do these things to your body isn’t going to put people off if they’re in a vulnerable place. It’s not going to help sufferers of anorexia realise that what they’re doing is harmful. For many with the illness, that is precisely the point. Besides, how can these images of sickness be categorised as ‘undesirable’ when they are not at all dissimilar to those we see in magazines, on catwalks, on red carpets? How do we understand Ellen’s behaviours as disordered when they are those which we are all actively encouraged to partake in by the media and those around us? How do we separate this depiction of anorexia from the images and ‘tips’ used to fuel the illness?

I know that people who will be harmed by this content will watch it, because I am one of those people and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the trailer was dropped. I feel compelled to watch it, not because I expect the film to shed any light on the reality of living with anorexia, nor because I think it’s going to provide a sense of hope. I’ve felt compelled to watch it because I have an eating disorder, and eating disorders thrive on this sort of thing. I’ve been sucked in by this film, and I’m over four years into recovery. I’ve been set back by it, and I’ve built up a lot of resilience against disordered thoughts and external triggers. It terrifies me to imagine how those new to recovery, or not yet ready for it will be affected. It terrifies me to think how this film will be used by people who are so sick that they see the portrayal of Ellen’s sickness as aspirational and inspirational. It terrifies me to think that those at Netflix genuinely believe that this could be anything other than incredibly harmful.

If you need a support with an eating disorder you can visit www.b-eat.co.uk (UK-based) or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org (US-based)

13 reactions to 13 Reasons Why

Author:
13reasons

By Christiana Paradis

Content note: mental health, suicide, sexual violence

I, like the rest of the world, just finished binge watching 13 Reasons Why, a new series on Netflix. I must preface that I was hesitant to watch this show. I had read the book two years prior and upon finishing felt woefully uncomfortable. I felt that it glamorized suicide and gave students who were struggling the perspective that it was the ultimate way out and to get revenge at the same time. As more information about the show swirled I decided I needed to give it a chance before writing it off completely. Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by the Netflix adaptation. Though there were a few things that still drew some concerns for me, predominately I felt the series adaptation got several things right.

13 reactions to 13 Reasons Why:

13) Glamorization of suicide. Similar to the book there were several times that I felt the book and series adaptation justified Hannah’s decision to commit suicide. Ultimately someone’s decision to end their life is their decision and it is a very complicated decision that is often affected by a person’s mental health, lived experiences, coping skills and support system. The one thing I do not want anyone taking away is that suicide is an appropriate way to solve problems or feel vindicated for things that have happened to them. There are many different options and help is always available.

12) Know yourself. If this topic is difficult for you to discuss or watch, then don’t do it. The show has quickly become current pop culture phenomena, that being said if the content is triggering you have the right to stop watching it or avoid watching it altogether and you have the right to talk to someone about it.

11) Bystander effect. The bystander effect continues to be a huge problem in our society. Earlier this week I was discussing bullying at a local high school. Every student could articulate examples and ways in which they could get involved to stop it; however, that’s where the buck stops. People’s knowledge about what to do and why, but never any actual action when it becomes necessary. When I asked students if you know what you’re supposed to do and you know it will make the situation better -why don’t you? The answers were telling “I might become a target,” “you can’t snitch,” “it’s my friend.” The peer effect and the threat of being considered an “outsider” for standing up against ill treatment keeps many students from standing up and speaking out, despite knowing that it is the right thing to do and ultimately could get them in trouble if they don’t. 13 Reasons Why articulated the strength of peer culture, the bystander effect, and the fear of being ridiculed for doing what you know is right.

10) Family; family members can play a crucial role in providing support to someone who is struggling. Several times Hannah alluded to wishing she could talk to her parents; however, it’s never entirely clear why she felt she couldn’t talk to her parents. Though it was evident money was tight and this pre-occupied her parents, it was also evident how much they loved their daughter. I like that the Netflix series incorporated a larger story line into the series adaptation. I think it was a powerful step in helping viewers realize the damage that suicide can have on the close friends and family members left behind. Hannah’s parents’ grief is difficult to watch at times, but added a unique element that wasn’t as prevalent in the book. There is damage to those left behind.

9) Support; we all have varying levels of support and at times we do not realize it. I call on everyone to think of one person that you have in your life that you can rely on and talk to. It doesn’t have to be a teacher, counselor, or parent, but there should be someone. It could be a friend, an older brother or sister, a friend that is close or far away. Know who your support system is and know how best to reach them when needed.

8) Sexual Assault is more prevalent than we imagine. I’ve worked in the field of domestic and sexual violence for five years and despite doing thousands of education programs in that time, people tend to challenge how often sexual assault happens in our society. Sexual assault is an underlying theme throughout the series and we see several depictions of it, initiated by different people at different times. Hannah herself is a victim of sexual violence several times over within the series. If there is one thing this series got right above all else it was the frequency in which sexual assault occurs in our society and the ways in which victims are treated in the aftermath. The counselor’s response to Hannah is not an uncommon response that victims hear and see everyday, typically not by counselors but by people of varying occupations and it has to stop. #NoMore

7) Lack of responsibility on the part of the perpetrator(s). Similar to most SA situations, it was clear that the sexual assault assailants throughout the film very rarely felt remorse for their behaviors when they happened. It was only after Hannah’s tapes are released that they start to question their decisions and actions and for some they still cannot rise to the place of taking responsibility. Lack of recognition and accountability are areas that largely allow for sexual assault to persist and the biggest hurdle to overcoming complacent behavior.

6) Techonology has changed everything. At several points throughout the series it became apparent the ways in which technology have added new components to bullying and sexual harassment. A photo of Hannah goes viral throughout school and is ultimately used to shame and bully her. This commonplace in the average high school. Students can articulate how bullying occurs via technology but also the ways in which sexual harassment and technology have become integrated. Technology is drastically changing the ways we function with one another and this series cast a light on the many influences that technology has on students and their relationships.

5) We can do better by speaking up. It’s not easy. We know the peer effect is strong, that being said we also know that nothing will stop if we don’t stand up and speak out for our peers and for ourselves. If we stand up and speak out just for one person it can make all the difference in the world.

4) We can do better by listening to those who matter most. Stop being afraid to listen to those who love and care about you. Hannah articulates several times in the series that several people affected her decision to commit suicide. She ultimately felt like no one cared; that being said Clay cared and ultimately blamed himself for Hannah’s death because he didn’t articulate his feelings enough. We need to listen to those who care most and know how to reach out to them when needed.

3) We can do better by listening. More important that talking is listening. We need to listen to the stories of our friends, classmates, parents, and teachers. We need to let others know that what their saying matters. We should actively listen and engage with their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. 

2) We can do better by integrating our services. Local domestic and sexual violence services are working to establish memorandum of understandings with local high schools to provide in person, scheduled, counseling for students who have indicated that they have been affected by domestic and sexual violence. Often we get dismissed or told it is not a necessary service. Services are needed and they need to be provided by experienced counselors. The most prepared individuals to discuss sexual and domestic violence are sexual and domestic violence advocates. School districts need to stop shutting out non-profit agency’s in their areas of expertise providing victim-based services. If there had been such a program at Hannah’s school the ending may have been drastically different.

1) We can do better by having conversations. The biggest reason I ultimately decided to watch 13R is because of the conversations it is starting. For the first time, I can go into a classroom of high school students and they want to talk about mental health, suicide, and sexual assault. They know what it looks like, they know it’s wrong, and they want to talk about it. They want to know their options, they want to talk about their own diagnoses and how that has affected their lives. Though there are several things that this series may not have gotten perfect, the one thing that it has done is sparked serious conversation among students about topics that have long been stigimitized and silenced. Students will no longer be silent because deep down in all of us, we resonate with feelings Hannah had, we resonate with her frustration of being ignored, harassed and bullied, we resonate with the many reasons we’ve experience that have made us question our mortality. We need to talk to friends, family, to each other, we need to know we’re not alone. There are millions of Hannah Bakers in the world. We all can do better. We all can do more. We all have the power to end up being someone’s I13R why they stayed.

My Disorder

Author:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A poem by Rousseau Duclos

Content Note: depression, EDNOS, eating disorders, mental illness, self-hatred

My disorder is just that, it’s a disorder,
a realm of chaos and confusion and hatred,
of a mind that can’t quite grasp why but can’t stop either.
My disorder is not a teenage girl with tiny thighs
and a flat stomach, with a bright, clear smile and shining eyes too,
and pale, smooth skin that glistens in the daylight.
My disorder is not a little girl with frail bones and a miniscule waist,
one that excuses herself after every meal but who returns to the table with
breath that smells like peppermints,
or who eats celery and lettuce for dinner, seemingly immune to desire.
My disorder is not your girlfriend, who never lets a single morsel pass through her lips,
but whose stomach is always gurgle-free, or the girl with perfect grades
and shiny, long blonde hair that rests down her back,
a whispered “You could save me.”
My disorder is not a speedy recovery, only one relapse and it’s not even gruesome,
with a handsome man at her side and love in the air and, Wow, wasn’t that so easy?
or midnight sex with hands running over her body, which
is still rail-thin even though she can’t stop saying how much she’s recovered.
My disorder is not love or perfection or anything remotely pleasant,
because that is a lie, perfection doesn’t exist,
and no human can survive on celery and lettuce alone.
My disorder is tears and crying and therapy sessions and hospitalizations,
desperate for help
and also consumed with the belief that nothing is wrong.
My disorder is worried parents and family meals,
just to make sure that you’re actually eating, and then bathroom doors
locked from the outside because the sound of vomiting was heard once too often.
My disorder is not beauty; it is death,
with stringy hair that crumbles in your fingertips,
yellowing teeth, and an overwhelming desire to die, or maybe
to just stop feeling everything for a moment.
My disorder is just a form of prolonged suicide,
because, without end, that’s the inevitable outcome,
an emaciated corpse that was apparently never skinny enough, even in her grave.
My disorder is not just teenage white girls, with money and friends;
it’s people in every single walk of life, of all races, all ages, all genders,
every single social stance imaginable, people with jobs or in school,
with so much potential for growth but who are forced to decay.
My disorder is never just a new weight-loss program,
and that exercise isn’t about getting healthy or being fit,
it’s about making yourself so small you disappear completely.
My disorder is, “Oh, wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight, but it looks great!”
and me clenching my teeth, because can’t you tell that for the past four weeks,
my mind has only daydreamed about the icing on your lips and the slice of bread in your hands
My disorder isn’t health, and will never be health,
it’s “fruit has too many carbs” and eating no vitamins whatsoever,
because what about the bloating?
My disorder is self-hatred, and it isn’t a choice,
it’s never been a choice, because who would chose that?
And it will never make sense.
My disorder is all of the evil and cruelty,
inflicted upon myself, and it isn’t logical,
because it’s a mental illness, brought on by a chemical imbalance in my brain.
My disorder is all the distrust I’ve ever seen in my mother’s eyes,
but it isn’t me, because I am a human being, worthy of every possibility,
and it is only my disorder that deserves to die.
My recovery is a lot of hard work, therapy sessions and a new cocktail of medications,
and sometimes it feels like it’ll never be over,
and maybe it won’t, but in the meantime, I can spend my nights thinking about a day
when I can let you run your hands over my body and not want to shrink away,
when I can run and dance because I love it and it makes me feel good, not to burn calories,
when I can finally love myself and, in turn, eventually love you too,
when I can look back without fear and see all my growth and be amazed at the pure beauty of me,
when I can raise a child and teach them to love themselves and love others too,
when I finally am free.
So, that day is not here yet, and so far the road to strength seems long and winding,
but that doesn’t matter, not now, not ever,
because I’ve come to the realization that
you deserve only the best in life,
I deserve only the best in life,
only the most love and compassion and everything you thought was cheesy as a child.
I’m going to fight to make this life the best one imaginable.

 

other people feel this too

Author:
5935199446_f6a838a017_z

By Bex Dudley

I have been living in London for just over a week, now.

It has been a busy one. Perhaps busy is an understatement. In the last week alone, there has been tea, introductions, lots of walking, registration, induction, welcome events, a ghost bus tour, more introductions, library visits, ice skating, exploring London, a study tour, more introductions, more walking, the Tate Modern, charity fundraising, Freshers Fair, a rugby taster session, more introductions… I do not think that is even nearly comprehensive. It has been busier than busy, the type of week where you reach the end of each day and think back over it, then think that could not really have been this morning!

Freshers week, or at least, Freshers week as I have experienced it, has been a weird one. Full of people and socialising, above anything else- meeting people, chatting, the same conversations over and over as you try to navigate what seems to be a whole city of new people. What’s your name? Are you an undergrad? First year? What course? Halls? Which ones? Where are you from? It has also been full of a lot of happiness and laughter. There have been some fantastic things- ice skating, a Bake Off party, making dinner with my flatmate, chatting and laughing with new people who just seem to click. It’s been a great week, and I know that. However, there have been some darker moments too, and I think that’s what makes it so weird, because those times seem so at odds with the rest of it. There have been times- particularly the evenings/nights- when everything else seems to dissipate, leaving a wonderful mixture of sadness and exhaustion and loneliness and anxiety. I have spent so much time wondering whether I will ever really feel comfortable here, whether I have really made the right choice, whether the people I am missing could ever possibly miss me half as much as I miss them, whether it is worse when the people I am missing are sad (and I can’t hold them) or when they’re happy (and I can’t celebrate with them), whether this city will ever feel anything like home, whether I will ever stop feeling so tired, whether it is just me feeling this way.

It is because of this last one, I think, that I am so resolute in writing this blog post. Experience with mental health has proven to me, time and time again, that other people feel this too. So, although social media is full of happy smiling faces, I am guessing, there are other people feeling a lot like me, asking the same questions, curled up on their respective uni beds, feeling that odd sense of loneliness when one is surrounded by hundreds of people. To all those people, this is me saying, I am here. I am feeling this. And actually, I think this is ‘normal’. I think we are, probably, the majority- no matter what social media seems to be implying. And, I think, eventually we will be okay. We just need to make it through this bit, utilising whatever support and strength we have, focusing on the out breaths.

I think, too, it is important to say that Freshers is not a one size fits all experience. I have not been out clubbing once this week. I like it enough- but I do not always deal well with crowded spaces and dark lights and alcohol/hangovers and people I don’t know, and I need to be settled somewhere, and with people I know very well, in order to enjoy it. I have been feeling the pressure to go clubbing, because that has seemed to be the ‘point’ of Freshers. However, I have also been self-aware, and realised that clubbing really isn’t what I need right now. Maybe I am ‘missing out’, maybe I’m not getting the ‘true Freshers experience’. I’m not so sure though. I know I’ve had a great week, even if it hasn’t involved drinking and dancing every night. I’ve quite definitely had a better week than I would have had had I forced myself to do something I really don’t feel comfortable doing. This is another reach out, to anyone in a similar position, to say it’s okay. We’re okay. We’re making this work for us, and that’s more than okay, that’s beautiful, because we are beautiful.

I think, what I am trying to say, most of all, is that is has been a very brilliant week- but that there have been wobbly times too. And that is okay. You belong here, and everything you feel is okay.

This blog was originally published on Bex’s personal blog here: https://itsbexnotrebecca.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/other-people-feel-this-too/

Wait… do I love myself?

Author:
4228041073_c379ae22a0_o

By Gemma Garner

Content note: Mental health, references to anxiety and body shaming

If you were to ask me if I loved myself, I would immediately say yes. My yes would be firm, honest and from deep in my heart. I love each and every part of myself, I’d say. Every lump and bump, every scar and freckle. I’ve learned to love my squeaky voice and the chips on my front teeth where I’ve been hit by a beer bottle or a karaoke microphone (I go pretty hard). On most nights, I take a moment to pat my belly and say thank you. Thank you for keeping me alive. When I see my naked face, my spotty chin and my dark circles in the mirror, I feel immense gratitude, and my heart fills up. What a beautiful face, I say.

This immense love, however, seems to retreat into darkness on my bad days. On the days where I wake up with intense nausea resulting in panic attacks, I hate myself. I hate the fact that I can’t deal with nausea like a ‘sane’ person. I hate my stomach. I hate my inability to eat well. I look in the mirror with a scowl and curse my existence. On the days I can’t stop crying and seeking validation, I cannot find the beauty I usually see. I don’t even try to. I look in the mirror and curse every lump and bump, every scar and freckle. I detest my squeaky voice and the chips on my front teeth, a constant reminder of my reliance on alcohol after a breakup years ago. I hate my mental instability. How can anyone love me? How can anybody find me beautiful?

With this in mind, can I really say I love myself? Sure, we all have bad days, but when you can only love yourself on a good day, is that love real, and honest?

It’s important to note that many years ago, my bad days were not bad days. They were every day. Like many people still, my existence was painful. I didn’t believe there was such a thing as true self love. ‘How can I possibly be OK with this?’ I’d ask, looking in the mirror. ‘Who in their right mind could love this?’

Perhaps the reason I love myself with such intensity, is because I want the love to bleed into the cracks that become craters on my bad days. When I love my flawed, naked face with such a burning passion, perhaps I think that I’m looking at a different self. A self that is still debilitated by self-hatred and misery. I’m protecting her, cradling her.

I’d like to believe that these cracks, a reminder of my teenage self-hatred, are still waiting to be filled. They aren’t a permanent fixture in my journey, nor are they a recent instalment. However, I don’t believe this is the case.

Despite having come so far on my journey to self-love and acceptance, my techniques haven’t aged along with my growing body and mind. My idea of self-love that I’ve carried with me for many years; could it have become self-destructive?

Years ago, the idea of eating whatever I wanted was revolutionary. Although my relationship with food has never been too toxic to the point of an eating disorder, at one point in my life, when I was responsible for my own food preparation, I would starve myself at school, only taking 4 crackers with me for lunch. Then, I’d come home, and eat 6 Kit Kat’s before anyone could see. When starting my self-love journey, I adopted the idea that I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted, meaning I didn’t have to binge, and I certainly didn’t have to feel bad about my often strange cravings. This was wonderful, and changed my life. Gone were the diets that made me miserable.

Today, this self-love technique has become toxic. As I’ve developed an incredibly sensitive stomach, meaning I feel sick constantly, the act of eating whatever I fancy has become deadly. Not for vanity, but for my physical health. My diet has taken a toll on my stomach, bringing on incredible mental struggles that I would not wish upon any other person.

Years ago, the idea of doing whatever I wanted, despite the social implications, was revolutionary. I learned to make decisions regardless of how I would be perceived. I was debilitated by a fear of being disliked or unloved, meaning the decisions I made did not reflect how I truly felt, only how I wanted to be seen. I vowed to pretend I didn’t care, and do what I wanted. This became one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. My lack of care became real. Now I can honestly say that I do not care about the implications of what I do on how I am perceived. I will stand in the middle of the street and sing at the top of my lungs (badly), without any fear. I speak to anyone and everyone that I feel like speaking to. It feels incredible. I became free.

Today, however, this no longer benefits me. Considering my lack of self-discipline, the idea of doing whatever I want is actually incredibly destructive to my motivation. On my days off, if I fancy getting an ice cream on my own instead of doing incredibly important work, I’ll choose the ice cream. For self-love. In the moment, the ice cream is great. Then I come home, and slowly start to resent myself for being incapable of making appropriate decisions. Or, say, if I want to seek validation in the middle of an important conversation, I will. Yeah, sure I care about your dead dog, but do you think I’d suit a bob haircut?

All of the self-love techniques that I have adopted through the years have once been crucial and essential to my growth. Now that I’ve grown, however, they restrict me from going any further. They widen the cracks in my perception of myself, causing me to regress back into an aggressive state of self-hatred.

I’m learning that self-love isn’t something simple, nor is the same thing for each and every person. To another person, getting an ice cream alone instead of doing work could be a step in the right direction. Self-love also isn’t the same thing every day. That’s why I think it’s time for me to change my self-love routine. It’s time to look in the mirror and say, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done so far, Gemma. It’s changed my life. Now, it’s time to do some new things.’ Also, ‘Why are you talking to yourself as if your reflection in the mirror was another person?’

* * *

MY NEW SELF LOVE TECHNIQUES:

-Do the work you need to do every week, even if you don’t feel like it. Find a day that suits you. Sure, you want to catch Pokémon, but surely it can wait until after you’ve sorted your Student Finance out?

-Give yourself the space to have bad days. Just because you think you’re fat today, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of being loved forever. See things as they are, rather than catastrophizing it, even if you just pretend to at first.

-Remember that almost everybody suffers with some kind of mental health problem, and that doesn’t make them bad, merely human. That panic attack was just a panic attack, not a reflection of your instability. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting through it, instead of panic about the next one.

-Try and give your stomach a break, and eat a little better. Eating better does not constitute as dieting for vanity, so don’t beat yourself up for going against your beliefs. You can still eat what you want, as long as you look after yourself.

-Remember that self love is different every time. Sometimes, it’s right to cancel those plans and spend the evening with a hot water bottle and shitty Hillary Duff movies. At other times, for example, if you’re invited to the pub, but you’re scared to drink; just go. You’ll be OK, and your brain will learn new, wonderful things about drinking.

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