L is back home. I sat her down and told her backing off didn’t mean giving up on her, that it meant I was handing the reins over to her for a while. I told her I would still be here, would ask her about anything but food and if she wanted to talk about food, just to say. I will cook her anything she likes, but won’t push to cook things for her. We are ok. I recite my mantra again, that getting better is not pretty or pleasant, but grim and relentless and I worry that the seemingly huge world of young women, all talking about recovery in one liners, or posting moving pictures on Tumblr paint a misleading picture of recovery. That the cure seems worse than the illness, on this I think my cancer and chemotherapy analogy is better.
I have been thinking about this for a while. I am a Twitter user – both in my real life persona as well as OMM. I love Twitter, the wit, the collective outrage, the way a million thoughts of strangers can collide and create a force for change, while those involved don’t even have to leave their sofas. But, of course, there is a dark side too. Racists find an outlet for their hate-filled bile, women are abused – and people suffering serious mental health issues share their innermost thoughts with the world. Which is a good thing, right? Yes, of course. As someone who suffers from depression, Twitter has brought me in touch with the kindest, most generous people – who I have never met, but we discuss things I don’t discuss with people I know well. To be able to put out a tweet about how dark things seem – and have sunshine sent back to you is a really wonderful phenomenon.
But what about tweets about cutting yourself, right here, right now? How does that impact on someone in recovery from self harming? The other night I read a matter of fact tweet from someone who was about to kill themselves, because they had accepted suicide was the only option. I was horrified, but scroll on a few tweets later and they ‘felt better’. But what would be the impact on these other strangers if they did commit suicide? Or countless ‘recovery’ accounts that tweet fat-talk, obsess about weight, or even worse, have ‘recovery’ in their Twitter name, but have Must Not Eat in the background, photos of their skeletal frame and set out what their CW, GW and UGW are. (can someone tell me what these mean by the way). How can young people, trying to recover, sort out the helpful supportive accounts from the triggering ones? My OMM account is fairly niche, I suppose, but scrolling through my timeline, there is often such a theme of darkness and hopelessness, it makes me turn away, because what I really want is hope. Recurrent cries for help or stories of despair and the reality of being ‘trapped’ by and ED – wouldn’t a sufferer think, that is how the world is? Pain is normal, misery is just commonplace. Because it isn’t – I go out into the real world every day and actually it’s ok. There is joy out there – joy which has nothing to do with recovery or anorexia. It’s just common or garden joy, from finding a really nice pen, a joke shared with friends, being warm after a cold day, doing something new and getting it right – lots of opportunities to be really happy, just waiting for us to experience them.
And, I’m going to tread really carefully here, is there a culture of almost fetishising mental health issues amongst young women, possibly young men too? L came home years ago and asked if she was OCD, ADHD, ASD, or bipolar. To say my jaw hit the floor was an understatement. It turned out that she and friends had been discussing which one they all had. After the lecture I gave her about what on earth they were doing, to treat serious illnesses as if they were forms of fashion trends or gangs, I wondered why anyone would glamorise illnesses in that way? L cannot tell her best friend about Fluoxetine because it is her friend who ‘has the problems’ and she doesn’t want to upset her. What?! I get that L can keep it confidential of course, but that seems really strange to me.
I am glad that Twitter exists – it saved me, along with the blog, because I met amazing people, going through recovery, having nailed recovery and starting out on the same journey. But I worry about whether it is always a safe place for those trying to stay recovered, whether it would be a betrayal to say Actually, I’m ok now. I don’t have anorexia any more. I eat normally. But I am still a really fascinating person – there are a thousand other things about be that define me far more than the mental illness I once had. I don’t know. As I say in the About Page, I am no expert. I just write what I think and feel, and hope that with the help of others I’ll work it out somehow.