How Facebook Helped Me Recover From An Eating Disorder
One year ago, I mage a statement on Facebook that would change my life. Status box open, fingers on the keyboard, I began deliberating how bad an idea it was to "come out" with my eating disorder to social media.
What am I doing? I asked myself. Did I forget my Prozac today? I then thought immediately of my parent, imagining them at a party with women staring at my mom wondering whether or not I "got" my eating disorder from her. Would my exes read this status and smirk to themselves thinking how glad they were that they got out while they could? Would my friends roll their eyes and think about how I always have to be the center of attention?
All these anxieties skipped through my mind when I thought of what would happen if I were truly honest and direct to the world about my eating disorder. I thought of all the years I'd spent building (and ultimately defacing) so much of who I wanted to be. Would I ever get a job if I did this? Would I be labeled only by an eating disorder? I didn't really know anything that night except that lying and evading the truth were habits still keeping me sick, and I was exhausted.
For 8 years, my life had revolved around sneakiness. These were years of scanning, scoping, mutilating and twisting in order to maintain an image. Two months into rehab, I was still struggling with letting go of the games of my eating disorder. Transitioning from in-patient to out, I'd been rapidly finding myself falling backwards instead of forwards.
It's ridiculous how much they make us eat, I thought one day, hiding pieces of a bagel in my sweatshirt. Just lay off the carbs, I wanted to scream when the counselor passed by. Don't you know the glycemic index of bread? Sulking until breakfast was over, I carefully disposed of the bagel before group therapy started. Feeling guilty, I took my place on the couch but when the counselor asked me how breakfast went, I smiled and said ''Great!"
The truth is that I was adjusting back to reality, and I was scared. Despite having gone through six weeks of 24-hour care with Nurse Betty telling me that I couldn't leave the table till I licked the spoon, I was still extremely uncomfortable with the vulnerable parts of recovery. I was used to manipulating, twisting, feeling shamed — running into people at the store and lying to them about what I was up to, or telling my parents I was ''fine'' every night they asked how rehab went that day.
However, I equated honest with vulnerability because it meant being forced to stay on a path of accountability and of letting others help keep me accountable, neither of which appealed to my anorexia. I'd always equated honesty as something you fine-tune with every situation — bending and stretching the parts of you to fit into the situation at hand.
Why be completely honest when you have the ability to convince people? I'd wonder. Admitting that I was "struggling" with something seemed like a one-way ticket out of the little web of protection I spun. I was so sure that the moment I admitted I was flawed, I'd lose the bubble I'd shielded myself with for years.
Sitting there, writing out that status on what we think of as the ''news source'' of our peers I wondered how my life would change if I posted. Would all the cards suddenly fall?
"You're fun," my therapist said once. "You walk into a room and it lights up with your energy, but that's not what you're here to do,"she said. "You're here because you've got to deal with you, and you're never going to be free of this until you allow yourself to exist as a real person. A flawed one."
I knew she was right. Here I was, 24 years old, still living some days bagel by bagel, still opening the door to deception, and guilt and shame. I knew on some level that admitting to my eating disorder on social media would be a way for me to stop the show. I knew I needed to own this struggle in order to own all of myself, and to continue on my journey learning the art of self-acceptance.
That said, I'll never really know what drove me to write that Facebook status, but I posted it anyway to the open arms of nearly 2,500 "friends" and family, to people that had met me once at a bar or sat next to on a plane. Having lived so long behind a smoke screen, I was ready to expose myself. I needed to feel bare, even while broken, in order to be able to clean my slate, and start from scratch in reconstructing my life.
Messages poured in from every "phase" in my life. The outpouring support was overwhelming, but more than that, a reality check. So often, we think we hide our demons in spaces that no one can find, but the truth is that many people for many years knew I was struggling but lacked the words to say.
Before I knew it, I was receiving mail from people all over the world asking for my insight into eating disorder recovery. ME? I thought, baffled. They want to trust what I have to say after so many years of manipulating? It was then that I knew that I'd never again be able to go back to what was before; that I now had the eyes of many keeping me accountable.
Was all of the feedback positive? No. Since I started blogging and freelancing about my experience in rehab and recovery, I've heard everything from "She's not big enough to write about recovery" to "She wasn't that skinny in the first place." People are people and the Internet is the Internet. We live in a world where we have to be weary over what is thrown on the web for our reading pleasure.
And while I don't love criticism (who does?) I know that everything I write is true to what I'm doing now. It's true to who I want to be. No masks. When I struggle at times, someone knows. They've read– and I know I'm not alone. When I go out to dinner and want to only drink wine, I've got someone around me who can now lean over and say "C'mon Linds, order something to eat."
My life changed the day after that status published. And while social media is not always the most evolved platform for disclosing personal information, I'm thankful every day I pushed "post" for it meant that I could actually be free.
A misplaced Texan living in NYC, Lindsey Hall is a book publicist by day and eating-disorder activist by night. She has spent the past year and a half de-stigmatizing stereotypes behind eating disorders for those who need help but are often too scared to inquire. In recovery for nearly two years, you can find more insight into eating disorder recovery on her blog at "I Haven't Shaved In 6 Weeks: All The Truths About Eating Disorder Rehab."