As much as I love the recovery community on the internet, it always disheartens me to see certain posts or people who are seemingly here for the wrong reasons.
Eating disorders are competitive illnesses, we all know that. An eating disorder tricks you into thinking being sick is “good,” and you’re soon filled with a desire to be the sickest person you know.
That being said, I personally believe that an important part of recovery (and the online communities that support recovery) is the dismantling of these harmful belief systems.
When I log into Instagram and see someone’s profile tallying the times they’ve been inpatient for their eating disorder, or I see someone posting about their specific weight or BMI, I wonder, is this really recovery? How much of these posts are actually people trying to vent and express themselves, and how much is subtle competition, proving to themselves and others that they are “sick enough?”
And that’s the main problem right there. The fact that the phrase “sick enough” exists in the ED community is sad. Many people are fooled by their ED to think that they’re not sick enough if they don’t meet certain diagnostic criteria. They believe that there’s always someone out there who is worse than they are.
Whether or not there is someone who has more thoughts, uses more behaviors, or has been sicker longer, your ED deserves treatment.
What is hard for me to see is people on the internet who are trying to recover and working towards a healthy life who still fall prey to the ED mindset. Posting before and after pictures isn’t helpful. It’s not inspiring, it’s triggering.
How many times have you looked at a before and after picture and compared your sick body to someone else’s? Many times, I’m sure. How many times have you read someone’s story and compared it to your own?
How many times have you compared someone’s weight to your lowest weight? How many times have you compared your BMI to someone else’s?
I understand that this competitive nature is a part of these illnesses, and an incredibly tough one to break, at that. But I urge people in recovery to recognize that these posts, and specifically the sharing of “war stories” is not helpful.
Sure, there are ways to share your experience that are rooted in recovery, but often times, that excludes talk of numbers, behaviors, or comparison.
While your eating disorder will convince you over and over that you need to be validated that you are sick, that you are struggling, and that you are affected by this illness, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need outside validation.
Waking up and knowing that you want to weigh yourself but you aren’t going to should be validation. Eating lunch even though you wish you could skip it should be enough. Avoiding a binge after a terrible day should be validation.
The fact that you have these thoughts and recognize that they aren’t healthy is enough. You don’t need to post your BMI to be sick. You don’t need to have a shocking before and after photo to be sick.
You need the self compassion to know that you’re fighting it.
Eating disorders are fueled by competition, and they are fueled by not being “sick enough.” Whenever you see that someone has been in treatment more than you, or someone reached a lower weight than you, as hard as it is, recognize that your experience is valid, too.
Of course your eating disorder will feel guilty, stupid, and like a failure. But isn’t that what we want? Don’t we want our illnesses to fail and our recovery to thrive? The desire to be “sick” is part of the illness–healthy people don’t want to be sick.