Timehop used to be one of my favorite ways to use social media (I can already feel eyes rolling from people who hate it). It allowed me to remember when my niece was little, when I first started dating my husband, and when I adopted my rescue dog. Now, with the unveiling of Facebook Memories, I don’t have to log in to a separate site or app to see memories – Facebook introduces a memory to my newsfeed every now and then and lets me decide whether or not to share it with my network.
This is great, most of the time. Except for when you’re recovered from an eating disorder and these “memories” hark back a time when you were sick, depressed, and extremely underweight.
It is triggering. It is in the nature of eating disorders to compare and in a way compete. Low weight photographs floating all over the Internet and media… is actually feeding many peoples’ eating disorders. It doesn’t matter if your low weight photograph is next to your healthy weight photograph, an unwell person will not look at that. They will latch onto the low weight photograph and will be comparing themselves to it. Unwell people will look at that picture and think that they don’t look like that yet…
So now, not only do I have to avoid Instagram because of what other people post, I have to avoid my own Facebook newsfeed because I’m comparing myself to a skinnier, unhealthier version of ME.
I should clarify here, as I often get push back when I write about triggers, that not everyone who suffers from an eating disorder is triggered by social media visuals. It’s different for everyone, but I can’t help that think that seeing a skinnier version of yourself right in your newsfeed could make you feel good. It makes me feel desperate to get back to that place, but I what I’ve worked on in therapy is really focusing on where I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually when I was that thin. I wasn’t satisfied with my life. I didn’t have many things that I have now: my own business, a loving husband, a gorgeous apartment, a perfectly imperfect rescue pup, a functioning car – the list goes on. So, I have more to carry around on my hips now that wasn’t there in those Timehop pics. Okay. But if that’s the sacrifice for having a fulfilled life and keeping on track with my recovery so that I don’t sabotage my own success and self-destruct like I used to… I’ll take the extra weight.
Thinking like this is not natural when you have an eating disorder or are recovered from one. It takes dedication and hard work. I’ve long subscribed to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) route that I was first introduced to in residential eating disorder treatment at The Renfrew Center in Coconut Creek, Fla. It takes practice to reframe your thoughts in reaction to whatever your eating disorder trigger is, but it’s possible. There will come a time when you recognize a negative thought and counter it in real time with a healthy, rational thought.
So, when I see that old picture of myself and I think: “I was prettier then. I was skinnier then. People liked me more then.”
What I counter with is: “I am still beautiful. I have more dear friends and healthy relationships now (plus I’m married) with the extra weight, then I did when I was that skinny. In fact, I had no energy for relationships when I looked like that. I give people the chance to like me now because I don’t isolate as much.”
It’ll be a long time before media organizations or the fashion industry stops posting triggering photos of shockingly thin men and women – we can’t change that immediately. But what you can change is your reaction and counter your thoughts in a healthy way when you feel triggered by any image on social media.
Your life was not better then, when you were sick. ED is not your friend. Don’t focus on the pounds, focus on everything you’ve accomplished in your life, and on the people who love you and who have been influenced by you.
Tags: anorexia, body boop, bulimia, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery, Facebook, Facebook Memories, health, mental health, nicole rohr, nicole rohr stephani, nicole stephani, photos, pics, social media, The Renfrew Center, therapy, Timehop