Saturday, 15 July 2017

7 Things I Want You to Know if 'To The Bone' Triggered You

This is not a film review. At this point I'm less concerned about getting my own opinion on To The Bone out there, and I'm more concerned about the people in recovery who couldn't resist watching it. Because I get it - if this film came out while I was in recovery I probably would have watched it 10 times by now, and the anorexia driven part of my brain would have stored up every last piece of evidence from it that it could to use as a reasons to keep me captive. And when it comes to this film, there is a whole lot of potential evidence that someone with an eating disordered brain could gather.

So for anyone currently in recovery, who's watched the film and is now hearing that internal eating disorder voice louder than before, this is for you.
7 pieces of truth to break through that voice and its attempts to lure you back down. 7 reasons why that voice can't be trusted. 7 things to remind yourself of if To The Bone has made listening to that voice seem like a good idea.

1) Scary low weights, bruised spines and visible collar bones are not medals of honour. They're not beautiful, triumphant, and they're sure as hell not required in order to be 'sick enough'. The stereotypically emaciated look of anorexia portrayed in the film shouldn't become a goal to reach, because contrary to what that voice might be telling you, there is no competition here. There is no challenge of who can look the 'most anorexic'. That idea is a lie, you know why? 

Because you're already worthy of recognition, treatment and recovery, regardless of how your body looks or what the scale says. You don't need those things to validate how much this is hurting, and you know deep down that nothing good will come from aiming for them. Stop comparing your body to the one you've seen in the film - you do not need to mirror that image for your illness to be taken seriously.

2) Residential treatment is not a beautiful big house full of people waiting to be your best friend or sweep you off your feet and fall in love with you. It's also not something that you need to 'tick off' so that your eating disorder can be classified as 'severe' enough.

The parts of the film that showed inpatient treatment as somewhere that kindred spirits connect, energetic parties take place, and romantic kisses in moonlight gardens happen could make it seem borderline alluring. But the reality of those places in most cases is a different story - it's scary, it's lonely as fuck, it's competitive, painful, and alienating, and an experience that a lot of us would rather forget than look back on as a set of fond memories. These aren't places that you should want to be in, and if that voice is telling you that they don't look so bad, remember that the movie version is a hell of a lot happier than the real life one.

3) Just because Lilly Collins came forward saying that she lost weight 'safely' for the role, doesn't mean that it's safe for you to try to lose weight again. Put simply: there is no such thing as 'safe' intentional weight loss in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. Absolutely nobody who's experienced anorexia (or in my opinion, nobody full stop) should be encouraged to diet.

Even if dieting doesn't trigger a relapse, it'll still throw you into the diet/binge cycle, damage your relationship with food and set you back in re-learning how to be an intuitive eater. And as you already know from going down that rabbit hole, trying to lose weight will not bring you happiness.

Requiring Collins to lose weight, as a former anorexia sufferer, and then putting out the message that it was 'safe', is a horribly irresponsible thing to have done. And I don't want you to think that it's 'safe' for you to do as well, just because she did.

4) Be careful that your eating disorder doesn't romanticize rock bottom, because it will try to. And one thing you can guarantee? Rock bottom will always be another step away. Don't let that voice convince you that it's okay to carry on as you are because you haven't hit it yet.

Rock bottom looks different for everyone, and it's not necessarily an all time low weight. It's simply the point where you realise that you cannot carry on like this. If you've already reached that point, but the film has made you think that you haven't yet because you're not barely alive lying on a sandy mountain somewhere, remind yourself that that rock bottom is not supposed to be the same as yours. And rock bottom in general is not a requirement before you can start recovery. You can start right now.

5) Staying in your eating disorder will not give you the quirky cool girl identity and ability to make witty comebacks on queue that Collin's character has on screen. More often, eating disorders will steal any kind of identity you once had and leave you hollow. Not cool.

6) The 'eat however little you want' method shown in the film is not something that the majority of experts or treatment plans would recommend. And it's not something that you should latch onto now as a way of not progressing. If that voice is saying 'well that's how she did it and she was fine', please tell it to fuck off (probably the only part of the film that I do want you to remember going forwards).

7) If you go back into your eating disorder, it will not be filled with moments of light-hearted entertainment. There will be no gauzy sunset lighting glowing over your darkest moments. There are no beautiful songs playing in the background and no great love story to aspire to.

These are the elements, cinematically, that run the risk of glamorizing eating disorders. They are not real. They make it easy to gloss over the reality of how painful it is to exist in your own mind when you're in that place. They don't show the obsession, the insults, the bargaining, and the counting that runs on a constant loop in your mind. They don't show the reality. And really, even if those things were happening while your eating disorder had a hold of you, you probably wouldn't notice them anyway.  

Maybe watching To The Bone didn't make you feel any of those things. Maybe you felt all of them. No matter what, I need you to keep reminding yourself that nothing good will come from going back into your eating disorder. There's only one way out of this, and I need you to keep fighting for it. Because you deserve to recover.