Eating Disorders are a terrible life-controlling thing and there is still a huge stigma surrounding any sufferers. As a society we are trying to tackle so many issues people face today such as baby loss, gay rights and racism which is fantastic to encourage and support people facing these issues, however I feel like Eating Disorder sufferers are becoming more and more ignored and often forgotten about.
Taking information from the UK’s leading Eating Disorder charity BEAT:
Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses. Anyone, no matter what their age, gender, or background, can develop one. Some examples of eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia. There’s no single cause and people might not have all symptoms for any one eating disorder.
In order to help raise awareness, help people to understand and also to encourage people to seek help and know that they are not alone, pop culture has seen an increase in television addressing Eating Disorders. Most recently we have encountered the Netflix original ‘To The Bone’ starring one of my favourite actress’s – Lily Collins – and BBC3’s drama series ‘Overshadowed’. There is a very fine line between creating TV that is inspiring and creating TV that is triggering. Both shows, to me, have hit the nail completely on the head.
I really do urge anybody with any kind of association to an Eating Disorder to watch Overshadowed – especially those that are close to a sufferer. The show really portrays the mental health side that many people miss when tackling their friend or relative regarding their eating disorder. The show doesn’t glamorise or highlight anything that may be classed as a trigger which I think is so important.
The beauty of this mini series is that it is shot over 8 short episodes (roughly 10 minutes each) and it really is so powerful. Being filmed solely by Vlogger Imogene, its a very new and creative way of showing a personal battle with anorexia. What I really love is that rather creatively they have personified the monster of anorexia – played by Overshadowed writer Eva O’Conner.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Netflix film – To The Bone. A lot of professionals believe that the visually and vocally calorie counting and protruding bones can be a big trigger for sufferers. However one thing that strikes me in this film is that although the main character Ellen is a white female (many people feel this is stigmatising) there are also a variation of Eating Disorder sufferers from black to white, male to female and different disorders including bingeing and bulimia as well as anorexia. With an overweight girl also in the group home Ellen is referred to I feel that this helps people to better realise that Eating Disorders aren’t just for ‘skinny white girls’ but in reality the demon that is an Eating Disorder can claim anybody from any background which is definitely shown in this film.
My personal journey was triggered after a series of events that all added up making me feel out of control of my life and like I was slowly spiralling, sad – isn’t it just great how life just dumps on you all in one go?? I have always been a big Hollyoaks fan and ultimately that was a pretty big trigger. It was Hannah’s story and she was in control, creating a life that she wanted and at my naïve age of 14 this is what I wanted, what I desired.
The main issue of Hannah’s storyline and the reason that it had such a negative impact and triggered people, to me, is that it didn’t portray the mental aspect at all and focused purely on the desire to look a certain way and more importantly – and the thing that people get confused about – is the vanity side. I confess I did want to lose weight and look ‘good’, I really did! To be honest it because a bit of an obsession and sometimes still is now. But it was also just to a degree – I mainly wanted to feel in control and in power of my own messed up life.
I guess most teenagers feel the same way – like the whole world is against them.
I lost some of my closest friends, found out I had been lied to all my life by the people I should have been able to trust most, I was a completely different person. I spent my time listening to sad and triggering songs, watched triggering programmes, read triggering books and searched for triggering images. I felt like my whole life was consumed by wanting power when in reality I had no power. I was totally stuck in my own head. The main thing that made a huge difference was finding a group on BBM full of suffering girls all egging one another on and sharing little tips. I was completely in a different world.
At my worst I had gone a full 10 days without eating a single thing. I felt awful and I was awful to be around. I realised what I was doing was wrong and that regardless of the things happening around me and situations that have hurt me, ultimately I was in control of where I went from there. I decided to seek help from my school, worked my way back into my friendship circle (although never fully feeling like I fit in) and decided to focus my mind on working hard and bettering myself. I had it easy – a very, very mild problem that I managed to resolve on my own.
You see the thing with being consumed with this disease is that breaking free from if must come from within. No matter how many times you’re told it’s wrong or pushed and yelled at it will not break the surface. To understand fully I also really recommend reading this blog – Beauty Beyond Bones – written by a woman that has suffered and now is recovered. She truly is inspiring and I trying to help as much as she can, anyone that is suffering or knows anyone that is suffering.
If you or anybody you know is suffering from an Eating Disorder, or maybe you just suspect and don’t know what to do – please contact BEAT on 0808 801 0677 or over on their website.
Don’t suffer alone.