Should you trawl the internet enough, you will locate articles written in favour of pro-ana forums; and when I say “in favour” of, I don’t necessarily mean that people are in favour of the harmful advice, tips and tricks aspect of pro-ana, but it is also a fact that there are people who find positive, emotional support on eating disorder forums. It just so happens that some of these forums do, unfortunately, fall under the pro-ana category.
I have even found positive, emotional support on eating disorder forums, and with that, have found a lot of wonderful people also struggling with an eating disorder. These are people who have rarely directly enabled my eating disorder, and are some of the only people in my life who are able to understand the things I’m experiencing.
So yes, on that level, I understand how these forums can be somewhat beneficial to those struggling. I’m not totally immune to this fact, but I also think that those who continuously try to justify this fact to me aren’t seeing it entirely for what it is.
I think many who discover support on these websites and forums don’t understand the difference between positive support and co-dependency. There is a vast difference between providing a listening ear in order to provide a positive solution (such as harm reduction) and then commiserating with one another over shared, mutual pain and misery. If you surround yourself with other unhealthy people, it will be twice as hard to get out of that mentality yourself, even if you are “in recovery”. Yes, you may be around people who “get” you, but at what cost to your mental and physical health?
My second point is, for those who are able to understand the difference between positive support and co-dependency, I think those who repeatedly choose to surround themselves with other people who are sick are still holding onto that aspect of their own illness. A lot of people are only able to see their eating disorders to the extent of their food behaviours, but what they ignore is that their eating disorders extend to every other aspect of their lives, and that includes friendships. A huge part of what kept me sick was trying to hold onto the friendships I found in an eating disorder community kik groups, and I know now that if I was to ever pursue full recovery, I would have be aware to avoid such friendship kik groups.
But why? Why should you have to let go of those people if they are supportive friends?
Well what I have come to realize is that minus an eating disorder, for the most part, I have nothing else in common with them. And if the only thing you have in common with someone is what keeps you all sick, that’s not a very healthy foundation for a long-term friendship.
Although I know I’ve made a lot of friends in the ED community that I hope I will have for a long time, there’s really only a handful that will probably last, that won’t jeopardise my future pursuit for recovery.
But yes, although forums and online communities like these do provide emotional support where you feel less alone for your disordered behaviours, there has to be a true understanding of why an individual stays in these types of environments, even more so if there IS triggering content on it. Are you truly staying because it helps you, are are you just too scared to leave the community about your illness behind? People are afraid to let go of their comfort blankets, but sometimes that’s what needs to happen to actually move forward.