“You are not responsible for your disease. You are responsible for your behavior.”
-Edgewood Treatment Center
Something that has been weighing on my mind since the premiere of the “To The Bone” trailer on June 20th, is the reaction from people in the eating disorder/recovery community. Considering I follow several eating disorder recovery pages on social media, and belong to several recovery-oriented groups, I’ve seen a firestorm of angry emotions aimed at the film, the writer/director, and the recovery-oriented nonprofit organization, Project HEAL. Quite honestly, it is disheartening and frustrating to see the response it is receiving from those in the community.
I was trilled to see a film is being released that gives viewers a glimpse inside the mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder. As someone in recovery, it is hard to explain to “outsiders” what it is like to have a second voice that dominates your every thought regarding food, body, weight, and exercise; a voice that has the calorie count of dozens of foods memorized. A voice that categorizes food into two categories: good and bad (no such thing). When you tell people you have this almost-audible voice screaming at you to avoid eating and telling you how disgusting, fat, and hated you are; you are generally met with faces full of a lack of understanding. This film is bringing that voice and the out-of-control nature of eating disorders into the limelight. It has been a very long time since a movie was made regarding eating disorders and, quite frankly, this one appears to do a better job than any previous movie. While I haven’t seen the film yet (it is released July 14th on Netflix), I am already thrilled to see from the trailer, the people in the treatment facility are of various sizes, genders, and ethnicities; bringing to light the fact eating disorders do not discriminate and you do not have to “look” a certain way to be sick. That being said, the director has been accused of glamorizing the disease, as the main character is emaciated and has that stereotypical “anorexic look,” and Project HEAL has been under fire for supporting a film that is triggering to many of its supporters.
This is where I am going to say ENOUGH. I know all too well how it feels when everything around you seems to be triggering. A certain song, location, person, or inanimate object can make you want to retreat into the walls of the “comfortable” eating disorder. Realistically, my biggest trigger to this day is knowing where a scale is in someone’s house; it is the entire reason I get ticked off every time I see the stupid thing in the bathroom at the marina where I live. Once I see the scale and learn of its location, it is the greatest temptation in the world to want to stand on it and see my weight in a bright digital display; recovery has taught me that will not help me remain in recovery but might lure me back into the “safety” of the eating disorder. From the moment I know the location, it is triggering every time I go to a place with a scale because I want nothing more than to stand on that stupid thing. However, I don’t ask the person to move it because I am taking responsibility for my recovery. I cannot expect people to safeguard me or my recovery from all possible triggers all the time. I have to do that for myself. Is it easy? Absolutely not. While somedays are easier than others to say “screw the scale,” there are some days when I have to reach out to my support network and ask for help. Recovery means responsibility.
We, as individuals in recovery, cannot blame triggers and temptations on those around us. We cannot ask people to continuously make accommodations for our eating disorder journey. Life is full of triggers, and we have to learn to navigate the minefield, sometimes while bombs are going off in our minds. I support Project HEAL’s decision to be involved with promoting the film “To The Bone” because I see the value in giving the general public inside information on the mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder. While I see where those in the throes of an eating disorder, or in the early states of recovery, will probably find the film triggering; we must accept only we are responsible for our journey.
This film has an opportunity to do some serious good for those in the recovery community by giving us something to which we can direct our support network, friends, and loved ones to show them what even a few minutes in our mind is like. Stop getting angry over the triggering aspect and applaud the film for its intention–spreading the word about eating disorders and how it is mentally and physically damaging to its victims. If you know the content will be triggering for you, please, don’t watch it and reach out to your support network (you can even privately message me via social media or e-mail) if that will help you safeguard your recovery. At some point we have to stop expecting others to protect us from our minds and work to protect ourselves. It is not–and will not–be easy, but that is why we build support networks of people who we can lean on in triggering times.
With Body Love,