Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Little Warning Please

I love this blog, because I can let loose and not worry so much about the small details. A lot of the time it's written with pure emotion as my biggest inspiration, and it's great therapy!

I feel a rant coming on. It started over a week ago. One good week followed by a few more painful ones, my exercise limited to merely jogging, started things. Irritability combined with watching Ben Afflick's outburst added to my growing unease. The final log on the fire was a facebook incident. I know. Facebook rage is as absurd as road rage, only it's usually less deadly.

Since the tragic incident, in which nobody actually died, I've been thinking about why I got so fired up over something I probably could have ignored. Those thoughts seem to have spilled into the following rant:

Let me set the stage. I spend a lot of time in a mentor role, mostly in facebook groups for eating disorder recovery. There's a language we speak in these groups, and there are strict rules including: no talking about numbers, no posting unhealthy images or potentially triggering images, and warnings on posts that might trigger others.

I have gotten used to these rules and usually obey them in all areas of my life, even on my own blog, though I have mentioned numbers on occasion, usually with a warning. All potentially triggering posts with images come with a big warning at the start.

Having said this, I know all about the first amendment and people's right to free speech and their right to express themselves. On the other hand, I also believe in responsible speech. While I would never try to dictate what someone says or posts on facebook since it is a public forum, I will occasionally state my opinion on certain posts, so when a computer generated image of a very anorexic lady on a treadmill popped up in my news feed, I reacted and said something.

I want to make it clear that I'm not triggered by these kinds of images, but I find them upsetting. I have what's almost like some sort of PTSD reaction. I know the hell of living with an eating disorder. I know how boys, girls, women and men suffer with these kinds of illnesses. I know what it is to be torn between wanting to slit your wrists versus struggling through another nightmarish day, so I make every attempt to be there for those still in the throes of it.

In response to this image that was reposted from another profile by an acquaintance, I made a friendly comment about how these kinds of images can be triggering. The poster and several of this person's friends shot back with comments about life being triggering and how triggering is a great way to wake up and get real. I think there was also a comment about not looking if you don't like a post, which is valid, except I didn't go looking for this image; it popped up in my face without warning.

Had this person not been adamant about wanting to help others love their bodies, I probably would have let it drop. Knowing how an image like this can affect the people in the eating disorder forums I'm in, I got ragey. I shot back, but I kept it very civil and on the kind side, as much as possible, all things considered. I held my tongue while still attempting to get my point across.

Apparently, this person wanted to post the image in an effort to promote wellness. It's hard to see how posting an image of what's supposed to represent an extremely ill person would turn a switch in someone's head enough to make them decide not to starve, exercise less and be as empowered as those commenting claim to be. You don't usually see pictures of raging alcoholics in the gutter inspiring active alcoholics to stop drinking, so it's difficult to see how this strategy would work when it comes to eating disorders. Besides, I find it unkind to point fingers at others and announce, "Don't be like this guy!"

What I found most disturbing about the entire transaction was that only two people made any effort at all to understand what I was saying. People seemed to be so dead set on being right that any thoughts contrary to the mainstream were discounted. Instead, there was talk about stroking egos, tough love and calling others out, like anyone struggling isn't already aware, at least on some level, she is struggling. Possible denial aside, I don't think seeing an image of an anorexic person will make anyone think, "Holy crap! I'm too thin too! I must grab an Oreo!"

When one poster suggested that anyone in the throes of an illness who might be triggered shouldn't be on facebook, I about lost it. I really wanted to throw some nasty words onto the computer screen. I mean, just because I'm the other side of the illness, it doesn't mean I don't remember what it was like to be triggered by nearly everything. That doesn't mean I should have stopped participating in the world at that time. Instead of being bitchy, I simply mentioned that many people who are struggling find great support in online communities, especially on facebook. I also reminded anyone who would listen that what you say and do can have an effect on others, either positive or negative, and when it comes to posting images that are highly disturbing, the effect can not only be negative, it can be downright damaging and long lasting.

All I wanted was a little warning, something like the warnings at the start of graphic movies or potentially upsetting news stories. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, yeah, it's this person's wall, but I find it sad when people are unable to step outside themselves and consider how actions might affect others. It definitely wasn't wrong to post that image, but I found the move thoughtless. I say this considering the insistence that this person is out to help people find self love. Had it been Joe Blow, I would have kept my mouth shut after my first comment.

To be fair, I understand the motivation behind the attempt. I do believe this person meant well. Also, there were some very thoughtful comments by several people, discarding the ones that were downright snotty and meant to be mean, and those were not handed out by the original poster. If nothing more, I hope that before the entire thread was deleted (guess who got the last word? hehe), it got some people thinking.

I fully believe that people should speak their truth, but do it in a way that's not hurtful to others. If you insist on calling others out, at least have some fucking compassion when you do. And be sure you're not hiding your own demons in the basement before you go ordering others to take a good look at themselves.

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