Thursday, May 16, 2019

Let me Try to Unpack This Mess

Twitter is a horrible platform for debate. I'm not sure why I continued an argument months after it started when, more recently, someone jumped in an old thread to say a lot of what had already been said, but I did and only sort of regret it. I am not good in that kind of setting, except for an occasional well-put response here and there.

Since I already addressed the topic pretty fully here, I won't go into all the details again. My main concern is that people are still perpetuating the myth that mental illness is the result of some kind of weakness. It's not. This is a generalized stereotype and immediately excludes customized responses to individuals. The person who jumped in at last minute suggested that mental illness is a form of weakness several times. She also said a lot of other things I had a hard time digesting and later addressing on a platform that limits characters.

One humorous bit was when she publicly threatened me after several tweets about how people should be nicer. That actually made me laugh, but it just goes to show how ridiculous Twitter can be. I apologized for my part in what she perceived as me antagonizing her the following day, but I still want to make a few things clear.

Though it may not sound like it, I think this person and I agree on the big issues. We just differ on the details. For example, I think we can both agree that bullying in all forms is bad. My point is just that body shaming is more far-reaching. We also agree on topics around body image, and I actually missed some of her replies relating to that until the next day when I read through my notifications more thoroughly.

Right off the bat she was unkind. First she suggested I was fat and bullied skinny girls, then she claimed I'm emotional. It was pretty clear these were random digs, but it didn't help me feel like being civil to her. I did my best there, though. She was trying to get under my skin, nothing more. This was because I stated an opinion that countered hers. It's as simple as that.

For someone who jumped on a high horse while I swung my leg up and toppled over the other side of a small pony, it seemed strange that the person with whom I was debating insisted she was replying to a single comment I made on a separate page, but every reply was in response to someone else's comment. That means that, despite the fact that several other people were all tagged in her every response, she somehow convinced herself that she was replying only to me and my single tweet on a different page. It's OK. I've made mistakes on Twitter, too. Again, it's a bizarre platform for debate.

I also don't think she realized that someone else briefly jumped into the conversation, which might be why she suggested I cussed at her, which wasn't the case. At the very end, I said Jeez, Jesus, and Fuck in an effort to show general annoyance, but I never once cussed at her, just to be clear.

Things started off a little wonky. She claimed she's fat and "used to be beautiful," but in another tweet shortly after, she admitted she's a few pounds away from being overweight. See how those two statements don't quite go together after you've just claimed you're secure in your body?

Please understand that I get people can and should be comfortable at any weight, but this is a distorted view to see yourself and others as fat when you admit you're technically not. That's a problem. I don't blame her. She, like all of us, is a product of our society and the messed up messages that are held. Fortunately, pretty much everyone in the thread who responded previously agreed that the initial person in question is not fat. I believe she was the only one who disagreed there. Anyone on Twitter is entitled to her opinion, but it's hard to see the point after such a contradiction.

Early on, she suggested that I blame her and people like her who bully others for my own and other people's eating disorders. Saying bullying contributes to the development of eating disorders isn't placing blame anywhere; it's merely stating what statistics show. Bullying contributes to a LOT of other negative outcomes, too, but I'm not suggesting it's the sole cause of depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, suicidal ideation, or any other issues it has been linked to. That doesn't mean I'm blaming anyone. Obviously, bullying isn't going anywhere. If anything, it's just getting worse, despite our first lady's "Be Best" efforts, or lack thereof. That said, I have every right to express my distaste when body shaming or any other kind of bullying becomes a main theme on a TV show.

I wasn't happy that she brought up her son and his metabolism. This was likely in an effort to counter something I said suggesting that overweight people are not lazy and often don't eat too much. How do you determine what "too much" is for someone else? That's a myth and contributes to a really dangerous and harmful stigma about anyone who's overweight. Look at insulin sensitivity, hormones, medications, underlying medical conditions, physical limitations, personal choice, certain fertility treatments, metabolism, other mental illnesses like depression, and other eating disorders, and you will see it's much, much more complicated than that. All of these can contribute to weight gain.

It's possible but unlikely that the majority of overweight individuals eat and exercise a certain way, but when you're discussing someone who's not fat to begin with, none of this is even relevant, except that it perpetuates falsehoods embedded in our culture. When you make assumptions about others based on weight, you promote stereotypes, in this case, very negative ones about laziness and gluttony.

Below are a few statements of hers I want to address more fully.

"Bullying doesn't cause a disorder." I never said it did. I said it can (and often does) contribute to the development of one. In my case, it certainly did, and statistics show it's a major factor for a lot of people. Plus, it reinforces unhealthy cultural norms when you call people who aren't overweight fat or when you use fat as a derogatory term.

"If you had a strong healthy mind, w/good role models, then bullying wouldn't give you a disorder." 

Wait, didn't you just say bullying doesn't cause a disorder, but now, because it fits you new narrative and you want to take a jab at me, you're suggesting it does but only in people with weak minds?

Actually, this is all kinds of wrong. There's a recent movement to consider mental illness a medical condition. This isn't likely to occur simply because the brain is far too complex an organ to find the exact pathology or, more likely, pathologies that lead to a particular mental illness. That is to say, there is no actual biomarker for mental illness, but brain circuits, thought patterns, behavior, and, yes, genetics are all strongly connected. All of this just supports the idea that mental illness is not due to a lack of mental toughness. Ideas suggesting it is are outdated and unsubstantiated.

In terms of eating disorders, they are complex illnesses. No one thing causes them. I stand by my original statements suggesting bullying can and often does contribute to the development of an eating disorder. I don't know how much more clear I can be in that. And, body shaming, in particular, has an effect on those witnessing it.

Imagine if that were the case, though. Imagine what those kinds of comments would do to a person struggling. I don't take Twitter too seriously. It invites some of the ugliest comments, but suppose I were as weak and fragile as she suggests. What was the end game with those kinds of comments?

Unfortunately, I'm used to trolls who drop in the online eating disorder communities and say these kinds of things and worse, much, much worse. People have told us we should kill ourselves and have mocked those of us going through grief and loss. She would have to do a lot worse to rattle me.

It's the inaccuracies that bother me, in this case, the reinforcement of warped ideas when it comes to weight, eating disorders, and recovery, which she claims (and is also incorrect in saying) is impossible. Statistics show that 60% of those who seek treatment recover. That's a big improvement from when I was first diagnosed when only about 30% recovered. It shows that with improved treatment, early detection, and removing the stigma around mental illness, more people are in a position to recover. True 40% only partially recover or don't make any improvement, but it's completely inaccurate to suggest that recovery isn't possible. That's another outdated and incorrect myth people, unfortunately, perpetuate.

"I know what genetics is little girl." That may be, but it didn't seem so when she then said that her mother was anorexic but she wasn't, which proves nothing about general statistics. Too often, people assume personal experience defines worldwide norms. It doesn't. Her response related to one of my tweets mentioning a genetic component in eating disorders. Her reply was:

"genetic meaning ur mother or father made comments. Maybe ur sister developed an eating disorder so you were exposed and more likely to have one. It's not that u were born to have an eating disorder. It's how you deal with it mentally and logically w/rational thought or not."

Obviously, this quite clearly proves my point that she didn't fully take in what I was saying, but it goes much further because this individual is not alone in thinking these kinds of backward thoughts about mental illness. Those who develop an eating disorder are born with a predisposition. Avoiding one has nothing to do with being mentally tough. If simple mental toughness and logical thought were the keys to recovery, I can guarantee more people would fully recover, and the path there wouldn't be so difficult.

The insult was because I pointed out that she wasn't understanding what I wrote, which she obviously didn't. I'm sure she thinks she schooled me, but the reality is that she made herself look bad by reinforcing incorrect ideas and stereotypes, misunderstanding basic eating disorder terminology, and spreading misconceptions about very serious illnesses.

I'll own the fact that I have a little OCD going on. She mentioned that in response to my 25 tweets addressing the nearly 60 she posted. Pot-kettle-black much? But I don't fault her for tweeting that much. Again, Twitter is a weird platform, so one simple thought can take multiple tweets to complete. The point is that I'm not going to be mean about someone trying to get a point across. Weirdly, she also claimed I probably deleted some of my tweets, but I definitely did not and have a few screenshots of everything, just to be safe.

The last issue I want to clear up has to to with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). In many cases, BDD can develop in anorexic individuals, but not all anorexic individuals experience it. Also, not all people with BDD develop anorexia. I said that it was a symptom, but that's not be completely accurate. I'll own that. Still, if you look at those who are not anorexic but suffered starvation through some outside means, some of them developed BDD the more they were deprived. Technically, though, she's right in saying that it's a separate disorder, however, she's incorrect when she suggests that BDD causes anorexia. BDD can affect the way a person sees her face, eyebrows, muscles, or any other body part. It's not always specifically weight related. Again, there is no one single cause of an eating disorder, so in the same way bullying can contribute to the development of one, so can BDD or other disorders.

As you can see, this would have been difficult to dump out in a series of tweets, but hopefully I cleared up a few issues.

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