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How Social Media Led Me to Recovery

Joanna Kay

 The Internet has played a complicated role in my battle against an eating disorder.

In the depths of my illness, I used to scour the web to learn how to become a “better” anorexic. I was a slave to it. With every year that I lived with it (twelve in all), anorexia consumed increasingly more of my mind and body, until its goals fused completely with my own. I wanted—I needed—to lose weight, and the Internet, a vast fund of information and pro-eating disorder communities, seemed to hold the key.

One day, however, the NEDA website popped up among my search results instead. Curious, I explored it and quickly found myself drawn to the recovery stories. These women and men had the same struggles with food that I did—yet they no longer spent their days starving themselves or (literally) running themselves ragged.

I didn’t know it at the time, but browsing the NEDA site planted an idea in my head about recovery. Like many people who are fed constant lies by an eating disorder “voice,” I was dangerously in denial about how sick I was. Although I knew I was deeply unhappy, and in the back of my mind I wished I could reach out for help, I didn’t think I was “sick enough” to deserve treatment. (Side note: there is NO SUCH THING as “sick enough.” If you have even a whisper of a thought that you might need help, don’t think—JUST DO IT!) But in the recovery stories, I gradually began to recognize my own struggles—and, by default, I also began to imagine myself in their recoveries.

After months of browsing the site and eventually following NEDA on Twitter and Facebook, I decided on a whim to reach out. So, in October of 2013, I sent an email to the general info account simply to share with NEDA how important their website had become to me. And to my delight, I received a personal reply from the communications team.

“Your letter really meant a lot to our department,” it read. “We work really hard to carve out a body positive, pro-recovery space online for our constituents because we believe the Internet can be a powerful tool to connect and inspire people—despite its many shortcomings.”

Today, my life is almost unrecognizable from the state I was in when I sent that email. I recently graduated from an intensive outpatient program, which marked the end of eleven months of treatment. I’m now receiving exclusively outpatient treatment and have returned to my life full-time. Best of all, I no longer get caught among the landmines of “thinspiration” and the pro-eating disorder community—in fact, even when I accidentally stumble upon these images (since, with platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr, sometimes it’s hard avoid them), I no longer feel triggered by them.

There was no single moment when I decided to seek treatment and get my eating disorder under control once and for all. My journey has been made up of a series of small steps, one quiet “yes” after the other. It began with a “yes” to go to therapy. Then (after much convincing on my therapist’s part), it was a “yes” to seek an evaluation at a treatment center. Then it was a “yes” to go to a residential treatment program when the professionals told me I needed a higher level of care than they could offer in their day program.

Yes after yes, I kept taking the next right step. I didn’t have an idea of where I was going, or what this “recovery” thing looked like. But by focusing on what would take me one step further from my eating disorder, I was able to keep walking.

And that first “yes” was the quietest of all—it was stumbling upon NEDA’s website and deciding to take a few minutes to explore it.

The story gets better, though. Just over a year after I sent that email, I received another message from NEDA. This time, the communications team, having had heard of my blog, asked if I would write something about my recovery process. I don’t know how to articulate what it was like to receive that email—to know that just one year ago I was slowly disappearing into anorexia, and now I would be writing about recovery for the very group that helped start my journey. It brought the process full circle and offered a humble reminder of how far I’d come.

If you’re reading this, then you have, like I did, somehow found your way onto this site. I have one piece of advice for you: keep exploring. Read the recovery stories. Browse the blog. Learn the facts. It might feel like you are not doing much, but you never know where that small “yes” will lead you. It could be somewhere amazing.

 

Bio:

Joanna Kay is a New York City writer in recovery from anorexia nervosa. Her articles have appeared on HealthPlace.com and she is a regular contributor for Healthy Minds Canada’s Supportive Minds Blog. Recently, she was featured on WNYC’s morning show New Tech City about the impact of the Internet on eating disorders and recovery. She is the author of The Middle Ground, a blog that deals with issues facing people who are midway through eating disorder recovery. Find Joanna on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and on her blog.

  

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