Sometimes when you’re struggling with mental health issues, it’s easy to find support online but sometimes the communities you find online may be doing a lot more harm than good. This can apply to any mental illness, but most commonly within the eating disorder community. The pro-ED community is a community that encourages disordered behaviour such as restricting yourself to almost impossible amounts of calories, usually below 200 a day, not eating for days and competing to see who is “the weakest with no will power” or posting pictures of themselves on social media and getting people to say things to make them not want to eat, amongst other things. Many people with eating disorders stumble across it without even realising at some point during their lowest points, and once you get into the community, it can be really hard to leave, and that’s what I found out before I started recovery last year.
This is my story.
When I was 13, I stumbled across a page on Tumblr where there were pictures of extremely skinny girls, most probably days away from death, yet for some reason I couldn’t stop looking. I continued to scroll through that page for hours, looking at these pictures, which all had extremely triggering captions, mostly saying that the only way to lose weight is through heavy restricting and basically depriving your body of what it needs to survive. For the next few days, I kept returning to that page and pages like it, it was almost like an addiction, and after a while I started to think like these people and started taking their advice on how to lose weight even though I knew how damaging it was, I found myself becoming harsher on myself than ever and that’s when I made my first pro-ana account on Tumblr and Instagram.
Almost daily I had messages from others in the community asking me to make fun of them and make them feel bad about their body so that they could get the motivation to not eat/stop eating, and, of course, I did, I didn’t realise at the time how bad it was, I thought this was normal for people my age to do because so many people had done it for me and people were asking me to do the same for them. Me and the girls I classed as my friends at the time used to spend hours writing what is commonly known as meanspo and sending it to each other whenever one of us ate or forgot to do our daily workouts.
This is when I started to realise that what I was doing was wrong and I couldn’t go on like this anymore, however when I told one of the people that I was friends with on Instagram, they told me that I was weak and that I should stay in the community and that I was better off staying than trying to find a way out and recover, and so I did.
This carried on for years until eventually my Instagram account was banned and I realised that what I was doing was wrong and I was not only putting myself at risk but I was also hurting others in the process. My pro-ana behaviour ended up with me being referred to impatient and diagnosed with atypical anorexia, I am in no way fully recovered but I’m constantly working on it.
“My first experience with pro-ana was when I researched on how to lose weight. It came up on the search results and I read into it more and it felt like at first that people were understanding my thoughts about losing weight. But what I didn't realise was that those thoughts were caused by the bullying I was having in my old high school. That's when I moved to a new school but then I carried on looking into pro-ana.
This was when a few years later I was being brainwashed into thinking this was my life now I let that thing take over me and my body! I was losing weight dramatically but then that's when my parents found out what was happening and then I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
The mental health team kept a close eye on me and they looked through my research and found I was on pro-ana sites. They banned me from looking online.
Till this day I still suffer badly with mental health but now being bulimic due to finding out other ways of losing weight etc but not realising how damaging it is to my body.” -Mel, another TWE member.
My advice to anyone who does come across these sorts of pages online is to report and block them, do not interact with them, do not read their posts. What starts off as curiosity can turn into something a lot more serious and seriously damage your mental health and self esteem.
If you yourself feel like you’re pro-ana, please, deactivate your account and get help. You are worth it and you deserve to get better, no matter what. This community takes so many lives each year. You may feel like they understand you and your struggles but they are encouraging unhealthy and toxic behaviour.
Remember you are loved and deserve to be happy and recover, no matter what anyone says.
Before I get into the actual article, I’d like to clear up a few definitions and abbreviations for anyone who isn’t familiar with the age regression community.
Age regression: when somebody reverts to a child-like state of mind, often as a coping mechanism for things like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Some age regressors like to use child-like objects such as pacifiers and bottles and in some cases adult diapers as well as dressing in “childish” clothing and engaging in activities such as colouring and playing with children’s toys. Basically age regressors are more at-peace and worry-free whilst in "little space" (A term for when one is in said mindset).
Little: a person who regresses
Caregiver: someone who looks after a little while they’re in little space.
Agere/CGLRE: abbreviations for age regression
There are two types of age regression: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary age regression is where a person chooses to regress to relieve stress, cope with mental health issues or for fun. Involuntary age regression is where someone regresses against their will, typically to deal with high levels of stress or due to past trauma. As someone who does both, I face a lot of negativity from people who don’t understand what CGLRE actually is, and a lot of the time this can prevent me from regressing for a while which can be extremely mentally damaging as my little space is my only healthy coping mechanism. Age regressors can be extremely easily upset as when they are in their headspace their mind tends to go back to a childlike state, so with that in mind here are some things you should never say to someone who regresses.
There is a lot of negative stigma attached to age regression and it can be hard at times to ignore the negative comments, but my advice for anyone who regresses would be to remember that age regression is a perfectly normal and healthy coping mechanism and anyone who can’t understand that isn't worth your time. Your little space is special and it’s a part of you that no one can take away from you, there are always people there that will understand and accept you for who you are.
If you ever need to talk to anyone about age regression or anything else you can contact me on instagram @mummysbrattybunnyboo or you can talk to one of us at TWE via our social media.
With the recent rise of cases of Coronavirus and many people choosing to self isolate, there has been an extreme case of panic buying, which although in the long run seem like a good idea, this can actually be extremely harmful. Not only does it cause a shortage of specific products for others, especially the elderly and vulnerable people, it also can cause large crowds, which in turn creates a safety hazard.
Another problem that this can create for many people, especially people with anxiety and sensory issues is that the large crowds and the noise can cause them to go into what is known as sensory overload which can then turn into a panic attack.
As someone with high functioning autism, I have had a lot of issues in the past few weeks, even leaving the house causes me to have a sense of dread in case I somehow find myself in a large crowd. My last trip out of my house was about a week ago, and this is why I decided to share my experience with panic buying during this pandemic, because this truly terrified me.
I went out to the shop to get a few essentials during the “quiet hour” for people who struggle with loud noises at my local supermarket and instead of my usual calm pleasant experience, I was met with absolute chaos. People were shouting, screaming and pushing everyone out the way in order to get toilet paper, pasta, and anything they could possibly get their hands on and filling their shopping carts full of it. I somehow managed to find myself in the centre of all this, and naturally, with the massive amount of sensory input, I freaked out, I went into full sensory overload and ended up having a panic attack in the middle of the shop. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue at all, as there are usually members of staff trained to help people who are having panic attacks, however, because of the crowds, they couldn’t see me. This caused it to get worse and worse and I had to leave the shop without the stuff I needed.
For those of you who feel the same and are struggling to go through the chaos of others panic buying, here are my tips to help you get through.
At the end of the day, although panic buying may be a natural reaction to a pandemic, I ask you to take a step back and think about what you’re doing before you do it. Although it may put you in a place where you have everything you need and more on top of that, you’re stopping others from being able to get their basic needs, so please, stop and think before you act, buy as much as you will realistically need and no more, although there is a chance of lockdown you’ll still be able to go out and get what you need.
To anyone worried or scared about the current situation, remember we’re always here if you need to talk and that this won’t last forever, we will get through this, just follow your government's advice, if you have to go out, stay 2 metres away from others and avoid contact with those outside your household.
Photo credit: Sarah, a TWE Photographer (see more of her work at @withmylittlecamera