Monday, June 30, 2008

Rating Our Community

A question that's been weighing on my mind centers around whether or not this blogger community is a helpful resource for those struggling with eating and body issues. As someone who swears by the power of group therapy, I think of this community like a group--a place where bloggers get and give support, offer each other helpful (and sometimes directive feedback), and find comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. So, why even ask the question?

To start, let's face it, those struggling with e.d.'s are a competitive bunch. Bloggers posting about their diets, their symptoms, their collective ups and downs might trigger others to think and act in unhealthy ways. A woman who partially identifies with others to start may, through exposure to constant dialogue about food and weight, develop even more of a focus on these things herself. We all enjoy identifying with a group, so I there may be a pull toward dysfunction as a way to connect with others. True, participation in the community is voluntary, and the emergence of symptoms in this fashion is likely indicative of an underlying tendency, but I can't help but wonder if blogging (reading and writing) can actually make things worse.

Overall, have you found the food/body blogging community to be helpful or hurtful? Take the 2nd EWHAED poll to weigh in. . .


Palmtreechick said...

I don't believe I've ever been "triggered" by anything that I've read in the e.d. blog world, though I like to think I'm not swayed to easily by what others say or write. I do sometimes worry that what I write (numbers) might be triggering, but then I figure that it's my blog and I can write what I want because people have the choice to read it or not.

I think the blogs are somewhat helpful for two reasons, mostly for me it is helpful to just be able to vent and write whatever I'm thinking at the time. That's where it is most helpful for me, but it's also good to know that other people are dealing with the same issues and can relate.

SisterCoyote said...

I think the blogs are helpful because they remind me that I'm not alone - as you said, like a group. I think they're also helpful because something that I think only ever happens to me and no one else could ever understand come up fairly often, so I end up feeling less alone than I would otherwise.

I've also never been triggered by anything; I've noticed that bloggers in this world are generally pretty good about identifying what might be triggering for others and indicating so. And thus, if I'm having a particularly "fragile" day, I skip the stuff that would be problematic for me or, if I want to read it, save it for later.

æ said...

This community has been incredibly helpful in my recovery.

That said. I have used discretion in deciding which blogs I read, which sub-communities I become part of. I can tell who is triggering for me or what is generally unhelpful for me to read. What's nice about this place is that there are so many people finding like-minded ones hasn't been too tough.

Another great part about this place has been the help with working on the OTHER stuff (the underlying issues, if you will). Again: great support. In terms of posting triggering info, pretty much everyone I associate with either doesn't post things that would be "instructive" and also refrains from numbers. People use trigger warnings fairly.

I have even found people here who are willing to face the anxiety of processing our reactions to each other and really working on the typical ED stuff around competing for sizes, etc.

I don't know how I'd have gotten this far without this group. It made a lot of ways of interacting safe for me again, safe for me to bring into IRL relationships.

(thanks friends!)


Anonymous said...

I found that I'd been increasing more triggered when I was regularly subscribed to blogs in which the authors discussed their eating disorders or dieting. I eventually unsubscribed to nearly all of them. If I put a toe into the community, I'm comforted that I'm not alone. If I step all the way in... the battle inside rages.

Anonymous said...

I guess it is a state of mind, or for me, where I'm at in my ED.

Yes, it can actually have a motivating effect to read someone else's struggle with their ED, or they're history with it, because I think to myself, "That's where I want to be."

Maybe it has to do with whether I'm trying to recover or want to stay active in my disordered eating.

T.V. shows have that same effect on me - like when Dr. Phil has a segment on EDs.

By the same token, when I AM trying to work on being more healthy, I can go to a fitness site and get motivated to exercise or eat better.

Personally, I'm a sponge, and very easily influenced... I'm a marketer's dream!

Rachel said...

I just conducted a survey of more than 275 bloggers who write about their experiences with an eating disorder to see if blogging helps or hurts recovery efforts. The response was overwhelmingly positive - bloggers feel that their blogs represent a safe space in which they can work out their feelings and connect with others who have similar experiences. My conclusion, therefore, is that blogging is a beneficial adjunct to traditional forms of therapy.

I'd be happy to send you the results of the study after I have finished compiling them. I hope to publish my results soon.

Anonymous said...

This blog has been beneficial to me and I often read it before lunch as a kind of pep-talk, however, I also read many blogs (not in this blogring) that are triggering and I read them TO be triggered even though I know I shouldn't. It depends on my mindset for the day which direction I seek strength in.

Anonymous said...

I am addicted to them. I find them way more triggering than the old pro-ana sites, and more adult. I am 38. Sorry, I know the intent is the opposite. And then I can fool myself and others by pointing out how "healthy" these sites are.

drstaceyny said...

I'm realizing that the sample is somewhat skewed--most of you who regularly read/write would probably identify the community as helpful. Those who were excessively triggered may have selected out already (except for the sub-population of those who are actively opposing recovery).

Sarah said...

It's mostly helpful, for me. The ED recovery blog world is a place where I can get support and not feel alone. It's changed my life. So has the "fatosphere." The women I hear there and their discussions of personalized and culture-wide body image issues have really helped me a great deal with regard to my body loathing.

The thing I have to be careful about is that at times I am extremely sensitive to the "I need to lose weight" message I hear on some blogs, sometimes. We are all in different stages of recovery, and recovery is not linear. I certainly know how ingrained and significant that message is in this disease. Luckily, the strength and self-awareness I've gotten from being part of this community is also helping me learn to edit what I read so that I can protect myself. I consider it my responsibility to do that, not the writer's.

Anonymous said...

I had a blog in the ED recovery community and I stopped writing in it. I felt like there was a lot of time and energy spent coddling people who talk about how much they want to lose weight and how much they don't care. I just felt like it was strange to have a person like that in the middle of a "recovery" community. It really made the whole thing a bad experience for me.

zubeldia said...

I am actually finding the community less recovery orientated right now and honestly, it's not triggering to me, it's just exhausting and sad. While everyone struggles with body image and the desire to lose weight, it can sometimes see that that's all there is, and of course we all know that it's not about food or weight but rather about other things, and it's harder to talk about those other things when the talk is so often brought back to weight weight weight.

I have started to think about stopping blogging for that reason. I also tend to want to 'save people' (which I can't possibly do) and I end up finding myself in dynamics where I take on the care-taker role. This is mostly my doing, of course, and it replays the dynamics I have in 'real life' (though the blogger world and real life crossover).

With all that said, there are some wonderful people, and I have become good friends with many people. I also have real time friends who started blogs and who read mine, and my husband also reads mine... I am a pretty private person in real time and the blog has helped me to become a little more available.

Finally, I do see a lot of competitiveness, and it's not really explicit.. it's just sort of an undercurrent, and while people are being supportive I think there is an element of that support which is terribly triggering.

Sarah said...

It does seem very focused on weight right now, Z.

Erin said...

I didn't take the poll because I felt like there just wasn't a suitable answer choice for me.

I started reading blogs because I was starting treatment and I felt like it would be good to hear the UPS of the recovery process. But I've grown to care about the people in the community and now I know it's really about supporting each other in the UPS and the DOWNS. It comes with the territory.

I think I exercise enough distance so that I'm not drained by everyone else's struggles. My heart goes out to them, especially if someone's struggling, but...

My blog started out as a tool for me to have a place where I could come and get everything out. And it helps. It helps in a way that I only dreamed of because people come to share their thoughts about my posts and encourage me and push me further along in the recovery process.

But it's not all good. Some blogs I can't read. I'm on my way with this thing but someone could come by and pull the rug out from under me without even realizing it. I know I can't read about people who are struggling with anorexia because it makes me feel like I can't compete with them.

I know I need a blogger who shares hope every once in a while. Who remembers that while she's cataloging this bring it back to making things better in the future. Not everyday. But it's inspiring to readers who NEED to be reminded that the hard work pays off.

And this is pretty selfish of me...but I like people who are further along in the recovery process than me. I want something to look forward to. And with that being said, it's a place I love to come to. It's encouraging. Supportive. I am held here. And when I'm not...I can take a step back. I can post and not publish if something gets too hard. I can read and not comment. I do remind myself that we are all writing for ourselves...and that's how it should be. (As long as we keep in mind that we're trying to break away from the eating disorder...)