I started my instagram about three years ago, as a junior in high school. At that time, my entire life had been consumed by an eating disorder for at least a year. Every morsel of food I put into mouth was like a pill of anxiety. I was lost in self-loathing and hatred for myself and for food. I didn’t necessarily want to get better because at that point, all I cared about was being thin.
During my junior year, I started to see that my athletics were suffering from my eating habits. So, I began to think I might have to change my eating habits to become a better runner. That’s whenI started my instagram account. I not only wanted to document my food for health reasons, but I wanted to see if other girls were struggling with a similar disorder.I didn’t tell anyone about what went on in my head, not even my parent, so I felt incredibly isolated, thinking that I was alone in my thoughts.
My instagram account changed that.
As soon as I started posting my thoughts and feeling about food, girls came out of the woodwork to support me. I was astonished that complete strangers took even ten seconds out of their day to comment on a photo where I admitted I was having a tough day. I asked questions on my account (in my captions) wondering if the food I was eating was enough, or if it was too restrictive or bland. I also followed other girl’s accounts on instagram that were aimed at recovery, not knowing that I would eventually become incredible friends with many of them, getting phone numbers and even meeting them in real life.
So, on the surface, it would seem that the most important aspect of having a recovery account is getting support from others in the form of direct messages or comments. That wasn’t the case for me. Looking back on three years of recovery, the most restorative part of the community wasn’t the written support, but the unspoken support. Of course, it’s so meaningful and so incredible when people reach out, but in the initial stages of my account, I started healing when I saw that there were other girls, my age, some runners some not, who were recovering. They were eating things I told myself were forbidden, and talking about feeling healthier and happier. They also talked about their struggles, and the fact that gaining weight and kicking your eating disorder out of your life isn’t easy, and you’re going to have setbacks. I saw girls very similar to me, fighting their demons and winning. That’s what inspired me to keep fighting.
Instagram was essentially photographic proof that recovery is possible. Not only was it proof, but it was a step-by-step guide on how to do it. All the accounts I followed were different, and each of them had their own unique voice and methods on recovering. It was like being completely alone and scared one day, and then the next day having a entire community of people going through exactly the same thing as you, showing you that life gets better once you start to fight for it. To bolster my recovery, I only followed accounts that were uplifting and positive. That doesn’t mean these women didn’t have bad days or struggle, it just meant that they chose to keep fighting afterwards. I definitely came across triggering accounts, and when that happened, I un-followed, knowing it would only encourage me to restart bad behaviors. I realized that the most valuable accounts to me were the ones that inspired me, but also kept it real about what recovery was like.
So, when I started to get better, I knew that I could do what those other women had done for me; I could inspire other girls to get better. I wanted to show that recovery is possible, and along the way I had to be as honest and open as I possibly could. Yeah, there were definitely a few times when I posted something implying I ate it, and then did not eat it. But that only happened three or four times, and immediately after, I felt horrible knowing that I was lying to the very people I wanted to help. If my life was an example of recovering from an eating disorder, I wanted it to be as accurate and honest as possible. Those posts were over two years ago, and I can say with pride that since then, all posts, thoughts, and messages shared on my account have been entirely accurate, and as best a reflection of my life as I could do it.
Over time, my instagram only became more positive, and I noticed that people started reaching out to me for advice, which I thrilled to give. I saw that the very same girls who inspired me the first year were also improving and becoming stronger. I felt incredible, knowing that my words were having an impact on another person’s life, encouraging them to get better. That’s sort of where the story drops off, because that takes us right up until now.
And then, out of nowhere, I had this thought. I had over 1000 pictures on my instagram, and at least 300-500 of them from my darkest days. So, I had this thought of deleting them. For some reason, I had an urge to get rid of all of them. Remove the triggering material and clean everything up.
I have come so far in my recovery journey. I’ve battled my eating disorder, fought depression and anxiety, seen weight crazy weight fluctuation, and faced a horrible injury all in the last several years; all of that has been documented in this account. Through the progression of hundreds of photos, you see my life improve. My pictures get brighter, the food gets more colorful, and I’m more myself in the captions – sassy and funny, yet encouraging. I’m so proud of my journey, to have gone from bleak, fear-filled photos of food to bright, inspiring, positive pictures of food.
How could I erase all this progress? More so, wouldn’t that be unfair to my community and to other people recovering from an eating disorder to just erase all of the struggle? Like I said, I’ve always wanted to be as transparent as possible with this journey, so deleting the pictures that represented how far I’ve come freaked me out. The last thing I wanted to do was present myself in a false light.
My life has changed a lot, and I’m not the person I was three years ago. I still have a long way to go, but I have come a long way since my first day of the account. Those older pictures are such a vivid representation of my most challenging days, that I just want to be free of them. They feel like dead weight on my account and I want to move forward and feel….lighter. I’ve realized that my fear of being dishonest by deleting photos does not have to be a fear of mine at all, as long as I continue to be myself and be honest with my community. I’m still going to talk about my eating disorder and share my struggles and successes. I’m still going to discuss the healing journey, and how restorative it can be. I don’t have to hold onto those things as long as I recognize how far I have come.
I can move on, as long as I recognize my past and it’s role in shaping who I am today.
That being said, I deleted almost 500 pictures off my account. Most of them were older pictures from 2-3 years ago. The process of deleting them was bizarre….I found myself stopping to read every single caption of the photos I was deleting. It was incredibly emotional for me,to see the girl three years ago compared to the girl today. Pushing the delete button every time was scary, and I almost felt like I was deleting little parts of myself, or of my journey. But after I had gotten rid of 100 or o photos, thing changed.
I started to feel less stressed. My anxiety lessened, and I felt calmer about the rest of the process. All in all, I ended up deleting 556 photos from my account. However, I kept my very first photo. I also kept several photos from the last three years, so my journey was still somewhat documented. After doing this, I feel lighter, happier, and excited to move into the next stages of my social media adventures!