THE BLOG

How Instagram Is Helping Me Recover From an Eating Disorder

02/24/2015 04:02 pm ET | Updated Feb 24, 2015

I first came across the idea of an Instagram recovery account during my first admission to an adolescent unit. While in the hospital, I often found myself in conversation with other patients about the nature of recovery accounts online, and how helpful they were in sharing their journeys with a global community.

At the time, I did have a recovery account on Tumblr, but had never considered Instagram as a place where I also may be able to find support. After hearing their reassurances and knowing that if I set up an account I would at least have my friends from the hospital's support outside of the unit, I decided to do it.

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What I soon found myself a part of was, as my friends had said, an international network for sharing positivity, motivation and recovery tips. My first few posts were hesitant, as I felt unsure about how good for me it was to be posting and communicating my thoughts about my meals with others who were also struggling with anorexia or other eating disorders. But it was soon evident to me that honesty was the only thing expected of me by the extremely kind group of people who followed my account.

It was a place where it was OK that I felt guilty after eating or wanted to cry because I hated my body. But it was also a place where I could feel proud of myself if I made a decision against the disorder. Eating disorders are, by their nature, very competitive illnesses, and I was worried that I would feel almost embarrassed about posting difficult meals and challenges, or saying that I felt good.

I, or should I say anorexia, wanted to use the site as a platform to compare myself to other sufferers; to make me feel proud that I was eating less than others, to try and look "worse." But what I realized over time is that nobody wants that; the Instagram recovery community is a place where people are genuinely proud of you if you're doing well or feeling OK, but they also want to support you if you're not.

What is not looked on fondly, however, is not putting your all into recovery. It is not a place to flaunt your disorder in front of others, or trying to compare yourself. That's often easier said than done when you have something as poisonous as an ED in your mind, but it didn't take me long to realize that the way to feel supported by the Instagram community was to put my all into getting better.

Ever since my inpatient admission to the same unit at the end of 2014, I have been determined to choose recovery, and I have felt encouraged, included, and inspired by the Instagram recovery community. I currently talk to other sufferers in the UK (including those friends I met in hospital), others from the USA, France, Norway and Germany! I could not be more grateful for such an incredible, strong support network. I am lucky enough to have support from the unit and mental health services, but I know that for others who don't, Instagram is a place where they can find the help they need that isn't necessarily provided by services.

I choose to have my account on a private setting so that I can check the account of every person who wants to follow me before I accept their request. This is important to me, because though this is a lovely and helpful community, unfortunately, just like the rest of the world, there are some toxic individuals on Instagram who could do more harm to my recovery than good. In order to protect myself, it is helpful to monitor who can see and comment on my posts.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness), and I think it's so important to acknowledge the importance of recovery accounts to so many around the world as this week our struggles and issues are highlighted. People suffering will always appreciate support, so this week, take the time to follow one or two accounts and leave a nice comment! It will mean more than you know.

This was originally published on Proud2BMe.org.

About this blogger: Nicole is currently undergoing inpatient treatment for anorexia while studying English literature and 20th century history in England. She is 16 years old and loves writing (check out her blog!) as well as her cat named Fluff.

For more Proud2BMe pieces on social media and eating disorders:

Are you struggling with an eating disorder or do you know someone who is? Call the National Eating Disorders Association's toll-free helpline for support: (800)-931-2237.