Netflix recently released the trailer for a new movie that will be available to stream this July. It’s called To The Bone, and it’s about a girl with anorexia nervosa. Since being released, the trailer has begun appearing more and more frequently on my Facebook newsfeed. Each time it’s popped up, I’ve told myself to ignore it. I’ve tried to shove it out of my head and keep it out of my mind… But that’s gotten harder to do the more people hear about it, and subsequently, repost, retweet, hashtag, and comment on it. I know that as time goes on, and especially once it’s available to stream, it’s going to come up even more frequently, and people will be talking about it. Just like they did with 13 Reasons Why.
I know there are a lot of different opinions about the show 13 Reasons Why, and I’m sure there are going to be a lot about To The Bone as well. I’m not going to try to convince you of which “side” you should be on, of whether it’s helpful and raising awareness, or triggering and should be taken off the internet. I’m just going to share my perspective as someone who has spent a good portion of her life struggling the disorder being dramatized as Netflix’s newest movie.
Last night, after having scrolled past the To The Bone trailer probably 50 times, I gave in. I watched the trailer. And I so wish I could undo it. The first snippet from the film shows the main character, played by actress Lily Collins, calorie counting, compulsively exercising, and weighing herself. Classic eating disorder behaviors. Behaviors I know all too well, and that I really, really didn’t need to watch play out in front of me.
I didn’t watch the entire trailer, and I know that I can’t fairly judge the movie unless I do so. I won’t, and I don’t need to. I don’t care to judge the entire movie, I just want to talk about the things I do know from the parts I did see.
My initial thoughts after watching it were, “No.” No no no no no no no. No, I did not want this to be a movie. No, I did not want this to be on Netflix, accessible to me or anyone else whose struggled with the life-threatening mental illness. No, I didn’t want it to be “glamorized” for younger viewers, or for anyone, really, who could watch it and get ideas on “how to become anorexic.”
I can’t remember if I’ve talked about this on here before, but something I find myself struggling with a lot in my recovery, is possessiveness of my eating disorder. A big (big, big, BIG) part of my eating disorder was a type of “frozen dessert” called Arctic Zero. My mom now jokes about it, saying “Yeah, ZERO flavor!.” It’s a diet ice cream (if you can even call it “cream,” since there’s none in it!) that’s very low in calorie and even lower in flavor. But for me, during my disorder, it was a god-send. It got me through days when I hadn’t allowed myself to eat anything else, because I could eat that entire pint of ice cream, for only 150 calories. It’s still very triggering to me, to this day.
There’s a competing brand of ice cream called Halo Top. It’s been around for a while, but has become trendy in the recent year. It’s also triggering for me, for the same reason: it’s a diet ice cream, and it takes me back to that dark time of my disorder. Ironically, I never allowed myself to eat Halo Top because it was a whopping 240 calories for the whole pint. That’s less than a single one of my three snacks now, not to mention the additional three meals I eat each day! I’ve very intentionally stayed away from both Arctic Zero and Halo Top since being in recovery. I won’t even walk past them in the grocery store; they just bring up too many bad memories. With Halo Top becoming more popular in the recent year, however, it’s become harder to stay away from. I can still remember the first time I opened the freezer at my house in Corvallis and saw a pint of Halo Top, staring back at me. One of my roommates had bought it. She didn’t know what it meant to me; how would she? Nevertheless, I called my mom crying, overcome with emotions of sadness, frustration, and jealousy.
Jealousy? You may be wondering if that’s really what I meant. I can assure you, it is. It might sound silly, but it’s true. My mom’s compared my feelings around Arctic Zero and Halo Top to that of a jealous ex-girlfriend. That’s my special food. It was my saving grace. How dare you try to steal that from me? I can’t have it anymore, and now you get to?! (Trust me, I realize how dumb this sounds!).
Anyway, back to last night. I watched the first part of the trailer, and immediately felt like a knife was being twisted through my small intestines. That jealous feeling was back. I wanted to be Lily Collins. I wanted to tell this story. I wanted to be able to tell it my way, and I wanted it to be done right.
My feelings during and after watching the trailer took me back to a time when I made the mistake of reading an excerpt from a book my mom was reading, when I was in treatment the first time (at age 15). The book is called “Brave Girl Eating,” and it’s excellently written. The author, Harriet Brown, wrote it about her experience going through anorexia recovery with her daughter. While it contains incredibly detailed content that is undoubtedly potentially triggering, it was written with the intent of being a resource for parents of children with eating disorders, or really, I guess, for anyone wanting more insight into what someone recovering from anorexia nervosa is experiencing. For me, however, reading the few pages I did sent me into a tailspin. That might’ve been my first panic attack ever, I’m not sure, but I vividly remember lying on the stairs, where I’d found the book, hands over my ears, eyes closed, bawling. All of the memories I’d been trying so hard to keep out of my head came flooding back, it was like I was reliving the darkest of my eating disorder days.
But you know what? That doesn’t mean the book shouldn’t have been published. It doesn’t mean it’s not a great book, and an incredible resource.
It simply means that I’m not the audience.
I think that this show, if done well, has the ability to be a great resource. I think it could inform people, and hopefully steer them away from playing around with the number one cause of death by mental illness. I won’t be watching it, and that’s okay. I don’t need to. I’ve lived it.
Something I’m learning more and more as I go through recovery, is that just because something is not good for me, doesn’t mean it’s not good.
I’m part of a fairly strong E.D. recovery community on Instagram. There’s been a lot of talk about this show in the recent week, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one with this viewpoint. I’ll have to thank my conversation with my mom for that one. I’ve seen people write, “How dare they put out content that’s so triggering?” and “What kind of twisted person could stand to watch a show like that?” and so on and so forth.
The word, “triggering,” is thrown around a lot nowadays. I realized, when thinking further about this matter, that I was being quite hypocritical. I hate when people are overly-concerned with triggering others. I don’t want to sound too harsh here and say a blanket statement that I think everyone should just “grow a thicker skin,” but as a rule of thumb, that is more along the lines of my opinion. How can I say that, though, if I don’t believe that when it’s actually something that applies to me?
I realized, today, that if I say this show shouldn’t be allowed to air, I’m being that person that I get so frustrated with. I’m being the one who needs to be protected, who’s saying, “You can’t do that, because it affects me.” I don’t want to be that person. I’m working on realizing that my issue shouldn’t become everyone else’s issue, and that’s hard. It would be a lot easier if the entire world was a safe place where nothing anyone did ever adversely affected anyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not reality, and that is something that I will continue to work through.
On another note, my blog was chosen this week as one of the Top 100 eating disorder blogs on the internet, and I was given a cool badge to display on my page 🙂 So, if you’re wondering what caused the change in my site’s appearance, that’s it! The old layout didn’t have a spot where I could display the badge, so I decided to change it up a bit.