"Romanticisation of mental illness?"

For all I think the internet is a valuable tool in educating people on mental health and mental illness, it can also be a dark, dark place. There are various corners of the internet that romanticise mental illness, such as specific dark corners of Tumblr or pro-ana websites (which I touched last week in Wednesday's post).

When I talk about romanticisation of mental illness, I'm largely thinking of the posts on Tumblr that treat self-harm as though it's a positive thing, encouraging people to hurt themselves; or the pro-ana websites as a whole where anorexia and bulimia are talked about as though they're not illnesses, but goddesses (I'll talk about the personification of anorexia and bulimia on these websites in a moment).

These attitudes are harmful, especially when there are impressionable young people roaming the internet so frequently these days, and vulnerable adults who have been torn down by a media obsessed with "perfection".

Now, I said I'd address the personification of eating disorders, so here we go. Anorexia and bulimia are commonly referred to as "Ana" and "Mia" on these pro-ana sites. That in itself isn't what bothers me, because sometimes personification of illnesses can actually aid in recovery. What bothers me is that rather than using this as a recovery technique, these people are referring to "Ana" and "Mia" as though they're their best friends who only want the best for them. It's a rabbit hole that far too many people (mainly girls, but I know from experience that it's boys too) fall into, and it can be completely life-destroying and complicate treatment.

From watching the interactions on these sites in the past, I've seen that reality often becomes distorted for the individuals who choose to treat their illnesses as their best friends. Now, imagine someone telling you that your best friend in all the world who only wants the very best for you is actually trying to destroy you. Maybe you'd laugh, be shocked, or even become angry. You'd quite possibly ignore everything that person told you from there on in - after all, they tried to turn you against your best friend, right? This is why the personification can complicate treatment.

I believe that personification can only be helpful if it's introduced when the person wants to recover, and is introduced in such a way where the illness is the devil on the person's shoulder rather than the angel, so that the person has a reason to resist what their illness is trying to get them to do, be that skip a meal or regurgitate one.

In short, romanticisation is dangerous, and should be discouraged wherever possible.