To The Bone: Through the Eyes of a Survivor

To The Bone: Through the Eyes of a Survivor

 As many of you know, the Netflix movie To The Bone was released last night. After much controversy and speculation, I decided to watch the film in order to familiarize myself with the message that would be portrayed to the public regarding eating disorders. It has taken me nearly 24 full hours to come to terms with what I saw, but here are my two cents.

From the eyes of someone who has lived and breathed the living hell of anorexia, I can say that this movie brought a whirlwind of emotions along with it. The simplest way I can explain my feelings during and after this movie is by saying that my heart stung with pain for the entirety of the film, and hours after. It brought back horrific memories that I have purposely blocked out of my mind for years. I stared at the screen, hoping to watch the movie from an outside perspective, but fell victim to the pain and horror of my past disorder all over again. It was as if I had taken three years off the clock, and re-entered the hospital in my emaciated and broken body. I could feel the pain, weakness, and fear eat away at me all over again. Reminding myself of that chapter in my life was one of the hardest things I've put myself through in a very long while. To talk about my past illness is one thing, but to see it lived out right in front of your eyes is something far different. 

In my opinion, this movie did not even scratch the surface of what an eating disorder truly is. Although it did an incredible job at showing the severity of anorexia, my biggest fear with the release of this new film was that it would reemphasize the stereotype that already comes along with eating disorders, and that's exactly what it did. The movie's main focus was anorexia, which is one of the most common eating disorders, but not the only one in existence. To solely focus on anorexia is like developing an educational program about cancer, but only providing information about breast cancer, without mention of the hundreds of other forms of that specific illness. The concept was rooted in good intention, but it unfortunately confirmed in the minds of many that the other horrifically dangerous eating disorders are not "serious" enough to deserve attention. ALL eating disorders have the potential to kill, so do not assume that they are unworthy of treatment, help, or recovery solely because they have not been portrayed that way. 

In addition, the portrayal of anorexia did not encompass ANY of the mental anguish that comes along with the illness. With anorexia, the battle is 10% physical and 90% mental, but unfortunately not a single moment of the mental battle was portrayed. Anorexia is often inaccurately conceived to be a physical problem, but the mental aspect is far more dangerous. The actions of the illness are what load the gun, but the thoughts are what pull the trigger. I was very disappointed that the character's illness was only represented through her emaciated body. Anorexia does not necessarily have to result in a skeleton-like frame, and by showing anorexia solely through that lens, it has yet again reconfirmed the stereotype that all anorexics have to look like skin and bones in order to be taken seriously. So yes, I do agree that anorexia is a life-threatening battle that can result in extremely low weight, bone density, muscle tissue, etc. but this is not always the case. Regardless as to what your weight, size, or stature is, if you are struggling with food, body image, fear of weight gain, depression, or obsessive thoughts, please seek help

Also, it is so important to understand that the treatment utilized in this movie does not represent all of the treatment techniques and programs that are out there. My treatment experience was completely opposite of what was portrayed in this movie. I know for a stone cold fact that the treatment shown in this film would not have worked for me, so I am sharing my opinion on this topic because I want others to know that there are far more treatment options than what was depicted. The house, program, doctors, and nurses in the film did not represent a large percentage of what real-life treatment looks like today. Regardless of whether you or a loved one is receiving treatment in a hospital, outpatient setting, doctors' office, or inpatient center, please keep in mind that there are thousands of options out there. It is so crucial to understand your options before selecting one, so here I am reminding you all that what works for one person may not work for another. Do your research and find the right fit. 

Above all else, I was hoping that this film would show why recovery is worth it. I was praying that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel - something to show why the pain of recovery is worth it when a life of happiness is achieved. The moment the main character began to stumble upon her strength, the movie ended. It did not even come to mention the love, joy, passion, spontaneity, happiness, and vitality that comes along with a life after ED. I prayed that this movie, if nothing else, would inspire others to detach themselves from their demons in order to achieve a beautiful recovery, but the recovery aspect was not touched upon. So here I am, telling you for the millionth time, recovery is better than your wildest dreams. It is something I will never be able to express through written-word, but I beg of you to believe me. Recovery is worth it.

Lastly, I want to express the most important point. I am confident in my recovery, and I know that my disorder is far behind me, but this movie shook me to my core. As soon as the credits began to roll at the end of the final scene, my body broke down. I bawled as I sat in silence with the pain of my battle sending shots down my spine. The hell I escaped came back. I was overcome with emotion. I was grateful beyond measure for the miracle that saved my life, but I also walked away with a heavy heart as I was reminded of who I used to be. So here is my advice - if you plan to watch this movie, be ready to bring old emotions back to the surface. If you believe you are not ready for this, please do not watch. If you are in recovery, talk to your medical team, parents, or friends before watching. Make sure you are stable and confident enough to walk away without falling back into behaviors. Make sure you are ready to face your demons.

If you do not agree with me, I respect your opinion. If you do, I hope you now know that you are not alone. I am praying for all of those who are seeking recovery, or hoping to someday get to a point where they can begin to seek a better life. If you or a loved one needs more information about treatment options, please do not hesitate to reach out. I believe in you, my beautiful warriors. Keep fighting the good fight