Why social media has been so instrumental to one anorexia sufferer’s recovery

(Picture: thetremblingofaleaf/Instagram)

TRIGGER WARNING: Some readers might find images of anorexia upsetting or triggering

This is 18-year-old Sacha – better known to her legions of followers as The Trembling Of A Leaf.

She’s an anorexia fighter who has been documenting her ‘real, raw recovery’ online to an audience of thousands.

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Instead of keeping her battle private, she’s used Instagram to build a community of fellow ED survivors and to turn her journey into a wider body positive campaign.

‘I’m currently still extremely sick, which is why it’s so important for me to spread the messages I am on my Instagram profile,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I’m showing the good days, the bad days and the excruciatingly painful days. I’m showing real recovery, not the filtered version.

Perfection is a myth. For years, I’ve tried to meet that expectation Anorexia set out for me. Perfection. Due to a rather nasty form of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, my own standards are exceptionally high when it comes to order, numbers, time, movement, appearance – you name it. My OCD is never satisfied because I can never do a ritual enough to make it perfect. I could stand there for 2 hours, opening and closing my door and my head STILL says “NO! That’s not good enough.” The same goes to my EDs definition of “perfection”. But I, Sacha Justine Cuddy, do not want to be perfect. If we were all the same, immaculate, well-spoken, sane people with the same hobbies and the same life – we’d all be the most boring fucking people to ever exist. I wanna be me! And if having belly rolls, body hair, scars, stretch marks, saggy boobs etc. is part of the package of being ME, then so be it. I don’t have to always look like the left girl because I’m posing and exposing my most flattering features because in REALITY, I look like the right girl more often. Relaxed, hunched over, unbothered. Beauty is in your soul and the glow of your skin. Beauty is you, in your natural, purest form. But never ever strive for perfection – because it does not exist. And quite frankly, I’m happy it doesn’t. 👁 #anorexiarecovery #recovery #EDwarrior #writersofinstagram #mentalhealth

A post shared by Sacha Justine (@thetremblingofaleaf) on

‘Learning to love my body and myself is something I’m still learning. I haven’t actually achieved self love yet, but I’m learning. I inspired myself to start seeing myself in a different way because of all the pain I have gone through during my life.’

Her recovery journey, she says, started a little over a year ago when she was admitted to hospital for the second time.

But the real turning point came when her IG account started getting more popular.

‘I was stuck in the mindset of just “doing it” because I had to and because I knew I’d go back into hospital if I didn’t,’ Sacha says.

Anorexia recovery & positivity accounts are always seen as the happy people of the #recovery community. Spreading the light and freedom that comes with choosing recovery rather than your eating disorder is something I love to share. But I want to share the horrible side effects of choosing recovery over my eating disorder. It’s hard. It’s fucking hard. The years I’ve spent hating myself. Mutilating myself both physically and mentally. The look in my mother’s eyes when the doctors told her I was dying. My first night on a psychiatric unit, hearing the screams of other patients still haunts me today. But what haunts me more is that I was that screaming patient too. I have come so far. I have gained parts of my life I never thought I’d see again. I have also adopted horrifying coping mechanisms to deal with my thoughts instead of starving myself. When I looked on Instagram and saw the recovery community, I was in awe. I wanted to be like all these girls, guys & others sharing their positive journey. It left me thinking once I’m on the right track, it’ll all come flying to me like a group of butterflies kissing my skin. Sometimes, you know, there is more pain than comfort. Sometimes, it’s the other way round. Recovery is the most unpredictable part of ones journey. It can make you feel and think CRAZY things. Although I’m only really beginning my adventure to a better world (not a fixed world, an improved world) I can tell you that I’ve seen people recover. I know people who are free. My mother being one of them. Don’t expect recovery to be sudden, quick or easy. Expect it to be the hardest battle of your life that you will win eventually. #anorexiarecovery #IAMNOT1in5 #mentalhealth #edwarrior

A post shared by Sacha Justine (@thetremblingofaleaf) on

‘Now, I (continue posting) because connecting with so many people has made me realise that recovery is something that keeps me going and also contributes to my happiness.’

She started the account in late November 2016.

‘It was going to be a food diary and a place where I plastered my disordered and “triggering” thoughts. One day I realised it was making me compare myself to other people in regards to my intake and my behaviours.

‘I posted a piece of my writing which I usually keep very, very private and people related to it so I never stopped since then.’

While Instagram is a hive of body positive content, it’s also a platform that has been continuously slammed for promoting unrealistic body standards and damaging our self esteems.

So how then has it been so positive for someone facing a very real battle with body image?

‘Social media is a hit and miss with spreading awareness and increasing stigma,’ says Sacha.

‘It can be both negative and positive. I’ve seen the negative side, I’ve been stuck in the negative side but slowly, I’m creating a safe and honest place for people to say what they’re thinking without harming themselves and others so much.’

However, it’s also not hard to find reams of pro-ana content on Instagram – something which Sacha says needs addressing.

‘Of course, anorexia and other mental illness is a triggering topic but talking about weight, self harm, posting photos of self harm, posting photos of themselves at a lower weight with a caption saying “I’m so fat now” – is something that needs to stop. Some say it’s their “venting” space but I highly doubt that it is helpful for anyone.’

And, because social media, Sacha has been a victim of trolling with people telling her that she looked better at her anorexic peak.

‘I’ve been told that I look better at a lower weight, that suicide is my only option, that I’m ugly because of my weight – and sure, it really really hurts.

‘But I don’t let it scare me away because there was far more positive messages and comments I receive. Although there’s a lot of bullying, the recovery community come together and defend fellow MH warriors. It’s empowering.’

She recently posted a picture of her trying to squeeze into the skirt she used to wear at the height of her illness, with the caption ‘And I’ve come to realise, that, some clothes, just aren’t supposed to fit’.

That post garnered nearly 3,000 likes.

‘Posting photos like that, especially as my body has been a toy and seen as sexual from the young age of 12, is difficult,’ Sacha explains.

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‘I always question whether or not it’s going to be okay if I post something like that. However, I have always been the honest type even during my worst times with anorexia and of course I will get told that I’m horrid or disgusting on these photos by one internet troll or extremely sick person but it’s getting to the point where, I can just block them and be done with it.

‘No comment from another person is any harsher than the voice in my head that I have been a slave to for over seven years. I want my followers to realise that the past is the past. And that some things just aren’t meant to be. Starvation is not sustainable in any way, shape or form.’

True happiness comes from within not from what you’ve got. Sure – clothes, a job, a partner, friends and money can make you happy but you won’t be able to genuinely mean it if it doesn’t come from the pit of your stomach all the way up your chest and into your heart. With Anorexia, I thought I had everything. I thought I had it all figured out. If I starved myself – I’d be pretty. If I exercised for hours on end – I’d deserve to have a rest. If I lost everyone in my life – I’d stop ruining theirs. The truth is, all I had was pain. I had a malfunctioned brain and a malnourished body. I thought I had everything. My idea of “happy” was at the bottom of a bin where all the food I wish I ate but couldn’t lived until it began to rot, like my hope for a better tomorrow. I was empty on the inside. No food in my stomach, no muscles to keep me going, no emotion, no will to live. Nothing. You can’t be happy if you don’t eat. You can’t be happy if you hurt yourself to feel better for a split second. You can’t be happy if you are stuck on the floor with Anorexia’s foot on your chest only to press harder and keep you there. Happiness comes from within – search deeply and take your time. Because without a soul, you’re nothing. 💡 #anorexiarecovery

A post shared by Sacha Justine (@thetremblingofaleaf) on

So what advice does Sacha have for other women who are struggling with their bodies, or who are further back in their recovery than her?

‘Whatever you’re thinking – that you need to lose weight, that you don’t deserve food, that the world is better off without you so you may as well starve yourself until you disappear…it’s false.

‘I have come face to face with death and it is the scariest thing I have ever experienced.

‘Whether you’re developing an ED or already have one, choose life.’

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