Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Supporting: Perception & Communication

OK, so this is the second post for today. Annie's post here was uploaded earlier this morning. Scroll down after my blurb if you want to read the rest (or just click the link). There are quite a few photos in this post, so there might be a fair bit of scrolling!

So I've been meaning to blog about this for a while now, as it's something that annoys me no end.

The Media.

Annie and I were looking at #1's magazines over the weekend, clearing up mess from a very angry cat who had savaged a couple of magazines in #1's bedroom.
Every page. Every page had glossy photos of what they presume to be perfectly sculpted 
pictures of celebrities. The celebs that weren't pictured in their best light, had circles around wrinkles, tan lines, and God knows what else. 
At least the ones that I saw had belly buttons, semi-plausible faces, and straight legs, unlike the models above.

How does anyone know what is real any more? Is this Clive Owen?

Credit due here to Photoshop Disasters which, if you have the time, and inclination, will provide you with some amusement and lightheartedness. Something we all need from time to time. 

Something less amusing is this Dove advert (below) from their campaign for real beauty. Further searches on You Tube for Photoshop makeovers reveal some quite shocking things.

A while ago, before this latest anorexic episode, I offered to help Annie come up with an avatar for Hex My Ex. She put some make-up on, grabbed a cloak for that "witchy" look and I snapped away with a camera.

I've put together a few pictures below to show you what can be done with no real knowledge of what you're doing in photoshop, but a bit of time spent playing around can yield some results that, as a newbie to photo-manipulation, did impress me.

I was proud of these photos, until I realised that they could well be part of the problem. Is the picture in her avatar recognisable as her? What I had effectively done, was to promote the feeling that her own natural looks were not good enough, and that I wanted my wife to look like a movie star. Of course that's not what I intended, but that mis-understanding of how an ED voice can twist the most innocent of actions. Indeed. Looking back now, although the intent was not to create some sort of idol that Annie had to become, it could be viewed that I did in fact create that. Something I'm not proud of.

It's difficult to know what to say to someone who's suffering from self-esteem issues related to their appearance. When I have complimented Annie on her appearance in the past, it was just a simple genuine comment. Now, when I say "You look beautiful today", I am wondering whether she is thinking "Does that mean I looked like crap yesterday?" or "he likes me at this weight." Annie says she doesn't think the former. I don't know about the latter. I do know that she is uncomfortable about the modifications I made to the photos. And to be honest, there is no "thinning" going on, just manipulation of light and exposure, with a couple of special effects applied. Still, it doesn't sit well with me that I did this, and it has changed the way I approach photography now.

Building self-confidence with positive affirmations is a double edged sword. It's only by talking to Annie, that I can realise what effect my words are having. Communication is the key to any successful relationship, but in a relationship where an ED has a grip, it's a damned necessity.

Annie's #10 post was brilliantly written. If you are trying to support someone with an ED, it is well worth a read. There is a lot going on in all of our heads, and the only way one can ever understand what is going on, is by talking to that loved one and trying to understand what they are going through. Sure, there are generalisations that apply, such as a (feeling of a) lack of control, worthlessness, low self-esteem etc. But the roots of these problems will be different and deeply personal for each and every sufferer. Talk. Listen, and try your best to empathise.

As to intervention. That's a whole topic all in itself, and if you're looking to solve a problem, the very first part is to understand what problem it is you're trying to solve. It may be that there's nothing you can do but listen. It may be that there's a lot you can do. Until you understand the problem though, you are in danger of making things worse. Something I have done in the past.


Karen ^..^ said...

this is very important, I think. Not only is it important from a carers point of view, but it is valuable information on how to go about communicating with someone with this disorder. Every word can have an unintended meaning, every single move you make can be the wrong one for any given day. Not one thing can be done with personal gratification in mind, this is something I learned years and years ago. My sister's "mental" problems had progressed until she was placed in a hospital. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This was the climax in how I dealt with her, because she had requested not to see me. I was not on the visitors list. I begged them to let me in to see her, but she had asked specifically NOT to see me.

She did not want to see me for a year after that. We did not speak for a year. When she finally did speak to me, she denied having requested not to see me, blamed her (then) husband for that. But I had always detected an underlying resentment from her back then, and felt that she needed time to reconcile that in her mind. I gave her a year. We've had a very rocky relationship since, but have always tried to keep in touch. I love that girl more than anyone. She was my only link to love as a child. I was hers. I expected that to continue into adulthood. I messed that up somewhere along the way. I can only assume I made her feel invalidated or inadequate in some way. I know I did not deal well with her eating disorder.

I never ever want a year to pass between words with my beloved sister ever again.

So, I say thank you to you, Ian. Not only is Annie sticking her neck out and risking all to get well and perhaps help someone along the way, but you are too.

What you've written is valuable information.

Mars said...

i agree with karen. i am happy to know someone is there for annie, and likewise.

i suspect that i suffer from clinical depression, but have never checked it. and not sure if i want to. because i'm not sure if it is on its own, or due to my current illness. and because my family policy for things like depression and EDs (no i don't suffer from it) is that its attention-seeking or an excuse to not take life seriously. or an escape for working hard and becoming something.

my cousin suffers from borderline personality disorder (partially due to inbreeding - that's another story altogether), but has let her life completely out of control and drinks, parties, sleeps around and refuses to study, or even try. i do get angry at her at times because i suffer from a disease(perhaps) yet i'm somewhat functioning. and i feel she's just used her 'assessment' as a ticket out of trying to cure or control herself.

Mars said...

PS: that first photo of the model with the huge smile is freaky!!!

Karen ^..^ said...

She looks like the Joker. I can't stop staring at it. Too weird. I check that blog every day, have for months now. It is disgusting what they do to people. What about the commercials on tv, though? How do they distort moving images? They must, because no one looks like that in real life. It must be the lenses they use.

Linda and her Twaddle said...

I totally agree about that girl with the weird mouth. It is freaky and quite scary.

Annie T - ex Agnes Mildew said...

I despise these Photo-shopped pictures. I despise the lies we are being spun by the glossy magazines. Our oldest has created a montage on her bedroom wall with photos torn from her magazines and interspersed the images with beads, bric-a-brac. It's very creative. I think she has done a grand job. But she asked me last night what I thought of it. I told her it was a fantastic idea, and I loved her personal touches, but I hated the pictures of the unfeasibly perfect girls she was hero-worshipping. She told me she thought they were 'beautiful'.

I wish we were all just allowed to have physical flaws.

Charles Parsnip said...

Karen: I really feel for you and the pain you seem to have gone through with your sister. One thing to bear in mind before saying that you didn't deal well with her eating disorder, is that no-one is an expert at first. No-one can know the absolute right way to approach things, because for most carers, there is very little information out there to help. Accept that we all make mistakes, learn from them, and do your best to move on. No-one can ask for much more.

Mars: You are not alone in having family that has no clue about ED's, or for that matter, mental illnesses. Uninformed people make (for the most part) uninformed assumptions. I try really hard these days to not make assumptions now about what effect any kind of problem has on anyone, without first trying to discover what that problem is.

To all of you that have been affected by the photoshopped images: It was supposed to illustrate the more extreme attempts people go to in order to change appearance. If all images that had been modified had to legally have the original printed next to it, I wonder what would happen to the advertising and marketing industries.


Mars said...

i cane to an epiphany today while driving home. sometimes photoshopping isn't about fixing the subjects flaws. sometimes its really to do with making the photographer look better - that they took a great photograph. or they try to digitally enhance or create the magic they could not capture on their own.

so really, next time you think that your flaws are being 'photoshopped', think that perhaps the photographer was covering his own flaws or limitations.

Karen ^..^ said...

That is a really good and valid point. Maybe that is how it started out. Many of these subjects are very picky, and if they did not take thier best photo ever, maybe they blamed the photographer. So then retouched photos were invented. So now it has gone completely out of control to the point where people do not even look human anymore, and we are being brainwashed into thinking they are "beautiful".

Great point, Mars.

Mars said...

yes, i am a genius i know. you may bow done to my greatness anytime now :) lol