I have been working on immeasurable for four years and recently self-published (march 2015) it with a long-tem goal of gaining commercial publication in hopes of raising awareness and improving the national discussion on the treatment of eating disorders and the poor allocation of mental health services. It is a personally motivated project based primarily on a gap in information and understanding regarding the lived experiences of anorexia and or bulimia nervosa
Those of us diagnosed with Eating Disorders often have multiple hospital admissions, a higher rate of suicide and an extremely high burden of disease. In order to build a bridge between those diagnosed and the general public, I have been working with individuals who have been diagnosed or are in recovery in an attemt to lessen shame and stigma and encourage conversation on the topic. The extreme secrecy of the illness often leads to misdiagnosis, mismanagement, and in the worst cases, death.
There is a desperate need for more information about the experience of Eating Disorders as many people are lead astray by mass media on the subject. Summaries about about celebrities in media which explore popular culture often trivialise the illness and lead people to believe that Eating Disorders are illnesses of the vain, the image obsessed, and indicative of the passing fads of youth culture. Eating Disorders kill, they are painful and traumatising for individuals as well as family, friends and communities. They are a high cost, low yeild portion of health care which remains overlooked and underfunded, despite burgeoning numbers of those diagnosed.
We need to talk, we need to be free to admit to mental illness, we need to start a dialogue which encourages prevention and early diagnosis, a dialogue which lessens misinformation and encourages empathy. People are dying. Smart, strong, courageous people are dying, suffering in hospitals and losing hope. We need to start talking about it,
start putting an end to shame.
Photographing individuals for 'immeasurable' has been an amazing experience that I have found inspiring, distressing, encouraging, overwhelming and a further multitude of emotions. It is an amazing thing to see people come forward and volunteer to share their stories, and an absolute honour to know that I am trusted with that task. At the beginning of this journey, I only really photographed friends from various hospital admissions, but as the project grew (and I grew) I began reaching out to wider audiences in order to challlenge myself photographically and to invlove a wider variety of individuals, with particular focus on more 'recovery' perspectives. It has been devestating and eye-opening to lose multiple friends during this process, and these terrible losses have pushed me to work harder to encourage conversation. There is nothing that hits harder for me than discussion about eating disorders and their treatment, I am sick of watching friends die, hearing horror stories of the mistreatment of indidviduals in health care settings, and hearing so many people talk of of the stigma they encounter on a daily basis.
Something has to change, E.d's aren't rare. Suicide is scarily common and hugely predominant in e.d diagnosed patients. There are huge long-term complications for e.d's and the rate of suffering far surpasses what most people realise. BUT
Almost anyone can recover with access to the right treatment. People do go on to lead healthy, happy, fulfilling lives.
These stories are frequently horror stories with tragic endings, but they don't have to be.