The article was powerful but the comments left me speechless

I read a sad story in this morning's Washington Post, about a family struggling to understand their 19-year-old daughter's death from bulimia, six years ago. The article was powerfully written and illustrates how deadly eating disorders are. It also illuminated how we not only need better treatment, but need more treatment providers to be aware of life-saving therapies like the Maudsley approach.

My heart goes out to the Siskins and what bulimia has taken from their family.

But what floored me the most, what left me utterly speechless and appalled, were the comments left. I blog a lot about debunking the stereotypes of eating disorders, of how they are real mental illnesses, and although I get frustrated at times, I operate within a community that understands the seriousness of these illnesses. And they are illnesses.

My security within this insulated community was sideswiped when I read that some people consider bulimia "a hybrid of the mortal sins of gluttony and pride," or that you can "never get over" an eating disorder. That too much TV causes eating disorders, no it's magazines, or maybe it's just "society and it's evil media machine is definitely to blame."

Or I read that some people think "Their disease is the sneakiest, most underhanded. I am sick of the sympathy they get when they seek to deceive constantly. The pain they're in is no different than the pain an obese person is in. But you coddle them. If we TRULY examined the hypocrisy here, you'd see that you have a horrific double standard."

We need less finger pointing and more research, more answers, more treatments. We need to stop blaming "society" and look more at biology. We need to stop treating eating disorders and recovery as a simple choice. We need more compassion towards the people who suffer and die from eating disorders.

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Kim said...

Wow, this is really infuriating. I get so bothered by the general lack of understanding. Sometimes, I feel completely powerless to do anything to change the misconceptions and stereotypes. Sadly, this is why most people in my real life don't even know I have an eating disorder. I don't want to deal with the judgment and bullshit. You write so many wonderful posts about how eds are TRUE diseases. It's helped me conceptualize my own recovery, and it's helped me explain things to my loved ones. I just wish society would begin to understand. Like you've posted before, many diseases have been thought to be "silly," but have since been proven to be very real. I can only hope that anorexia and bulimia follow the same path.

Just Eat It! said...

I saw the article this morning and ran up the stairs to show my mom. It was very poignant. I was especially surprised to see that they did mention family involvement and Maudsley in treating eating disorders.

I'm actually sad to admit that even a few of my friends are on the why-don't-you-just-snap-out-of-it boat. I've had only a handful of people in my life that really seem to understand that I have a mental DISEASE and that I'm not a media-influenced attention seeker.

You mentioned in your last past about being hospitalized driving the point that anorexia is a mental illness home. The same is true for me when I was on a psych ward myself. I wouldn't have been there if I'd had an easily fixable problem rather than a life-threatening disorder.

I don't think the stereotypes will change any time soon, unfortunately, which is even more devastating.

Micco said...

I think mental health is generally misunderstood, not eating disorders specifically. In many ways, I think other mental health problems have longer, even more glamorous histories (think the links between depression, bipolar, and addiction with writers, musicians, artists, etc.), therefore garnering more sympathy. But many people still look at things like depression and self injury as narcissism and pleas for attention; bipolar as some absurd inability to calm down or behave; or addiction as poor self control and selfishness. It's like, if people aren't out and out hallucinating, it's not resolutely accepted that whatever is going on IS a disease of the mind - no matter how much research indicates otherwise.

I think eating disorders are slowly catching up to other mental health issues in scope and understanding; hell, thirty years ago, "anorexia" was just tip toeing into our vernacular, but now it's the generic term for anyone that seems wispy. On the whole, however, people with mental health issues will always be marginalized due to a lack of understanding - chiefly from those that have never been affected by them no matter how many articles they've read or LifeTime movies they've seen. It's really frustrating and unfair, but unfortunately, that's the world we're presently living. I am glad that discussing these things is more and more culturally acceptable.

Libby said...

Well crap. I read the comments. There go all of my Sanity Watchers points for the week... *arghgrumblegrumblesteam*

Bekah said...

i'm a new reader/subscriber, and so appreciate that you are using your voice to express the truth about this issue. there's such a loud presence on the other side, and reading your blog helps keep REALITY in front of me.

Carrie Arnold said...

Thanks for all of your feedback.

Libby, I apologize- I should have warned people not to use up all of their Sanity Watchers points on the comments!

Miss Keira said...

It's comments like those that prevent people with eating disorders from speaking up and getting help. It just reinforces the secrecy and shame of the disorder. :/

My mum likes to compete to be the "craziest" in the family--quite frankly, its a title she can have-- so she likes to see her bipolar as a reall illness and my eating disorder and 'just a phase'. Or more worringly was when her response to my teary desire to seek inpatient treatment was "it takes bulimia 20yrs to kill you so I don't have to worry yet..."

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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