No awareness of binge eating risk
Mary's story of bulimia is all the more tragic because it seems that neither she nor the people in her life had genuine information about the dangers connected with weight gain, weight loss and eating disorders. The focus today is too often on appearance and not about the real needs of a human body or the risks associated with eating disorders and types of weight loss programs.
Mary was obese in the 6th grade. I wonder when her obesity began? Obesity is not necessarily an indication of an eating disorder, but it is a signal that something is amiss. Someone made a comment that supposedly triggered her bulimia.
I hope that person doesn't feel responsible for Mary's death. Bulimia is a deep seated problem with psychological and emotional underpinnings that don't get created based on a personal comment, no matter how thoughtless or cruel.
No one appreciated the danger Mary was in when she studied diligently to learn how to binge and purge in better ways. It seems that well meaning people in her life were so naive and ill informed that they believed any attempt at weight loss would benefit a 6th grader who was obese.
She was alone in a crowd looking good -
Mary was in emotional pain. Her desperation went unrecognized. Her physical health was compromised because of the continuous weight loss and weight gain plus her ongoing binging and purging activities. That was unrecognized too. Eventually, I gather from the article, she looked good. She was 20 years old when she died.
What we can do now -
I know from long experience that frightening stories of harm and death due to eating disorders do little to move a person toward recovery. But we can still create an environment where genuine respect and knowledge for the human condition is more vital and important to us than appearance This respect goes beyond issues of cost to mind, body. It goes beyond embarrassment and insecurities. It's vital for the health of body mind and soul.
To create this environment we need honest and clear information about what it means to be a complete, healthy and developing living human. We need to support each other in living a healthy life. We need to learn and accept ourselves and others without needing elaborate masks to hide everything real about ourselves except, maybe, our eyes.
The tragedy of this bulimia story is more than the loss of Mary's life. Every person she touched in her short life is affected in some way by her death. She was on a path to destruction, and no one realized it. She wanted to improve her appearance. People in her life supported that goal.
No one understood the toll herbulimia was taking on her body. An imbalance in electrolytes is not something you feel. It just stops your heart.
Please take care of yourself so that you have the strength and determination to begin and maintain your recovery journey.
Eight Questions for Personal Discovery
1. How do you respond when you hear Mary's story?
2. Do you feel sad or angry or frightened?
3. Does it move your mind into thinking seriously about doing recovery work or encourage you to keep on with your recovery work?
4. Do you feel compassion for Mary?
5. Do you feel very little except, perhaps, irritation.
6. Does your attention wander?
7. Does hearing Mary's story matter to you?
8. Does it make a difference in your thinking or feeling or behavior?
I invite you journal your responses and give yourself a chance to make personal discoveries.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specalizing in eating disorder recovery. All appointments are virtual. For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at