Friday, June 1, 2012

a scene from my past…anorexia revisited

Today I’m going to bring up a subject that is serious. Deadly, in fact.

Only I feel a twinge of discomfort as I begin this dark post. Because everywhere I look there are blogs overflowing with gorgeous eye candy. Fashion blogs, with sharp, edgy images of beautiful women, design blogs with tasteful, perfectly staged homes, and mommy blogs exploding with photos of exuberant, chubby toddlers laughing in front of the camera. And yes, I admit it. It’s so easy to be swept up in this blogger’s land of positive thoughts and perfect images.

Only today’s post is not a cheerful one so I feel compelled to warn you, and like any good hostess, offer you a seat at a happier table. Do you want to read my latest post on My Summer Fashion Style? Click HERE for pretty pictures.

Otherwise, welcome to another reality.

Because today while I was at the gym, a middle-aged anorexic woman stepped up on the treadmill next to me. And in that one moment, my eyes immediately zeroed in this woman’s bony chest, the gaunt curve of her inner thighs, and the jutting cheekbones of her malnourished face, obvious signs of an eating disordered life. And within seconds, I was flooded with old memories.

You see, in my other life I was an eating disorder therapist. And no matter how many years pass and how far away I travel from those days inside the session room…


I will never forget this world.

When this woman began walking on the treadmill next to me, I immediately thought of an old patient of mine. A young twenty-something woman who looked like a twelve year old during her worst days of anorexia. Her weight had plummeted into the mid-seventies and during this frightening time, I remember her coming to our session room with a sense of utter outrage.

How dare this stranger. Someone had pulled over in their car while she was walking (high-speed walking I’m sure, although she denied this exercise at the time) and offered to pray for her. A stranger offering her prayers. Did it sound dramatic? Of course. At the time, she looked like an animated skeleton.

But of course, my patient didn’t get it. She didn’t understand because she was in the throes of her mind-bending addiction. While she walked around in her emaciated body she experienced this kind of concern to be gawking, and another’s worry, as intrusive and irritating; these were simply reactions that mirrored those of her parents.


Suddenly in this woman’s presence, these old details seemed fresh and current again.

But even though I felt an overwhelming urge to stop my treadmill, to turn and face this woman, I didn’t. Even though I wanted to ceremoniously lean over, hit the red “stop” button on her treadmill, look into her eyes and say these two words to her: “I know”…

I didn’t.

I wanted to tell her that I knew she was suffering. And that she deserved more. And I wanted to ask her, no-- to insist, “You are in treatment, right?”

Although truthfully, if she was in treatment, I was pretty sure her therapist and her physician didn’t know that at this very minute, she was wildly swinging her arms and sweating away her entire caloric intact of the day. Right here, on the treadmill.

But I didn’t say anything. I just felt incredibly frustrated.

And here’s the surreal thing. When my eyes scanned the sleek, mirrored walls, I saw no one else looking at this anorexic woman. I witnessed no curious, outraged or concerned onlookers. In fact, everyone had their eyes plastered on their own bodies, sculpting and sweating away as they moved one day closer to lean and mean.


What is your opinion? Do you think an employee from the gym had a moral or legal obligation to approach this anorexic woman? And if so, what should they say? Should they offer resources?

Or do you think I was simply overcome with that same helpless emotion all family and friends have when they’re on the sidelines with an eating disordered sufferer? Because it’s true. I wanted to DO something. Right then. Only the truth is, there are no magic words that will penetrate the mind of an anorexic and suddenly make them change.

But I also know this.

Remaining silent in the midst of craziness is never the answer.


Tell me what you think.


For more of my thoughts on the topic of eating disorders,

click: The One Topic You Should Discuss With Your Daughter (part one)

        The One Topic You Should Discuss With Your Daughter (part two)




Trishski said...

This is a powerful post Leslie. I'm sure if I saw this woman, I would feel very sad, and yes.. say a little prayer for her. I doubt if I would have said anything directly to her. I would have been too afraid of offending her, or embarrassing her. That being said, if everyone ignores it, will she ever get the help she needs? It makes my heart hurt to think of all the people in the world struggling with this disease.

On a lighter note, it was wonderful meeting you today at the Sacramento Blogger Meet and Greet. I'm anxious to learn more about you and your blog, and look forward to your posts.

TracyZLesh @ Then I Got To Thinking said...

Such an interesting and hard topic... but something that needs to be discussed more. The only reason I wouldn't say something is because I am not sure what to say. I know I would feel terrible, though. It's a very touchy subject!

It was truly wonderful meeting you today. I am so glad you came! I was thinking... you should do some posts sharing your insight on couples and how to keep relationships strong. I know you have lots of experience and i would be very interested in reading about it! You seem like a wonderful person and I am so glad we met!

Leanne said...

So very interesting to read Leslie. I dont think I could say something, but I would have thought that the gym would have a moral obligation to this woman. Thanks for writing this post.

Unknown said...

It was great to meet you yesterday. You're a truly gifted writer, Leslie. I know how you feel about writing about dark subjects, I feel the same when writing about dark days of infertility. It feels uncomfortable in the midst of all the blog happiness. But I'm glad you tackled this difficult issue.

I too would feel sad for the gym lady. But I wouldn't have said anything. Unfortunately just like drug addicts, nothing you can say will help them turn their life around until they are ready. I'm dealing with that with my drug addicted cousin and it's so hard.

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