21 December 2010

To Anonymous (Eating disorders are real illnesses)

To @Anonymous,
I accept your apology because apparently something is going on with you. But you need to know just one thing. I also have a life threatening illness — it's called anorexia nervosa. My doctor has spent years trying to get me to take this illness seriously and to realize it can kill me. You see, for years I didn't really think it was a big deal. I was just thin, so what? I truly believed nothing was wrong with me.

Now I am finally listening to him, and I hope it is not too late. The sore spot you hit is the fact I was told Friday that my body is not handling this very well and that I am at risk for a stroke at 45, in addition to ongoing liver and kidney problems. It also tends to make me cranky to blackout and hit my head against the wall and the nightstand, and then deal with a headache and overall soreness for days.

What I think you — and you are not alone — don't realize is that this is not always a choice. Yes, I do believe we choose recovery. But sometimes — at least for me — my mind knows that recovery is a logical and rational choice, but for some reason it won't allow me to do what I know I need to. That is to eat and eat and eat ... The fear and anxiety of food takes over the fear and anxiety of possible permanent damage. It is like a war within my brain and believe me, I wish it would stop.

I write this blog for several reasons. One reason is to bring some sort of understanding to the outside world of what it is like to have anorexia. It is not fun. It is not glamorous in spite of what the media would have you believe. And it is not a choice, although pro-anorexia sites say otherwise. Why would I chose to live this way? Why would anyone chose to live this way? It is destroying my life and apparently my body. I have so many dreams. I want to finish my master's degree and use my talents to help people in someway. I want to live a full life with my husband, and travel to places like Ireland and Alaska. I want to read and write and know joy again.

I want to be normal. I once was normal, you know. That's what started this whole thing, when I started remembering life before anorexia and my writing was a mixture of nostalgia and sadness.

Again I will stress that those of us with eating disorders also have life threatening diseases. Eating disorders are misunderstood by the vast majority of the population. But eating disorders are illnesses and can be fatal. Many, many people have died of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Many are dying of these diseases right now. And yet the world blames us. The world would not if we had cancer or ALS or MS or another disease.

That is the sore spot you touched. People who are struggling and trying to recover from their eating disorders. Some people with eating disorders are praying that this time treatment will work and they will be free of this imprisonment of the mind. Others are praying they can recover without treatment because yet again their insurance refuses to pay. Finally, some feel as if they will never recover. All of them are hurting, and your words hurt them further. But I do understand you are hurting, too.

I will ask again — who would chose to have an eating disorder? Who would chose years of fighting and struggling with illogical illnesses that take so many lives and ruin so many others? Who would chose to enter eating disorder prison? Because that's what it feels like at times. A prison, and there is no get out of jail free card available.

Some people might wonder why I have spent so much time addressing your comments. I am hoping that God will open your heart and allow compassion and understanding for people with eating disorders enter. Perhaps I am a fool or a dreamer, but I believe maybe this is time well-spent if it changes the thinking of one person toward eating disorders and those who suffer from them. I can always hope.


sarahlynn said...

I've got a lot to say on this topic, so I posted it on my blog - but I wanted to post some HUGS for you. I am SO FREAKING PROUD of you for all you've said here.

Sensory Overload said...

Thank you for all the energy and effort you have put forth not just towards this individual, but to sharing everything you have about your journey.

I feel your strength and it truly is inspiring.

Thank you Angela for advocating with such grace.

Lisa said...

AS the others have said- I think what you have written is so true, courageous and amazing.

stay strong, hang in there, we'll all get there someday

Marie Shedsky said...

Beautiful. So true! I just had this conversation with my team the other day. If we could harness our determinitation to work for our benefit all the time we'd be set! But there is a constant battle between our disease and what is rational. Keep fighting Angela!

Zena said...


you are better then I, your forgiving spirit, runs deep! and Dear anonymous, I would never come and chop off someones bosom...hmmmm is that spelled right??? I was angry to, but for your information, I have never mamed anyone, and plan on keeping it that way...there is no need to stay "Anonymous" This is the internet, no one would waste thier time, trying to find you in RT, Im sorry you are sick, but your anger is so, so dangerous, perhaps dangerous to you, in fighting your own illness, when you are angry your body gives off toxins, maybe you should try to spend your time not being so angry, maybe you would feel just a tad bit better.

Again Angela, you never cease to amaze me...ps thanks for sticking up for me, I write but beleieve me I am terriable speller and take no offense to being told so, I know its okay...and angela you are so brave to keep fighting, you will make it, I know it, keep going my brave, strong girl.

Love, Tara

Harriet said...

This is why I keep my eating disorder a secret from friends and family. When I was critically underweight with anorexia, everyone knew about it, because it was obvious. I'm now at a healthy weight, but struggling with bulimia. Bulimia is not visible in the way that anorexia is, unless you know the signs. The people in my life believe that I have recovered, and I let them go on believing that, because I don't want to make them upset or frightened. I wish I could make it all go away, and become the daughter/sibling/friend/colleague everybody thinks I am, as opposed to the woman who spends her nights obsessively exercising and clawing the food out from her insides. If you could just 'choose' to get better, you would. I've never met a single person who wants to endure this. The physical and mental symptoms are bad enough without the guilt that other people heap on you, the guilt that makes you feel selfish and worthless and even less deserving of food than before.

'Anonymous' said that she used to suffer from anorexia. Perhaps she has forgotten what it is like to feel so ashamed and guilty and selfish and worthless that you don't deserve food, not one bite. All those feelings bubbled up to the surface in me when I read those comments. I am going to struggle to eat sensibly tonight. She obviously has problems of her own that made her speak cruelly, and I'm sorry for those problems, but she should think back to her own experiences with anorexia and ask herself whether the person she was back then would have been helped and encouraged by such cruelty...or whether it would have made her worse.

The eating disorder is not my only health condition. I have two physical/neurological disabilities as well. Of the three, the ED is by far the hardest to deal with, precisely because I feel guilty for having it. I don't feel guilty for having cerebral palsy. I don't feel guilty for having Asperger's Syndrome. I feel guilty for the ED, and comments like those made by 'Anonymous' certainly don't help.

I Hate to Weight said...

this post has been on my mind. i wonder how you are today. i wonder how things are with David and you.

i hope you are getting excellent care and the very best treatment.

this is a disease from which you can recover. it is not advanced stage 4 cancer or a life-time of type 1 diabetes, in that way. yes, it can be deadly, but it does not have to be. i know from experience

take such good care.

Pen said...

I think perhaps anonymous does "get it" since she stated she once had anorexia. When you asked me about recovery it got me thinking. Just because I lived a number of years at a normal weight doesn't mean I was recovered. I thought I was, but I think I've been ill with one addiction after another my whole life! I may not be happy to live this way but I don't feel unhappy! I guess for now I am content. That doesn't mean I have quit recovery. I go to therapy and see a dietitian every 2 weeks so I must want recovery deep down. What I do know is this is damaging my body and that's what keeps me going back. Have you tried residential treatment?

Anonymous said...

Hi Angela,
You still seem to be misunderstanding what I was trying to say (in between the nasty stuff that I honestly and deeply regret). I do (italicize) understand that anorexia is not a choice. I even said so in my last post.
What I think I have (italicize) underestimated is the mental block to picking up the fork, swallowing the Ensure and leaving the food in your poor deprived body.
Please believe me when I say that I do have compassion for people with EDs, and I do understand a lot of it; but I don't understand how someone who has the willpower to starve themselves cannot turn that tremendous willpower around to help in recovery.
I have described to others that just as someone who is an arachnaphobe cannot pick up a spider, neither can someone with anorexia consume a high calorie meal - the level of anxiety and terror is the same. I know that.
Angela, I am so sorry that you are hurting and if I could take back everything that I said that has hurt you then I would.
I lost my temper because - well lots of reasons. Some of it becaue I m so frustrated myself with my illness and the very many restrictions that it places on me. I live a half life - that feels like just surviving, and I have many of the same symptoms as you - along with multiple surgeries and medication and the threat of sudden death which I know you also share. It is horrible isn't it?
I should never, never have taken it out on someone else who is suffering albeit for different reasons.
I genuinely care and I guess that is partly why I went off so harshly. TBH it feels like watching a close friend or sister killing themselves slowly and I could and do weep over the cruelty of these horrible diseases.
I am sorry that I hurt you as badly as those who say to me 'Cheer up - it can't be that bad!'. Yes, it can and it is, as you and I both know.
Thank you for your prayers. I'm not sure that my own are anywhere near as helpful.
God Bless

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to say that my apology extends to all of the other people who read those awful posts.
I hate myself, am full of rage and want to die but can't because I have a family and responsibilities. I took all that rage and hatred and threw at you and those who read your blog.
If you beleive in karma then I am experiencing it. I don't want to live in hell - but it sometimes seems that we're trapped.
I am so sorry.
I cannot sign in because I am ashamed and afraid - pathetic isn't it?

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

@ Anonymous

Please don't feel ashamed. We all make mistakes and say hurtful things. If you want to talk further privately, e-mail me at angelaelackey@gmail.com

Hang in there!

Zena said...


I forgive you. haveing hatered for yourself and wanting to die are 2 things that people with eating disorders know all to well, Im sorry you are sick, Im sorry you are in pain, Im sorry you are suffering, I too will pray for you as that is what God would want, there is no such thing as Karma, its just the hand you were dealt, I have not deserved what has happened to me ( Im told that and am trying to beleieve it) we all must press foward because well...its all we can do...

Angela, you are full of Grace

Love, Tara

sarahlynn said...

*hugs Anonymous*

bananas said...

You sure get some meanies posting on your blog. Keep fighting!

bananas said...

Aww, I no longer thing 'anonymous' is a meanie...

T said...

Anonymous said "I don't understand how someone who has the willpower to starve themselves cannot turn that tremendous willpower around to help in recovery."

Well, that's just the hardest part about Eds, isn't it? The fact that we can be sick unto death and still not understand or be willing to admit that we are in danger.

I personally believe that Eds are biological, brain disorders and most of the more recent research I've seen backs me up. That is not to say that they are solely biological disoders, but when someone is in the depths of the disorder, regardless of how they got there, they are living in a state of chronic malnutrition. The Ed thoughts are a result of our malnourished brains.

Whatever triggers the malnutrition, the state we end up in is one where we are often unable to help ourselves. I think that, instead of lashing out at others or blaming ourselves for being sick, we need to focus on what is broken in the way Eds are treated. Why is there such a high rate of relapse? Why do so many die when they don't have to? We can't change the fact that we got Eds or keep others from getting them but we can maybe use our experiences to help out.

That sounds a little sappy now I'm reflecting on it, but that's what all of this makes me think of.