Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Everybody Knows Somebody

Some time ago, NEDA sent out an email blast to members encouraging them to pledge that they would do something in honor of Eating Disorder Week, which is next week.  Some people are sponsoring NEDA Walks, some are working booths, I agreed to dedicate a blog post.  Well, as it happens I'll be presenting a three-day training session for my work, so you get my efforts a little early.  But, the theme of their conference this year is "Everybody Knows Somebody", so I thought I would stay in that wheelhouse.  Because I could speak to that even if neither of my daughters had ever had anything remotely revolving around an eating disorder, which means that I would have never met a lot of the people who are now very integral to my life.  But, as it happens, I still would have been able to tell you about this guy I went to high school with.  We worked on the yearbook together.  He was outgoing, friendly and in with everybody:  the popular kids and the geeks like me.  He moved in and out of all groups with ease.  I remember him as always upbeat.  I never knew there were storm clouds in there somewhere.  I heard from him a few years after we graduated.  He had suffered from anorexia for the first few years following high school, but was in recovery, had come out of the closet, and seemed both more secure in who he was, but sort of amazed and relieved that he was alive.  Or at least that is how I remember it all these years later.  I do remember being happy for him, but a little surprised.  I didn't know men ever had eating disorders.  I wasn't alone in that fallacy.  They definitely do.  Straight, gay, black, white.  It doesn't matter.  Men in increasing numbers are falling victim to the disease.  You hear less about it because there is still the shroud of shame around it that is taking some real efforts to break through.  Later I would find out that he succumbed to AIDS.  It seemed that Death just had him marked, which to this day makes me sad.  He was a really great guy. The world needs more all around great guys.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that I do know a number of somebodys who have struggled with an eating disorder.  Some still do.  Some have survived it.  Some will survive it.  Some may not.  And some did not.  I was the mother of two daughters.  Now I am the mother of one.  I know this all too well.  And forever after probably my eye will be trained to look at all individuals I meet a little differently.  Kelsey was like that.  She made me crazy actually.  She would look at someone and immediately make an assessment on whether they had disordered eating or not and would sometimes flat out judge them as having a full-on disorder.  She was just judging people she knew very little about much of the time based on her own warped perceptions, but she hit the nail on the head more often than was comfortable.  There were a lot of individuals we knew who restricted their eating in regimented, ritualized ways much like I saw Kelsey do and had learned was typical for ED patients.  I never thought much about it before Kelsey would point it out, but then you couldn't help but observe the people she had labeled a little differently and listen to them talk about their food.  Which they did a lot.  Like an obsession.  And you would think, suddenly, that this is not normal.

What have we done as a society?  There is such a premium on appearance that we obsess over what we eat and then spend all our time thinking about it, posting about it on Facebook and talking about it, in full earshot of our impressionable sons and daughters.

Wouldn't it be something if we could be judged on something other than how chic we are?  Like if we volunteer for Big Brothers, Big Sisters maybe, or even at an animal shelter.  Wouldn't it be freeing not to have to worry about how attractive we were outside, but rather how beautiful we are inside?  But, that's not the way we are as a society.  I count myself in that grouping by the way.  I got really excited when I saw Donnie Wahlberg's Twitter profile picture.  The fact that he actually Tweets some profound stuff (for 140 characters) had very little to do with me following him.

So, yeah, we do all know somebody.  Maybe we are the somebody.  My challenge to all of us:  work on the inside more, not the outside as much.  Be healthy, sure, but do whatever you do for that reason, not because you want the guy in the next cubicle to notice you.  If the only reason he notices you is because you ate nothing but celery for a week and squeezed into that tight skirt, then he's not worth the effort anyway.

Life is so short.  Live it fulfilled, not less than full.


  1. This is an important read. Thanks for writing it. I'm going to link to it on Twitter.

    I'm not sure how interested you are in growing your reader list, but it could help if you added a share button on here. That way your readers could share your posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Your a great writer and you have important and insightful information on here that people should read. Hope I'm not overstepping my bounds by suggesting that...just trying to help.

    1. Thanks Kim. I'll take all the suggestions you have, you are much more apt about this stuff than me. I value your opinion a lot.