My blog posts have elicited a response that I wasn’t prepared for. It seems that some anorexics don’t like my blog too much, and they let me know this in no uncertain terms. I wouldn’t really call it “hate mail”, but some of the messages were pretty harsh. I can venture a few guesses as to why. First and foremost, anorexics embrace their illness with great pride. I am disparaging a part of them that they are proud of. Point accepted, as long as we all agree that this pride is a manifestation of the illness. In addition, part of the illness is that each anorexic feels that her anorexia is unique and special. Even though she knows cognitively that there are other anorexics out there, she somehow believes that she alone is the “true anorexic”, without parallel or peers. When I write about the symptoms and manifestations of anorexia, and when I point out common anorexic behaviors, it seems to an anorexic reading my blog that I am somehow taking something away from her. I understand that. On the one hand, it is not at all my intention to hurt anyone, much less a person who already suffers so much. But on the other hand, I have committed myself to fighting anorexia at large through sharing my personal experiences and helping others. Since the anorexia is so intertwined with its “host” in some cases, it is impossible to denigrate the illness without hurting an anorexic’s feelings. This only goes to show how bizarre and twisted anorexia is. Can you imagine a cancer patient being proud of the cancer inside of her, choosing to embrace it and hold onto it at all costs, and being jealous of others whose cancer is more pervasive or advanced? This is one of the many disturbing and irrational behavioral aspects of anorexia, an eating disorder that goes way beyond a person’s weight and body image.
The common theme in some of the mails is that I am too negative and that I do not believe strongly enough in the brightness of my daughter’s future.
Being the parent of a daughter with chronic anorexia is like walking a tight rope 24/7. You have to keep your balance; otherwise you will take a plunge without knowing whether or not there is a safety net, and you may take other people down with you. I live each day balancing hope and reality. I believe with all of my heart that my daughter’s recovery is possible, and that she has endless potential for a bright and happy future *if*, and only if, she is willing to push the anorexia aside and let something or someone else in to take its place. I live in constant hope that the day will come when she will be willing and able to replace the anorexia, at least in part, with something positive and life affirming. However, that hope has to be balanced by a dose of realism. Ignoring what is in front of you today in hopes for a better tomorrow doesn’t work for me. I need to accept what is in front of me today and try to make the most of it, even if it is far from ideal. That is way different than giving up hope; it’s my way of holding onto hope while riding out the storm, and not losing out on the quality and joy of life right now while waiting for the storm clouds to pass. I try very hard to project positive messages to my daughter and to let her know that I believe in her future, but I can’t be oblivious to the present.
One of the most valuable things that I learned on this rocky journey is to separate my daughter from her illness. I can deeply love my daughter while hating the illness inside of her. I can fully accept my daughter for the wonderful person that she is while rejecting her anorexia. I can still engage in a warm relationship with my daughter while refusing to engage in a relationship with her anorexia. I can fully appreciate my daughter’s multitude of positive qualities and attributes while despising her anorexia, even though the anorexia is part and parcel of my daughter for now. While I am on that tightrope balancing hope and reality, I am also balancing acceptance and rejection. But never, ever, do I reject my daughter. She is an innocent victim too.
I am grateful that people are taking the time reach out to me in response to my blogs. All messages are truly appreciated, even the negative ones. As I have expressed in the past, I think that it is so important to get things out in the open and promote dialogue about eating disorders. If the cost of raising awareness about the dangers of anorexia is a few negative mails here and there, I will gladly pay the price.