Warning: This post contains sensitive material pertaining to eating disorders and suicide.
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
I went back and forth about writing this post. I couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning all night, debating whether or not to address such a heavy topic. But, as the top Eating Disorder Recovery Blog on the web, I felt it grossly negligent and acutely irresponsible to let the following tragic news pass without addressing it, on this blog — a resource for so many who are struggling themselves, or are the loved ones, deeply concerned for their child, friend or sibling, caught in the throes of an eating disorder.
Please know, that by sharing this post tonight, it is my deepest prayer that it does not come across as exploitative, but rather, as a means to raise awareness of the severity and seriousness of eating disorders, how to recognize the warning signs, and hopefully, something positive can come from such devastation.
On Christmas morning, I awoke to numerous notifications on my Instagram account. Which is not unusual. However, these notifications were different. They were concerned, frightened, heartbroken and deeply sad messages from followers, sharing with me a particular post, where I discovered the crushing news that a member of the eating disorder recovery community had taken her life the day before – and posted about it online.
She had recently been to treatment for an eating disorder, but had grown exhausted from the constant battle of recovery, day in and day out. And in an Instagram post that she had scheduled to “go live” posthumously (on the day after she ended her life), she published a note, explaining why she took her life, and that she is “no longer in pain.”
Reading that note, and seeing the photo of this now-deceased young woman, it was as though I couldn’t breathe. Such a heartbreaking, tragic and truly shattering ending to this young woman’s life. A young woman who was a daughter, a friend, a loved one, a school mate, a colleague, a child of God. A young woman who had so much ahead of her. She had begun the arduous journey of reclaiming of her life in recovery, and had so much to offer the world. She was a beautiful singer, was interning at a theater in New York City, and was only 24 years old. My heart is completely torn in two for this young woman, her grieving family, and crushed friends. May she rest in eternal peace, and may she find comfort and solace in Jesus’ arms.
Why am I sharing this? Why, instead of writing about cheeky New Year’s Resolutions or Bidding Good Riddance to 2020, have I chosen to talk about such a sobering and gut wrenching topic? It’s still the Christmas season. Surely I could find a more ~uplifting~ matter to discuss.
Why? Because this matters.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses – with suicide being a common cause of death, even though, by definition, the act of starving oneself, is in fact, an inadvertent act of suicide itself. Of deaths from anorexia, 20% had been from suicide; and for those deaths from bulimia, 23% had been by suicide.
Eating disorders are a devastating, serious mental illness, that are sadly, grossly misunderstood.
Seen as a “diet gone wrong,” or a “rich white girl syndrome,” they are so often downplayed or seen as frivolous, when the actuality is that this young woman or young man is tremendously suffering. Eating disorders are a battle for control of the mind: with the eating disorder incessantly berating the sufferer with thoughts of unworthiness and self degradation. It takes every ounce of courage and strength to constantly deflect those negative “ED” thoughts and challenge their validity, when it has beaten you into submission to believe that those lies are true.
Exhaustive. Emotionally depleting. And incredibly isolating, as you’re fighting this all out war, and all anybody will say to you is, “just eat something.”
An exhaustive battle, that sadly, this young woman chose not to fight anymore.
First: to anyone who may be struggling right now, please know that you are not alone. You are never, ever alone. This suicide prevention hotline is available 24/7: 800-273-8255. And there is always hope. Even when it seems the most dark and solitary, there is always a faint, speck of hope. And there is always another option: one that does not lead to the cold, finality of death.
But there was something that this young woman wrote in her posthumous note: that by ending her life, she was “no longer in pain.”
Oh the sadness this statement brings. To think of the place this young woman must have been in to think that death was the best solution to her pain. And though I cannot pretend to know what this young woman was going though, I can only offer my deepest sympathies, and promise of Jesus’ healing and comforting hand.
Because that is the hope. That is the faint speck of light that pierces the darkness, when all seems lost and desolate. His love, His forgiveness. His mercy that washes over His children. His heart that loves us enough to die for. His love that covers our wounds, and His arms that reach out to us when no one else will. He sees us. He knows us. He knows our hurts. He knows the deep wounds that plague our every thought and keep us up at night. He wants to take them away, all we have to do is give them to Him to heal and make new.
That is what I pray for anyone who may be reading this, and who is struggling.
Though I didn’t struggle with suicidal thoughts, I did have to surrender my eating disorder over to Jesus. I had to give it to Him. I was exhausted. I was terrified. I felt alone, misunderstood, dirty, unworthy, shameful. I was plagued with so much darkness, truly. I was overtaken by it. Until one day, I decided to go towards that faint speck of His light, that was piercing my dark.
And as soon as I did, He broke through, in a radiant, light explosion — casting out all of the dark, overcoming me with His warmth and love, and walking with me every step of the frightful and arduous journey of recovery.
I was only alone because I chose to believe I was. But the fact is, He was always right there, carrying me through.
Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and deception. But there are warning signs to look for, aside from weight loss: skipping meals; a sudden preoccupation with dieting, outward appearance, calories, clean eating etc.; over exercising; being constantly cold; growth of fine body hair on the face particularly; disinterest in typical hobbies or activities; wearing baggy clothes; isolation; withdrawing from social interaction; loss of mensuration; lethargy; an increase in sleep; eating in secret; hoarding food. These are just a few.
The most important thing you can do for a loved one is get them professional help.
You can’t love her out of it. You can’t force her to eat, nor should you put yourself in the position of “food police” or “meal plan enforcer.” She needs medically trained, specialized supervision: doctors, therapists, a dietician: medical professionals who can handle the perilous ups and downs of the throes of an eating disorder.
In closing, I just want to offer you this one final piece of hope. I am sitting here today as a healthy, healed, and thriving young woman, free of my eating disorder, in my 13th year of recovery from an incredibly severe case of anorexia.
At 78 pounds, the nurses at my inpatient treatment would tell you, it’s a miracle that I survived. And they’d be right.
Jesus rescued me, and I owe my life to Him. He is the way out. He is the hope. He is with us, always.
Thank you for reading. And to this young woman, may you rest in eternal Peace, knowing that you are loved.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
A big thank you to my foundational sponsor, BetterHelp Online Therapy. I cannot begin to express how beneficial therapy was for my recovery from anorexia. Speak with an online therapist. Or check out content about eating disorders from BetterHelp.
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