Thursday 8 August 2013

Our message is about HOPE, but we can't ignore the fact that this is a deadly illness

It's a really hard stance to take: talking about hope with eating disorders and the fact that recovery IS possible. And I am always elated when I hear about another young person who has come through an eating disorder successfully. Yet we can never escape the fact that this is a deadly illness; indeed eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. And today I heard of another young individual who lost their fight. It's the kind of thing that has us all kicking furniture with anger at the way this insidious illness steals victims from a beautiful and promising young life - and from their loving, supportive families.

I never met Matt Ryd, a musician and eating disorder activist from Chicago. Indeed I hadn't even heard of Matt Ryd until I read about his passing via the Men Get Eating Disorders Too charity (based in Brighton, UK).

I clicked the link and saw a friendly-looking guy, kind of dishevelled, with glasses, the kind of guy that brings out the motherly instinct in us older women. The kind of guy you just know you're going to like. And, if I had a daughter, he looked like the kind of guy I wouldn't mind her bringing home.

I also clicked onto some of his music and liked what I heard. Very much so. Have a listen to this track which, if you download it, donates $1 to NEDA - the National Eating Disorder Association I guest-blogged for earlier this week (ironically on the subject of males with eating disorders).

Yet Matt Ryd was battling with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. On August 4th he lost his life to the illness. And my prayers and thoughts go out to his parents, family and friends - and everyone else that this kind of news affects.

Because, although we prefer to promote the message that recovery is possible and that there is hope, sometimes an eating disorder wins. And it makes those of us who continue the fight want to kick things and punch the wall with frustration and anger at the way this evil illness can be so very all-consuming and suffocating, especially when combined with co-morbid conditions as appeared to be the case with Matt.

The fact is that, although we strive to promote the message of hope, we can't ignore the fact that an eating disorder can kill. If it doesn't kill through starvation, then it can kill through complications like heart failure, or suicide.

We all hate this devastating illness which is why I, and hundreds of other eating disorder activists, continue fight for better and earlier diagnosis, better funding, better training, better treatment and better awareness of this most deadly of mental illnesses in order that less lives will be lost and more young people will go on to lead long, fulfilling and happy lives.

And if anyone is ever irritated at the way I keep posting up news, threads and links to information (like my books) on just about any eating disorder or health related social media tool I can find, there is only ever ONE REASON why I (and all the other eating disorder activists) do this.

To aim to win the fight against eating disorders so families like Matt's family do not have to go through the terrible experience that no family on this planet should ever have to go through:

Being torn apart by the loss of a promising, talented, much-loved and cherished son or daughter.

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