Found this article the other day through a Facebook page I follow, and found it really quite interesting. Interesting enough that it kept coming back to my mind, and I’ve read it a few times. It’s written by Dr. Stuart Kaplan, who spent 15 years working with young cancer patients, and now is working at an eating disorder clinic in the southern United States.
This doctor is comparing how while cancer patients and eating disorder patients have very obvious differences, there are also similarities.
Chemotherapy causes cells to stop dividing, both cancerous cells and healthy cells. Poor nutrition also causes cells to stop dividing, and causes eating disorder patients to share some of the same side effects, like hair loss.
He also compares the similarities in the circumstances surrounding a young person facing adolescence while batting a chronic illness.
Dr. Kaplan ends with this quote: “Psychiatric illnesses are no less severe and no less common than non-psychiatric illnesses. In fact, eating disorders are the most lethal of all psychiatric illnesses.”
This is the part that really resonated with me. Don’t get me wrong – I am not making light of people battling cancer – not at all! A dear friend of mine is walking this journey right now, and I would never pretend to understand that battle, nor would I minimize it.
No, what resonated with me was the stress that eating disorders are an illness. Anorexia nervosa is an illness – not a choice. I know this, but sometimes I need to be reminded. As I argue with Katie about how many carbs she’s had with her dinner, I need to be reminded that she’s sick. She is not choosing this – who would ever choose this? Who on earth would ever choose this battle that she is fighting every single day?
But yet I forget. I forget all the time and get so frustrated. “Just eat it already!!” comes out of my mouth more often than it should. After all, how hard is it? Open your mouth, put the food in and get better.
But it is hard – so very, very hard. Why? Because she’s sick.
When I’m so angry and so frustrated and so very, very scared and just want to completely lose my temper at her for doing this – I need to remember that she’s sick.
People ask me why, why did she start on this journey, how did this happen?
I don’t know. Does it matter? All I know is that now she’s sick, and she needs some help to get better.