It is time for a longitudinal look at anorexia from the lens of our current knowledge, and June Alexander has done it. To create such a tour, she had to live it - and then reflect on it from a place of both recovery and new science.
I am cheering for June. Her book, which I finished last night, brought me through time and two continents. Through anorexia and bulimia as they went from unseen, to misunderstood, and then overcome. What is most amazing to me is June's ability to re-frame the past with such compassion - when her illness showed her none and often the world around her was unable to show her anything but confusion.
There are heroes here. June herself, first and foremost, but she suffers from neither hubris nor pedantry. She is a hero for being able to take decades of distress and refuse to punish others for their failings - or herself. She celebrates other heroes: her first husband and her four dear children shine through as real, tender, and steadfast. She gives credit to her clinicians, each adding something to her toolkit, each shedding needed light and patience along the way.
Yet the most heartbreakingly beautiful thing about June's story, as she guides us through it, is that while she tells the truth about how members of her family of origin let her down she also gives it context by the lesson she takes from it all. Instead of condemning families, avenging her loss of support and caring, her message is that parents need help to understand and act. She wishes her family had the opportunity of Family-Based Treatment and retains optimism that even families like hers could have been helped by the early and skilled intervention of the Maudsley approach. That is a compassion that staggers me. Where many would use that birds-eye view to choose villains, June chooses to prevent others suffering the same cruel losses.
I am deeply moved by this, more than anything. I have had the pleasure of spending time with June and appreciate her and her work so very much, but only by travelling with her from early childhood to the present - even brief moments where I was present - do I truly understand the depth of her compassion and optimism. And courage.
"Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace." Amelia Earhart