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"my personal experiences diminished and trivialized"

Posted Oct 10 2008 1:09pm
Of course, it is unfair to expect people who read this blog to be a fair sample - presumably you read here because you like it - but I'm interested to hear reader thoughts on Rachel's response to my blog post yesterday.

Do you find me insensitive? Diminishing? Trivializing?

And if not, why does it seem that way?

Rachel said...
... I really wish you would be more sensitive in this regard, Laura. I realize and understand your position that anorexia is entirely a brain disease, and I concede that that may be true for many people. However, there are people like me for whom our disorders are, in part, a product of emotional instability and therefore are "not really about food."

It really hurts me as a survivor of anorexia and bulimia turned educator and activist to constantly see my personal experiences diminished and trivialized and that is one of the prime reasons I don't read your blog more.

Eating disorders are all about the black/white thinking. Surely, there should also exist shades of gray in the ways we go about combating eating disorders.

Laura Collins said...

I apologize.

I'm surprised and sad you took my post that way. And I think you may have not understood what I was saying - or I inadequately expressed it - because I don't disagree with what you've said.

My point was to say that people are confused about the BED connection because they (incorrectly)think BED *IS* just about food but (incorrectly) think AN and BN are not. Both are wrong.

As you know I believe eating disorders are a brain disorder - brought about by both biological and environmental factors. If you aren't born with the genes for an ED you are not going to develop one. If you are born with those predisposing traits/genes but don't experience those environmental triggers (dieting, overexercise, illness, extreme stress, hormonal problems...etc.) you may never experience one.

My position is that without addressing the food part, the brain can't recover enough to do the thinking part. But I've never believed or said it was "ONLY about the food."

I don't think my daughter, also a survivor, or other survivors I know, think I diminish or trivialize her illness or anyone else's.

Being a brain disorder doesn't minimize the importance of environment or of the WORK of recovery, to my mind - it actually EMPHASIZES the importance of how society and loved ones respond to the person. (Otherwise I'd just be arguing for lifetime feeding tubes.) That's what all my work is about: changing the environment around the patient - beginning with but not exclusively the medical restoration. Getting rid of the blame and the anger and the shame and the wrong answers to the wrong questions. And if there are problems (and most of us have them) fixing them!

I may lean one way in my emphasis, but I'm not black/white in my understanding or my record on this.

I'm also a foster parent, and used to work at a rape/crisis center - I'm not naive or discounting the incidence or significance of bad parents and bad people. I'm simply a believer in getting people help for THEIR lives and unique circumstances - whatever those are. An eating disorder isn't a sign of bad things in that life - and a horrible life doesn't only deserve help when the person develops a mental illness.

I wonder if my emphasis seems black and white to you because that is YOUR frame on me. Because I know it isn't mine of yours. I don't find your work and mine as mutually exclusive, or in conflict - and I'm not sure why you do.

As for hurt, Rachel. Please keep in mind how much it hurts to have my experience as a parent and those of the vast majority of parents of eating disorder patients be treated in the media and in eating disorder literature and in therapist's offices as automatically worthy of blame, shame, and guilt. And that hurt makes helping our loved ones that much harder. That is why I do the work I do.

I apologize for hurting you. I really do. I respect you, and your work.
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