Shocked, SHOCKED

I'm not sure if the word "shock" applies here:
  • Professor Pope weighed 30kg (66 pounds) at 4'10" (BMI: 13.8)
  • Suffered from an eating disorder since her teens
  • Did not eat anything but fruit and diet sweets in public
  • Was socially withdrawn
  • Lost 10kg (22 pounds), or 13% of her total weight in the past year
  • Hoarded food and food magazines, brought her own food to people's houses, and cooked feasts for others and left the room as they ate.
That's not shocking. That is anorexia nervosa. What is shocking is that in 2008 we would call it "self-neglect"

It should be shocking that the SYMPTOMS of mental illness (an emaciated person being "incredibly energetic, enthusiastic and capable" "irrepressible and determined" "understanding, generous and loving sister and affectionate") are used as laudatory or mitigating facts.

It is tragic that loved ones are led to believe (by society and even clinicians) that the risk of damaging the relationship is greater than the risk of this crushing illness.

I don't blame the family or the colleagues. I blame us. Society. We think that patients must understand and choose recovery in order for us to do the one thing we all CAN do: STOP ACTING NORMAL.

Stop eating the food they make us and don't eat. Stop walking on eggshells. Stop praising symptoms like energy and selflessness and focus on work. Stop accepting the labor of an ill person who is unable to care for herself. Stop pitying and being angry or hurt. Stop acting normal until they are. It is the least we can do.


  1. Also shocking that the coroner would call it her "failure" to provide herself with care. It was not a failure on her part, but an inability. That's why she needed the help of those around her.

  2. but what are we supposed to do when the therapist's advice discourages any mention of the ED, or food, and to leave that up to the counseling nutritionist?

  3. I don't think families shouldn't be allowed to mention EDs, food, concern, etc, I think they just need to be taught what kinds of comments are and are not helpful. I do agree that I hate how people are praised for everything that comes with AN

  4. I've seen it happen: the nutritionist assumes the therapist is responsible for coaching the caregivers on how to refeed. The therapist, on the other hand, assumes the nutritionist is doing it. Meanwhile, neither one is, and the sufferer continues to starve. Dysfunctional.

  5. Who is professor Pope?

  6. Ok, never mind, I clicked on your link and now I see it. Sorry.

  7. anonymous - if you research further you'll find that Professor Pope was a professor of nursing and psychology. Somehow for me that makes it even sadder - that someone in charge of training the healers should be so sick herself.

  8. My mother-in-law probably has Alzheimer's disease. I say "probably" because she and my father-in-law have resisted seeking professional help and a diagnosis. My mother-in-law clearly is ill but her husband and children fear her anger if they take her to a doctor. I very much sympathize with the family members of adults who refuse to seek treatment on their own.

  9. "that someone in charge of training the healers should be so sick herself."

    That's like the blind leading the blind. It's tragic that she had daily contact with sooooooo many people and not ONE person even stepped up to help her. It's one thing if they were oblivious but the KNEW something was wrong and they did nothing.

  10. What I'd like to know is this: is there nothing anyone could have done to make her go to a Dr.? I know if someone is suicidal they can be committed, but isn't there a way someone who so clearly isn't doing well can also be made to get treatment? I guess viewing as self-neglect avoids that totally. A suicidal person is not thinking rationally, but I guess they don't believe that about someone with anorexia.

  11. "I know if someone is suicidal they can be committed" - actually "sectioning" as being committed is called in the UK is VERY difficult to achieve Places in psychiatric hospitals are few and far between and the emphasis of most psychiatric teams is on keeping people out (whether this is because they genuinely believe in the outpatient care they can deliver or because it's cheaper for the NHS is an argument I won't get into here).

    What the AN did to this poor woman was to drive her body into a terrible, preventable, slow suicide, but it wouldn't let her acknowledge that that was what was happening and at least on the surface she probably always acted as if she was just fine with her life and certainly never asked for help. In such circumstances it would have been very difficult for her brothers and impossible for her colleagues to force her to seek treatment. Legally the only person who probably could have had SOME power would have been her mother (I presume from what I have read her father had passed away) and that poor lady was in a nursing home herself. Sad, sad, sad

  12. Maybe some parents here with a differing perspective would like to respond via 'letters' to some of the misconceptions as we see it about this illness and how it should be treated.


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