Over the course of the past few years, I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most influential people in the mental health/eating disorder industry. Research scientists whose brilliance and insight into the biological and genetic aspects of this disease awe and overwhelm me. Leaders of global organizations whose heart and compassion bring light and faith into the lives of everyone they meet.
Doctors whom I admire because they have started mighty networks of treatment centers, which if successful in the long term will save countless thousands of lives.
Parent advocates whose passion and drive to help others provide a safe refuge for parents overcome by fear because their loved ones are in the deadly grip of this disease. Counselors and therapists on the front lines, fighting this disease every day.
Becoming learned about the growing national issues of private equity ownership, insurance guidelines being challenged in courtrooms, mental health parity debates, controversial research studies in far distant corners of the earth and the reality that eating disorders are “big business,” but are not being treated as such.
As a result, sometimes we may not recognize when an opportunity arises to meet one of the “Points of Light” for whom we are fighting. When we find ourselves caught up in the immensity of the struggle, it may take just one, solitary young woman caught up in the horrible grip of this deadly disease to bring home the reality of what this is all about. Our soul has a way of reminding us why we have no choice. That we must continue the fight. And in the most unlikely of ways, we may encounter a young woman who epitomizes the heartfulness … and the heartache of this insidious disease. And we are emboldened anew.
Recently, I had the privilege of playing a very small role in helping a young woman get admitted into a treatment center for much needed, life-saving therapy. Fortunately, the medical director of this facility is a strong, powerful presence and has a dedicated, experienced staff. Within an hour after I contacted this doctor, her staff had set up an appointment and the process began.
I drafted a Medical Power of Attorney, which in Texas unfortunately, is easily revoked. Nonetheless, I met the mother and young woman. And my first impression was that the Demon had this young woman fully under its power. I saw such pain, such fear. And I feared that we were too late.
Then, on the next business day, after her evaluation and check in, I received the very good news that this young woman had been accepted into the program and would be getting the help she so desperately needed. And I prayed that we were not too late.
A few days went by and I went to see the young woman. She was on a feeding tube, but looked like she had more life within her. We played banana grams, laughed, and she asked me a bit more about Morgan. At the end of visiting hours, she walked up to me, gave me an emotion-filled hug and thanked me. There was no way for her to understand at that time, that I should be the one thanking her.
I visited her the next week. This time, I brought her a tiger lily in a pot. She was allowed to see it but of course, it could not be brought back on to the floor. By this time, she was off the feeding tube and she had even more energy. “Back in the day” we would call it that she had more bounce in her step.
We walked into the visitor’s room where she guided us to a corner of the room and proceeded to sit down on the floor. With a smile on my face, I plopped down on the floor directly across from her and we started a game of double solitaire. The cards were flying, we were laughing, talking about anything and everything … except topics like “how she was doing,” or “what happens next for her treatment.” One of the many lessons my daughter taught me about this disease was that she was “so tired of being treated like a patient, the little sick girl. She wanted to be treated like a person.” We made good natured fun of the medical director and life in general. Then as time went by, I began to notice the two other parent groups in the room with their children, occasionally looking over at us and I could see what appeared to be puzzlement on their faces.
We spoke of her dogs, what her tattoos meant, why she likes the state in which she lives, we spoke of flowers and the hour flew by. As we were walking out, again, I got a huge smile from her, this heartfelt hug and thanks from her again. This time, I could not let the opportunity pass. So, I looked her in the eyes and told her that I needed to thank her. She looked puzzled. But, I briefly explained that she had given me the chance to see hope again, to see life again, and is there any bigger present than that? One day, I hope she comes to fully understand what that present truly means.
On the elevator on the way down to the lobby, one of the moms visiting her daughter told me she could see how incredibly close I was with my daughter. I smiled at her and told her, yes we were. But, this young lady was not my daughter. I explained to her that this young lady was someone who was brought into my life for a specific reason at just the right time.
We spoke for about 30 minutes about her daughter, who Morgan was, some of the work I have done, the eating disorder industry in general and asked her to never give up. As long as her daughter draws breath, there is hope. She contacted me the next day via email and I sent some material to her. I urged her to stay actively involved in her daughter’s recovery no matter how difficult the fight becomes.
Whenever I think of that night, of being able to just sit on the floor, I wonder how it is that certain people are brought into our lives at just the right time. I see her smiling face and remember sensing a positive hope beginning to re-enter her life. The heart felt emotional hugs.
The task before us in the eating disorder industry is daunting. The problems are even greater. Many of us undoubtedly will continue to disagree and fight. We appear before legislative bodies and large organizations. The immensity of some of the problems in the industry seem overwhelming, too big to conquer.
But, for one night, one glorious night filled with laughter and light and happiness, those overwhelming issues were put on the back burner. All that while simply sitting on the floor with one of those “Points of Light.”
Sometimes, you just gotta sit on the floor.