Communication, Transparency and Apologies

An apology offered and, equally important, received is a step towards reconciliation and, sometimes, recompense. Without that process, hurts can rankle and fester and erupt into their own hatreds and wrongdoings.

          Margaret MacMillan, Historian and professor, University of Oxford

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”

Paul Boese, Author and publisher

The ability of a person to atone has always been the most remarkable of human features.”

           Leon Uris, Novelist

Eating Disorder Awareness Week is upon us. Once again. For those of us who have been impacted, and maybe even devastated by eating disorders, perhaps this next week is the best time to take stock of our own situation, outlook, views on the industry and … ourselves.

A number of people in the eating disorder community and industry hold to their belief that the eating disorder realm is more fractured, divided, and divisive than at any time before. Clinicians and research doctors failing to trust and collaborate. Advocates and activists alike advancing their own single causes to the exclusion of all else. Little transparency. Failure to communicate. Attributing false and nefarious motives to others who disagree with us. Not placing trust in others. Placing ones importance and ego over the importance of the messaging. Ignoring the families who are suffering from this insidious disease as we hide behind our hubris. Reliance on statistics which have no basis in fact.

Some have shaken their heads, despondent, wondering how we ever reached such a place. And they wonder how we can possibly get out of this dark pit of despair.

I am self-aware enough to know that I certainly do not have the answers or even a roadmap leading to a path of enlightenment. In fact, on some occasions I have unfortunately contributed to the dysfunctionality. But …

A number of life altering events have enveloped me since October 2019. First, on October 24, 2019, my father of 88 years passed away. He lived a full and complete life. And the last life lesson he taught his children was how to face your own mortality with grace, with strength, with courage, with dignity.

October 30, 2019 marked the third commemoration date of my beloved daughter, Morgan being taken by this disease. Significant dates are always very difficult for parents whose children have been ripped from life.

In mid-January 2020, I got to witness the coming to fruition of one man’s hopes, one man’s passion, one man’s belief in the fundamental goodness which exists within us all. I got to witness how one man, one man of intelligence, wisdom and courage, brought together some of the most renowned eating disorders experts to Dallas, Texas. They came because they were drawn by the purity of the message and a faith in a better tomorrow. For the many who did not get to hear his vision, his heart being put on display, his passion in his opening remarks, just know that this meeting was aptly named … and for the remaining time at this event, there was a feeling of hope, real hope.

About 10 days after this event ended, I was asked to participate in a videotaping. A dear friend had organized a small group of parents all of whom had had a child taken from them. The father who went right before me, his beautiful daughter had been taken in a tragic automobile accident in July 2019. She had suffered from addiction issues for years, issues which are believed to have contributed to her demise. Through my eyes I saw a father in agony, in such excruciating pain. And yet, this dad spoke so quickly, never looking at the camera or interviewer, trying to convince us in the room that he was ok, that he is counseling people on grief since “he is over it” and that he is training for a triathlon. It was at that point, that I knew that I was looking at myself over 3 years ago. This dark fog of despair clouding his judgment and self-awareness. His eyes darting around as if looking for a place to escape while all the while, denying the necessity or existence of such an escape. I was looking at a mirror image of who I was in a dark and foreboding place … a place to which, through the grace of God, the universe or whatever divine spirit you believe in, I was allowed to leave. To leave with a purpose. To leave with having my soul find me. Leave, yes. But, never forget.

On the heels of that revelation, came the discovery of a cruel, social media post imputing false and libelous actions which could be construed as being directed against me. Righteous indignation and anger coursed through me. I considered immediate legal action. And then? All of the events which had occurred since late October washed over me. And a realization that for those of us who have been impacted by this insidious disease, we all suffer pain in our own unique ways. With some people like me, the scars are open and obvious as they are with any parent whose beloved child has been forever taken. For others, those victims of eating disorders who still breathe, victims who still bare the horrible invisible scars left upon them in the wake of this damnable disease they must surely bare their own pain in their own way. We share this horrific bond. The bond of anguish and pain, pain left as a calling card as a result of this disease. And then came clarity. There was no need for retribution. But compassion. Compassion and love. Love as we are all loved by our parents and our eternal Father.

And perhaps that is from where the healing in the eating disorder community and industry must come … our own compassion, giving one’s self up for forgiveness, to apologize for past missteps. To bare one’s soul, openly and without shame. And when this realization came to me, there was no doubt in my mind where a start of the healing in the community and industry could possibly come from. I only needed to look into a mirror. Into my own heart. To acknowledge my own flaws and to make amends. As I surely must.

To those whom I have hurt through my writings, words or actions in the past three (3) years, I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology. There will be no excuses. Excuses only serve to diminish the sincerity and depth of my apology. I have committed wrongs. And wrongs must surely be addressed.

But, a general apology is not enough. Specific acknowledgements must also be made. If we are to march bravely forward, we must first acknowledge where we have failed … and pledge never to so fail again. And so …

To Chase Bannister, for those times I have tried to belittle you, for those times I have not approached you as a professional and not acknowledged your passion in this cause, I apologize.

To Jillian Lampbert, for those times I have not seen the strength within you, your desire to do the right thing in incredibly trying circumstances, I am sorry.

To Dr. Ken Weiner, for those times when I was brutal in my analysis of your motives, for not acknowledging your desire to save many lives in the future, I apologize.

To Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, for those times when I was personally harsh in my criticism. You are better than that. And my differences with your views could and should have been expressed in a kinder, more professional, productive manner. They weren’t. And I do apologize.

To Chevese Underhill Turner … for you, I have disagreed with a number of your views. But, I was not gracious, professional and respectful in expressing those views. You did not deserve that. Simply saying “I am sorry” does not seem adequate enough. I will strive to be better, to be more open, to seek common grounds so that collaboration and open communication is possible. Look within your heart. I do want the same thing as you… to help and save as many people as we possibly can.

To Karen Barton.

To those others in the eating disorder community and industry, those unnamed or unrevealed persons whom may have taken offense, I hope you find within your heart forgiveness and the willingness to embrace my intentions.

I will continue to write as surely I must. We may and undoubtedly will continue to disagree on some issues. For that, I will not apologize. But, before writing, I pledge to first approach you in a spirit of good will. And if you choose to approach me, you will be met with courtesy, professionalism and respect. We serve a common goal. We must together continue to strive to save lives. Of this we have no choice. But, going forward, from my part, I hope to be able to accomplish this must more intelligently, with a greater sense of understanding and compassion.

Unfortunately, I also know that it is an inevitable reality that I will continue to make some people in the eating disorder realm uncomfortable. For I represent the face of the failure of this industry and community. When a child dies and a parent is left behind, you will see that in my face. It is a grim reality.

A better future awaits us. We MUST find a path of compassion, of love, of forgiveness. Our beloved children are depending on us. We must be better. We must do better. We must have our actions be dictated from a place of faith, of hope. We must embrace our tomorrows with the promise that we will do better.

I know I will. In Morgan’s name. In Kelly’s name. In Erin’s name. In Heidi’s name. In Maggie’s name. In Kayleigh’s name. In the name of the thousands in the Army of Warrior Angels who are taken each year.

We must do better. We will do better.

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