The day started much like any other. Tuesday, July 21, 2020. A brisk, morning power walk. Healthy breakfast. Working on yet again, another legal issue for my younger brother. (That in and of itself, seems to be a forever and on-going thing. On the other hand, it has provided for some past, enjoyable trips to Las Vegas and Southern California before the 2020 Zombie Apocalypse happened!)
Then, the unexpected happened. At 12:54 p.m. Central time, I received a call on my cell phone. “No Caller ID” was listed. That is not all that rare, so I accepted the call.
The person asked if I was Steven Dunn of the “Morgan Project.” Even though he got the name of the organization incorrect, naturally I said yes. He said he had seen my TEDx talk and needed to reach out to me. He identified himself as “Jerry.” Jerry said his daughter was suffering from anorexia and tried to kill herself. Well, previously, he had my curiosity. Now, he had my attention.
I asked where he lived and how old his daughter was. After a brief pause, he said Houston and she was 21. He then said, “He had not been around very much for his daughter when she was growing up, he had had a number of affairs, was not home that much, that he had a Ferrari.” [At this, a yellow flag began to wave. He had described some of my sordid past … except that I had been home and very involved. And yes, I once owned a Ferrari 348TS.] He started saying that he had read so much on the internet about eating disorders and that it seems like the parents are to blame! He said if he had been home more, his daughter would not have had an eating disorder.
I immediately told him that is not the case, it is a biologically based disease with genetic and societal components. He asked how can I possibly believe that since he had read that if a parent is not around, or had affairs, that caused eating disorders. [At that, the Yellow Flag turned Orange]. And how could that parent ever live with themselves knowing they caused his child to have an eating disorder. Again, I assured him that the information he had was not correct and that we know so much more about the disease.
Trying to get him off that track, I asked how long ago his daughter had tried to take her own life. He said 2 weeks. I asked him where she was currently, he said the “UH Medical Center Hospital.” [Now, there was a full blown Red Flag Alert. The University of Houston does not have a medical center/hospital open to the general public].
I still needed to tread carefully and with compassion in the event he was legitimate and simply had some facts incorrect. I asked him what the next steps were. He said he didn’t know because he and his wife were divorced because of his affairs and they don’t get along. He also asked me if I knew of a Dr. Backal. I briefly hesitated and told him I had a friend named Tom Backal but I had not spoken to him in years. I asked if he meant Dr. Ed Tyson and he said, “No, it’s Backal.” [Tom Backal and I had been very close. But, I have moved away from him in the past 2 years as we were on different life paths. I still hold Tom in high regard.]
I mentioned that Acute Hospital in Denver was the next logical step with ERC here in Texas was a very good place for treatment. He asked if those places were good. I told him that Morgan had gone to each a number of times. He then asked, “If they are so good, why couldn’t they save your daughter?” [Hurricane Warning Sirens are going off by now.] I explained to him the biological aspect of the disease and that Morgan also had a high risk gene in her brain which impacted her oxytocin level which made her recovery so much more difficult.
He came back to, “So it sounds like they really aren’t that good which kind of proves that parents are to blame.” He then asked how can I even function knowing my daughter is dead.
I told him, sometimes your soul finds you in the hardest, harshest way possible. And when tragedy strikes you, your soul finds a way to strengthen your resolve, to fill you with a purpose in your life that had been forever missing. His reply was, “Surely you must be in great pain every day knowing that you may have had something to do with your daughter dying.”
Even before that statement, it had become clear what this call was about. And clarity was in my mind instead of raw emotion. I told him that some types of pain you never get past completely. But, if I can continue to help get young people into treatment, if I can help identify bad actors and misconduct in the community, if in my daughter’s name, I can save some lives, I told him that that was a pretty good legacy.
I then asked him to give me his email address so I could send him information about Acute, ERC and other providers. He hesitated and then sputtered a bit and said.. uh… Jerrydftbkl@gmail.com. [dft is short hand for Defendant. Bkl? Obviously, an abbreviation for Backal] I told him I would get information to him immediately and he should take quick action on this. He paused and then said… uh… ok.
Naturally, I sent a test email to that email address and it was returned, no such known email address.
Interesting. Very interesting. He knew quite a bit about me, my less than completely soulful past and he knew my daughter’s name, Morgan. He was obviously trying to get a big, over the top, emotional reaction and trying to inflict some emotional pain. He, or the people behind him, did not receive that satisfaction.
It is sad that in our world today there are people who would plot to cause such pain. I believe in being open with issues and addressing directly those with whom you disagree. That seems to be becoming an almost non-existent quality especially in the eating disorder community. More’s the pity.
I hope that people like the mythical Jerry become even more rare. People like this “Jerry” do not understand, they cannot possibly understand, that through pain sometimes comes clarity of purpose and focus. Those types of people cannot possibly understand that a personal tragedy can build an incredible suit of armor around you while increasing the size of your heart, allowing your soul’s purpose to be revealed to you and giving you incredible strength.
It was a test today. A test of one’s heart. A test of one’s soul. A test to see if the pain, which will always exist within me, has become my master. I will remember fondly today and the test given to me. What an opportunity was given to me to self-reflect and to grow. To heal. To embrace the hope that exists within me.
In the event “Jerry” was legitimate, I sincerely hope he seeks the help his daughter so desperately needs. I also sincerely hope that he finds help for himself. The sole emphasis of a “parent being at fault for an eating disorder” is so false, so damaging that Jerry will undoubtedly need significant, and expert assistance to help him get through the battles which lie ahead.
In the very likely event that Jerry and his handlers were attempting to damage another fellow human in one of the most inhumane ways possible, I sincerely hope that one day they too seek out and receive the assistance they so desperately need. The damage to their soul has to be so grave to cause them to engage in such hate-filled conduct. I hope they seek such help.
And I devoutly hope that the persons like the “Jerrys” out there, find a way to obtain peace in their life.