In 2010, I wrote a post about anorexia and Dr. Phil. Shortly after that, I wrote a response on BlogHer which seems to have been lost in the abyss. Shortly before I was laid off from SheKnows Media (which acquired BlogHer and is now being acquired by Penske Media, I transferred some of my posts to Medium on a lark. One of them was 5 Things You Should Know About Your Girlfriend With an Eating Disorder.
I've said it before: It's amazing, but I have received between 3-5 emails a week since I originally wrote the article sometime between 2010 and 2016 (yes, I admit, I don't have the will to research my posts on BlogHer -- it's painful). Originally I tried to write back individually to people, and at one point I had a six-month ongoing conversation with a mom, but after a while it became too overwhelming to keep up with all of the stories. And, after all, I wrote a book about this whole thing. So I started sending back this reply to the people who write me:
I get so many emails like this I put everything I know about eating disorders and recovery in a novel called THE OBVIOUS GAME. You could read it together and use it as a conversation starter. Either way it should help you understand. Good luck - there is a lot about romantic relationships and how they are affected in the book.
One time prior to today someone had an adverse reaction to this response, saying I was trying to sell them a book. I pointed out that THEY wrote ME, and that was the end of it. So imagine my surprise when today, I got this:
"send me an email and I will answer your questions""Fuck you and buy my book"Thanks for nothing
I’m sure some boyfriend somewhere right now is wondering how he can help his girlfriend as she once again refuses to eat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, you can email me and I will try to point you in the right direction. My personal email is email@example.com.
My debut young adult novel is The Obvious Game, published by InkSpell Publishing. The Obvious Game is based on my experience with anorexia. If you are a librarian and are having trouble finding my book, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase the book at the 40% author discount price.
Beloved was pretty shocked at the whole thing. I wasn't, but I admit I was angry. I've had a long week. I just had my year-anniversary mammogram of my diagnosis this morning. (It was clean! Thank you, Jesus!) I wrote that post to help people a whole lot of years ago and this kid is treating me like a telemarketer at Grandma's dinner hour.
This is what was going through my head: WHO ARE YOU TO TALK TO ME LIKE THIS WHEN YOU EMAILED ME? ARE WE CONFUSED ABOUT WHO IS DOING THE CONTACTING?
But I sat with it. I went to the gym. I ran a few miles. I reflected on my clean mammogram and all the imaginary problems I had worried about that are not at this moment coming to fruition. I reflected on my recent eight-pound weight loss (anyone who loses weight due to cancer is apparently not a stress eater like me) that I pulled off without undue restrictions or falling back into old bad eating disordered habits.
And I thought: This kid is in pain. He thought he would write me and maybe I'd become some sort of personal mentor to him, and I let him down with my canned response.
And yeah, kid, I get it. I did.
Here's the thing: I want to be a helper. I really do. I want to help you get through this. But I also am a cancer survivor and a lay-off survivor and a mom and a daughter and a sister and a wife and a co-worker and a friend. I have a house to manage and a career. I walk my cat in a freakin' harness every morning. I take fish oil and am working on a new novel.
So when I tell you I put everything I know about eating disorders in a novel and maybe you should read it, I'm not pitching you to buy my book. Go request it from your library or download it off of one of the million pirated sites I see every day on my Google alerts. What I'm saying is that I put three years of thought into what you're asking and I WROTE A BOOK ABOUT IT.
I get that you're frustrated.
I get that you need help.
We all do. And lashing out at each other is not the way to get it.
So no, I'm not going to use your name. I'm not going to shame you.
But dude, let up. I feel your pain because despite overcoming one kind of pain, there is always another. Be kind to each other - you never know who escaped a repeat cancer diagnosis today: THIS WOMAN.