Monday, January 26, 2009
Eighteen-year-old Alicia Rae of Hampshire, England, was found dead in her bed by her mother yesterday. She'd been struggling with anorexia for two years and, apparently, lost the struggle. She was very nearly the same age as my daughter Kitty, who became ill with anorexia at 14 and who has been well now for three years.
It is unspeakable that Alicia Rae is dead at 18. It is unspeakable that her mother had to find her body. Unspeakable, but we have to speak about it. We have to say her name, Alicia Rae. We have to remember that anorexia kills, that in fact it has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disease, killing 20 percent of those who develop it.
We have to speak about what happens to the body and the brain when they are starved. We must talk of the unspeakable irony of a young woman like Alicia Rae, dying of malnutrition in the midst of plenty. We must speak of the hell she and her family went through, and of the churchyard where she's buried now, not far from her home, not far from the bedroom where her mother found her dead.
We must speak of these things and remember and tell them. We must do everything we can to make sure there are no more Alicia Raes. That means pushing for better treatments and spreading the word about new treatments that work. It means not hiding in the proverbial closet when eating disorders strike. It means standing up for our children and facing down the stigma of anorexia--the stigma that keeps us silent and despairing and alone.
In this season of new beginnings, we must talk of the unspeakable so that there will be hope.