Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dying to Be Thin

I write this blog post with a heavy heart and a desire to make people aware of the difficulties associated with treating an eating disorder. I don't personally suffer from one, but someone very close to me does. She is 14 years old, and when she was recently admitted to the hospital for a second shot at treatment, she weighed 81 pounds. The issue of eating disorders is so prevalent in young girls (as well as men and women) today. The numbers are no where near accurate, as many are very good at hiding their disorder. For this young girl, her battle started when she just wanted to "lose a few pounds" and be like the other dancers in her peer group. A few pounds quickly turned into a full-blown eating disorder. Though it sounds strange outright, I thank God that she began having migraines, because that is what led her parents to take her to the doctor. They had no idea (because she had become very skilled at hiding her drop in weight) she was starving herself. But that is when she was diagnosed and they began the long road of getting her help.

This little girl (because that's what she is at only 14, for heaven's sake- a little girl) cannot look in the mirror without seeing "fat." If you and I were to look in that same mirror, we would see skin and bones; because at this point, she has no more muscle mass. The lies that pour into her mind tell her that she is not thin enough and she needs to be thinner. My heart breaks over this very thought. What has this world come to when a 14 year old girl can't see how absolutely beautiful she is, and will literally risk her life to be just that much thinner?

At this point in her journey, she cannot see the harm she is doing to herself. She acknowledges that people die from eating disorders; she knows the facts- she's a smart girl. And yet, she is willing to risk it because she doesn't think it can happen to her. She admits to her disorder, but is actually proud of it. She's not ready to get the help she so desperately needs. While at the first treatment facility, she learned all the tricks to falsifying her weight so the staff would think she was gaining the required weight. You would think that an eating disorder treatment facility would also know all those tricks and would prevent them....but that's another issue I won't get into right now. Her parents are doing everything in their power to make sure she gets the treatment she needs while they still have the legal right to do so. This young girl is just yearning for the day she is not a minor so she can be left alone to live her life as she pleases....eating disorder included.

Now she is making her second attempt at treating her disorder; or I should say that her parents are. Because of the way the laws are written, her parents fought insurance companies to get her the life-saving help she so desperately needed. Because of the way the laws are written, her parents lost against the insurance companies, as the treatment center pushed their daughter through treatment as quickly as possible because she couldn't receive adequate coverage because it wasn't a "hospital." They were even told that many girls leave the center before they are ready because of insurance. The consequences of bureaucracy were that she didn't get the treatment she needed at the center, and had to be admitted to the hospital a week ago because of the dangerous weight she was hovering at. Despite the fact that it cost twice as much to receive treatment in a hospital than it did at this center, insurance wouldn't pay for it because it wasn't a "hospital." How on earth does that make sense?

So here is where I make my plea: there is a pending legislation that requires insurance companies to cover the treatment of eating disorders. Right now, there are 5 bills pending in the Texas House of Representatives:
  1. Rose—H.B. 1418
  2. Coleman—H.B. 2967
  3. Coleman—H.B. 2969
  4. Coleman—H.B. 2976
  5. Farabee—H.B. 868

To read the text of a bill, go to the Texas Legislature web site at Enter the bill number (ex. HB 1418) in the "Search Legislation" box at the top of the page. You will then see a screen reporting all action on that bill to date. If you click on the "Text" tab at the top, you will be able to obtain a copy of the text of the bill.

Here's what you can do:

1. Contact Representatives Rose, Coleman and Farabee and tell them:"I support changing the law so that "Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified" are added to the list of "Serious Mental Illnesses" in the Texas Insurance Code. Eating disorders are the most lethal of psychiatric illnesses and they should be treated as such."

2. Contact the members of the Insurance Committee, especially John Smithee and tell them that you support the changing the law.

3. Contact any other representative you wish and let them know the same thing.

4. Pass this information to your family and friends and ask them for their support in this effort. Let them know that we need a lot of help bringing this very important issue to the attention of our lawmakers.

5. Please pray for my cousin as she battles this life threatening disorder.

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