Sunday, July 12, 2015


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anorexia-Bryan Bixler "Bryan Bixler is dying. He feels it in his bones a little more each day, as if passing the mirror in his apartment and glancing at himself isn’t evidence enough."
Some photos by Mark Boster

[July 12, 2015]

His amazing story of recovery...



To say that Bryan Bixler's road to recovery from anorexia is remarkable is an understatement.  

When I first posted about Bryan back in 2009, he was deathly ill.  Between 2009 and 2011, I lost track of Bryan until I received an update in January of 2011 from a reader (see Update below).  I was thrilled to learn that Bryan was doing so much better.

Bryan has made four appearances on Dr. Oz, the last being in December of 2013.  You will find the links to the Dr. Oz videos on Bryan's website here:

Last week, I was contacted by Bryan's lovely partner, Kristen, who updated me on Bryan's progress, which is nothing short of miraculous.  The pictures below say it all:  Bryan is healthy and happy.    

Bryan is now a Program Director and Nutritional Advisor at Hotel California by the Sea, a rehabilitation treatment centre for men in Newport Beach, California , which provides addiction treatment for dependence on alcohol and other substances. 

Please check out Bryan's profile at this link:

For those of you who are suffering from anorexia, bulimia, and other EDs and see recovery as daunting or impossible, Bryan's journey is evidence that once you take that first step, you CAN recover.

 Below are two beautiful and inspirational quotes that Brian has posted on social media: 

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."
~ Unknown

"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity."
~ Pema Chödrön

Please take time to read my earlier posts below about Bryan's journey...

[January 30, 2011]

Many thanks to "C." for this update on Bryan sent to me on December 30th, 2010:

"I don't know if you're aware that Bryan Bixler was back on the Dr. Oz show on Nov. 27 - and he's made astounding progress. It brought tears to my eyes to see how much better he is doing.
Here are the links to watch the show:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

"Bryan Bixler suffers from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that causes him to deprive himself of enough food. He wants to get well, but the treatment Medi-Cal will cover falls short.
By Dana Parsons
6:29 PM PDT, April 2, 2009
"Bryan Bixler is dying.

anorexia-Bryan Bixler Bryan Bixler feels he can't escape the truth in the mirror. At 39 years old, 5 foot 9 and 82 pounds, he is growing weaker by the day

He feels it in his bones a little more each day, as if passing the mirror in his Laguna Beach apartment and glancing at himself isn't evidence enough. Here's what greets him: sunken eyes, paper-thin arms and legs that hang like a puppet's, the slow-motion gait that he fears will define his movements for the rest of his days. What happened, he wonders, to that young man who once ran half-marathons?

anorexia-Bryan Bixler

It's all so crazy. That's what he tells himself. Dying a bit more every day and knowing how to fix it but being unable to do it. Knowing that if he would just start eating like a normal person, he'd give himself a fighting chance.

But he's not a normal person, not anymore. Not at 5 feet 9 and 82 pounds. Not when he's got a master's degree and knows how the body works and yet can't make himself fix spaghetti or drink a chocolate malt.

Bixler is 39 and anorexic, suffering from an eating disorder traditionally associated with young women but which generally has been thought to include a 5% to 10% male component. In recent years, however, some researchers suggest that figure may be approaching 15%.

He doesn't remember a day or week or month that he turned the corner and inexorably headed down the path to anorexia nervosa, but he and family members think it was a slow-moving journey that started in his teens. He remembers those years as a time when his parents went through a difficult divorce and he was simultaneously caught up in the fitness craze and bent on avoiding junk food.

"I was Mr. Healthy," he says. "I was a vegetarian, I wanted to be a runner. Before I knew it, I lost weight without realizing it."

anorexia-Bryan Bixler
Bixler holds a photo of himself and his sister, Kimberly Leeds, from high school days

As he moved through his 20s, the disorder plunged him into what he calls "the vortex," a swirling downward spiral of weight loss and a deepening inability to reverse course.

But if there was a time back then when Bixler either denied he was anorexic or thought people were overreacting to his looks, those days are gone. "I see when I look in a mirror a walking caricature of a human being," he says. "A skeleton."

anorexia-Bryan Bixler

But what's different now than, say, even a year or so ago is a new resoluteness. The most primal cause of all.

"I want to live," he says.

To do that, he believes, he needs intensive coordinated treatment at an eating disorder center. Bixler's Medi-Cal insurance would pay for medical help and psychiatric or psychological treatment -- through care providers Kaiser Permanente and the Orange County Health Care Agency -- but not for long-term coordinated treatment at an eating disorder clinic.

The gap between what he needs and what his insurance will cover has been played out around the country. Many insurance companies increasingly have questioned the need for long-term residential treatment programs and balked at paying the high costs for them.

Seven years ago, with his parents footing the bill, Bixler spent several months at a treatment center in Wisconsin. Even though his weight climbed from 92 pounds to 120, he considered it a prison. When his parents' money ran out, he left and immediately relapsed.

anorexia-Bryan Bixler

Last fall, Bixler returned to the Wisconsin center but stayed only six days. Assigned to a psychiatric unit, he refused treatment, and his parents told him they could no longer afford the bill.

Since then, Bixler insists, he's seen the light and would stay in a long-term treatment program as long as it took. The only other option, he says, is death. "Obviously, my way is not working."

Neither is the limited psychological or psychiatric care he can get through Medi-Cal, says Terry Schwartz, medical director at an eating disorders program at UC San Diego. She supervised a recent psychiatric exam of Bixler, which he requested in the hope that it would bolster a claim he's made with the state for increased Medi-Cal coverage. The claim is pending.

Bixler isn't at an acute stage, Schwartz says, but his laboratory results and weight put him at "high risk" of dying from anorexia. American Psychiatric Assn. guidelines alone, she says, put him in the category of someone who needs either inpatient or residential care.

What he needs is a coordinated program that would run the gamut of medical, psychological, psychiatric, nutritional and dietary treatment. Bixler would be most vulnerable, she says, to sudden cardiac death or an inability to fight off an infection because of his depleted white blood cell count.

While convinced it's nowhere near what he needs, Bixler still avails himself of the counseling services offered through the county and Medi-Cal. If nothing else, he reasons, it'll perhaps send a signal that he's trying to play ball.

On his more charitable days, Bixler tries to avoid recriminations.

anorexia-Bryan Bixler

"I'm not blaming anybody," he says, "not Kaiser, not the county. I try not to blame myself, because of course I feel like I caused it. For me, it's the anger, the sadness that a life doesn't mean anything unless you have money."

In his 20s, before he fully grasped what was happening to him, Bixler saw a future for himself. With degrees from UC San Diego and the University of Georgia, Bixler wanted to work in the education department of zoos or aquariums. Instead, the eating disorder overtook him, and after short stints at two zoos and teaching while a graduate student, he went on full-time disability nine years ago.

He subsists on Social Security and lives in a studio apartment with a view of the Pacific Ocean, the beneficiary of cheap rent because his parents own the building.

He typically sleeps until late morning and stays up late. His sister, Kimberly Leeds, thinks that's so he can avoid normal social contacts and justify living his life mostly in the night.

anorexia-Bryan Bixler
Bixler has always been close to his sister, Kimberly
She's the one who pulled his shirt over his head about 15 years ago and made him look at his rib cage. "Look at yourself," she said. "How can you think you're OK?"

anorexia-Bryan Bixler Bixler is growing weaker by the day

Even though she understands the disorder, her brother's eating habits both cause her to marvel and madden her.

"He will not eat any dairy, but he eats frozen yogurt all the time," she says. "He won't eat certain lettuce because it gets caught in his teeth, but he will eat iceberg lettuce. He'll eat popcorn all night long but won't eat roast beef because it sticks in his teeth."
anorexia-Bryan Bixler Bixler, his nephews, his sister and her husband, Clay, say grace

If they go out to eat, she says, "He can't order something off the menu. There are about five or six statements that have to go along with it." Forget rice or beans, if that comes with the entree. He has to have shredded lettuce and cilantro on the side. He will eat vegetables and protein foods, but carbohydrates are a non-starter, she says.

Leeds may be frustrated, but she hasn't given up on her brother. To the contrary, she's joined him in his fight to get more extensive care.

Their parents, she says, have been dealing with the situation for half of Bryan's life and it is wearying.

"Mother feels like she's done everything. She's mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted," Leeds says. "Her life has been dedicated to him for the last 20 years."

All of which Bixler knows and which makes him sigh.

His father tells him he's not trying hard enough. What's so hard about fixing a bowl of oatmeal and eating it? They have shelled out the money before and might again, but the failing economy has hurt their finances.

"They blame me, their blame reinforces my own self-blame," he says. "I'm my own worst critic. I look in the mirror at night, saying I'm insane. What's wrong with me?"

He knows the answer, of course: a disorder with numerous dark corners that enveloped and then overwhelmed him.

anorexia-Bryan Bixler
Bixler reads to his nephews, Jeremy and Elliott Leeds, at his sister's home

"I can't understand why I can't do what a 6-year-old can do -- feed myself." "


Audio slideshow:,0,848624.htmlstory

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Friday, August 2, 2013


On July 27, 2013, I received the following heartbreaking comment on this post from glen d about his niece's death:   

glen d said... my niece was 16 she was anorexic and she was in the hos ital then she was back home and she took her own life i can't understand this i've been reading about it on these sites I've been sick for about 2 days can't sto thinking about Rachel she was a lovely girl exce tional in so many ways if someone can hel me i want to understand what went wrong with her July 27, 2013 at 3:17 AM
If any of my readers have had a close friend or relative, who was suffering from an ED, take their own life, would they please share with glen d (in the comment section below) their feelings, their thoughts about what drove their loved one to commit suicide, and how they're coping with their loss.  Many thanks.

"Attempted Suicides in Anorexia Nervosa

They are frequent and serious.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in anorexia nervosa (AN), and the suicide rate is eight times higher among young women with AN than in young women generally. To better delineate the issue, investigators analyzed data from 413 participants with current or lifetime AN (95% female) who were enrolled in an NIMH genetics study.

Overall, 17% had made a suicide attempt. An attempt was significantly more common among those with binge-eating, purging, or both (21%–29%) than among those with the restricter subtype (7%).

Of all suicide attempters, 52% reported one attempt; 39% reported two to four attempts; and 9% reported five or more attempts. Fifty-five percent had required medical attention for their most serious attempts, and 47% were hospitalized. Also, 78% reported wanting to die, 57% thought that they would die, and 54% made attempts rated as moderate to extreme.

Impulsivity accounted for 49% of attempts, with the remainder somewhat or thoroughly premeditated (each, 25%). Seventeen percent reported concurrent alcohol abuse at the time of the worst or only attempt, 9% reported concurrent drug abuse, and 82% reported a concurrent depressive episode. After adjustment for depression, attempts were associated with other impulsive behaviors (e.g., self-injurious behaviors, shoplifting), excessive drinking, substance use, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and cluster B personality disorders.
Since this study recruited from both clinical and nonclinical populations, the very high rates of severe suicidality in patients with AN, particularly of the binge-eating/purging subtype, are particularly alarming. Clinical studies of AN patients have reported even higher rates.
Clinicians assessing and treating these patients should be alert to the constant risk for suicide, particularly among patients with indications of impulsivity and the other comorbid conditions identified here.
Joel Yager, MD"

Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry on May 23, 2008

Citation(s): Bulik CM et al. Suicide attempts in anorexia nervosa.

Psychosom Med, 2008 Apr; 70:378"

Suicide Is Not Painless

The Downside of Suicide
By Nancy Schimelpfening,
"Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses Give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live. "

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967): 'Resume' (1937)

"If the topic of suicide seems particularly gruesome or morbid, that's because it is meant to be. Suicide is not a fool-proof or painless proposition. The fact is that suicides fail and even when they succeed, it may not be at all like what you had imagined.

Even the Best Planned Suicide Can Fail

The New England Journal of Medicine (Feb 22, 2001, Vol. 344, No. 8) dealing with physician assisted suicide shows that even with expert medical advice, things can and do go wrong. The study was conducted in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal. Some of the statistics reported:
In 16% of cases where patients tried to kill themselves with drugs prescribed by a doctor, the medication did not work as expected.

Technical problems or unexpected side effects occurred 7% of the time.

Problems occurred so often that in 18% of cases a doctor had to intervene to ensure death.

Even when a doctor performed the procedure, patients took longer to die than expected or awoke from a drug-induced coma that was meant to be fatal in 6% of cases.
If a physician can't pull off a perfect suicide, what are the odds that you will?

Suicide is Not Pretty

Assuming your suicide does go as planned, what do you imagine will be the scene left behind? Do you have glamorous fantasies of being found with a peaceful smile upon your face? Consider the following:

When you die, you lose control of your bodily functions. To put it nicely, you defecate and urinate on yourself.

If you have taken an overdose, you may vomit before you become unconscious.

Violent forms of suicide such as cutting ones wrists, hanging or gunshots leave a very grisly task for whoever has to clean up afterwards.

Victims of strangulation and hanging will be bloated and purple.

Your chosen method of self-annihilation may present a safety hazard to whoever finds you.

The High Cost of Living

So what are the consequences if you survive a suicide attempt?

The best is that you will live to discover the truth about depression: that it really is a temporary condition. Circumstances change and medications work. The old saying that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem is sage advice. When the blinders of depression are lifted you see very clearly how true this is.

The worst result of a failed suicide is that you will be worse off than you were before.
Consider these facts:

If your brain goes without an oxygen supply for more than about three minutes, you will suffer permanent brain damage.

Gunshot wounds that miss will leave you with permanent disfigurement and disability.

Overdoses on many substances will leave you with damage to kidneys and liver.
People who have swallowed caustic substances like lye can survive with severe burns to their GI tract.

Just about all suicide methods have the risk of severe, possibly prolonged pain if things go awry.

The Hurt Doesn't Go Away After Suicide

Perhaps the most common reason people commit suicide is to stop the pain the are feeling inside. The thing is, the pain doesn't go away. It gets transferred to those you love. Your parents, your spouse or significant other, your kids, your friends and acquaintances. Everybody you know is touched to some extent by suicide.
Grief is one of the strongest emotions a person can feel. Do you really want to make your loved ones feel the sort of pain you are feeling? Think about it. If you are convinced that people will be better off without you, you are dead wrong.
It's Your Choice

This article is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of reasons why you should not take your own life, but is meant to give you a starting point in really thinking about what it is that you are considering.
If you are reading this, then you are an intelligent person who is capable of making informed choices about where you want your life to go. Do you really want your life to end? Or just the pain?
Depression is a treatable illness. If what you really want is relief from your depression then you owe it to yourself to exhaust all of your treatment options before choosing the final solution of death.

Warning Signs of acute risk for suicide

Talking About Dying -- any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self harm.
Recent Loss -- through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of religious faith, loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed

Change in Personality -- sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic

Change in Behavior -- can't concentrate on school, work, routine tasks

Change in Sleep Patterns -- insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares

Change in Eating Habits -- loss of appetite and weight, or overeating

Diminished Sexual Interest -- impotence, menstrual abnormalities (often missed periods)

Fear of losing control -- going crazy, harming self or others

Low self esteem -- feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, "everyone would be better off without me"

No hope for the future -- believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change

Other things to watch for: Suicidal impulses, statements, plans; giving away favorite things; previous suicide attempts, substance abuse, making out wills, arranging for the care of pets, extravagant spending, agitation, hyperactivity, restlessness or lethargy.
If you feel you can't go on, please give yourself a chance to get help by either calling the suicide hotline numbers or clicking on the links listed below:
Suicide Hotlines:

National Suicide Hotlines USA
United States of America

Toll-Free / 24 hours a day / 7 days a week

1-800-SUICIDE 1-800-273-TALK
1-800-784-2433 1-800-273-8255

1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
Deaf Hotline

Many thanks to Sherrie of pinch of... for bringing the Anorexia Nervosa/Suicide study to my attention.

(all bolding mine throughout this post)

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From Humans of New York

Today I met an NYU student named Stella. I took a photo of her. Afterwards, she told me about a self-portrait she recently posted on Tumblr. So, instead of the photo I took, here is her self-portrait. Along with the words she wrote:


WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your f*cking business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR F*CKING BUSINESS.

If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.

This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.

This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.

This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds

This picture is for all the f*cking stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty)

This picture is for the boy at the party who told me I looked like a beached whale.

This picture is for Emily from middle school, who bullied me incessantly, made mocking videos about me, sent me nasty emails, and called me “lard”. She made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist. Just because I happened to be bigger than her. I was 12. And she continued to bully me via social media into high school.

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.


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Monday, July 1, 2013


Helen Gillespie, 30, has suffered with anorexia for the past 20 years.

 From the Daily Mail...

'Anorexia turned me into an old lady': Six-stone woman, 30, who dieted from the age of 10 to stay young is left with crumbling bones and varicose veins

  • Helen Gillespie has spent most of the past 20 years in hospital
  • At her lightest she weighed 4-and-a-half-stone and was hours from death
  • She has never grown breasts so must wear a prosthesis usually used by women who have undergone a mastectomy
  • Her low weight delayed puberty so she didn't have her first period until 26
  • Ironically her body now resembles that of an elderly woman - her face is gaunt and her bones are in a similar condition to that of a 70-year-old
By Rachel Reilly

A woman who has battled anorexia since the age of 10 has been left with the body of an elderly woman.

Helen Gillespie, 30, has never developed breasts, had a boyfriend or moved out of her parents’ home.

As a child she was so frightened of becoming an adult that she dramatically restricted her calorie intake to delay puberty.

But ironically, far from maintaining a childlike appearance, her eating disorder has turned her body into that of into a frail old woman's - her bones are crumbling and she suffers from varicose veins.

Helen Gillespie, 30, has suffered with anorexia for the past 20 years.
Helen Gillespie (with mother Rachel), 30, has suffered with anorexia for the past 20 years. As a child she dieted because she thought staying thin would keep her young and delay puberty. But her condition has left her with the body of a 70-year-old - her bones are crumbling and she has varicose veins

'Doctors tell me I’ve got the bones of an 70-year-old woman,' said Helen, from Perth, Scotland. 'They’re so weak that I broke my wrist after a fall when I was 14. If I don’t improve, I’ll continue to age prematurely.

'For a long time I’ve looked like a child - but now I feel like an old lady,' she added.
Helen, who weighs six stone, started dieting when she was ten. By the time she was 15 she weighed four-and-a-half stone and was just 24 hours from death.

She spent four months in hospital, but as soon as she went home she starved herself until she had lost as much weight as she needed to be readmitted.

This cycle continued for the next two decades.

Part of the problem was that Helen felt her parents had very high expectations of her. She strived to meet impossibly high ideals in her music, dance and academic work.

She said: 'It is only recently that I have realised that it was me, not my parents, who pushed me to do better and better. I constantly crave praise, love and affection and was terrified that my every move would be criticised.'

Helen, pictured age 14, was hospitalised for four months when she was 15.
Helen, pictured age 14, was hospitalised for four months when she was 15. She weighed just four and a half stone and doctors said she was close to death. Her repeated hospital stays have meant that she has not been able to pass any GCSEs or A-levels

Helen soon realised that one thing she was good at, was losing weight.

'My weight was something I could control, and losing weight seemed to be a talent which other people, particularly other girls, admired,' she said.
As Helen grew up, her need for praise didn’t diminish and gaining responsibilities terrified her.

She said: 'My friends were starting to have boyfriends and I felt like a young child inside. That was very scary and alien to me and I didn’t feel I could connect with that.
'It comes down to having a huge fear of growing up and a huge fear of relationships, responsibilities and expectations.'

Helen surrounded herself in a child-like world.

She said: 'I lived very much in an imaginary world with my soft toys which I used to take everywhere until I was 11.

Helen reached her heaviest when she was 20, but even then she only weighed nine stone (pictured). She said that her 'huge fear of relationships, responsibilities and expectations' has fuelled her behaviour to stay dangerously thin
Helen reached her heaviest when she was 20, but even then she only weighed nine stone (pictured). She said that her 'huge fear of relationships, responsibilities and expectations' has fuelled her behaviour to stay dangerously thin 

Helen Gillespie is pictured trying first bar of chocolate age 22.
Helen Gillespie aged 22 and weighing 8 stone in Glasgow, Scotland
Helen is pictured trying first bar of chocolate age 22. At this point in her life, she weighed a healthier eight stone but this was short-lived and her weight soon plummeted to below five stone. She said that she was petrified of growing up and of all the responsibilities that came with adulthood

I had to force myself to grow up - but it was quite painful because I wasn’t ready. I would rather have just stayed young and innocent. But now there’s no chance of that because I know what life is like now.'
Helen’s fear of becoming an adult meant she missed puberty as a teenager, and didn’t have her first period until she was 26.

And tragically, Helen has never developed breasts and has to wear a prosthesis made for patients who have had mastectomies.

Helen has opened up about her battle with anorexia to raise awareness about the devastating condition
Helen has opened up about her battle with anorexia to raise awareness about the devastating condition

She said: 'I never developed properly, so I’ve got a child’s frame - I don’t have hips and I’m completely flat chested.

'But I wear the inserts every day and that’s quite important because it makes me feel like a woman.'

Helen has spent virtually all of the past 20 years in hospital, meaning she has missed out on an education - she has no GCSEs or A-levels.

It is only in the past four months that she has been able to live at home with her parents Rachel Gillespie, 62, who is a retired social worker and Bob Gillespie, a retired teacher, 63.

However she is still unable to bring herself to eat a healthy adult diet and still eats just half the amount of calories a toddler would eat each day.

She said: 'I’m starting to realise that I have a very childlike view of the world. When you’re a small child you think that everything will just come - you’ll be married, have children, a job, a house and a garden. 

But I’m starting to realise that actually life is very complicated - and it terrifies me.
'I think on a subconscious level by keeping my body young, I was stopping people having expectations of me.'

Over time Helen has come to realise that she cannot live in the body of a child if she wants to achieve her dreams.

Over the past 20 years she has battled with anorexia, with her weight increasing to a high of nine stone when she was 20, only to fall to the six stone she weighs now.

She said: 'I would love to get married and have children. I go past a bridal shop about three times a week and I look in the window and look at the dresses and think "if only".

'I’ve missed out on my education and my rights of passage like relationships, socialising, friends, work.

I’m sharing my story because I want to warn others that anorexia can take your childhood away. 

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in Never-Never Land, and I’m never going to find my way home.

'I do want to get better, but I do wish that I could be a child again and not have all the responsibilities that come with being an adult.

'I don’t believe that I’m beyond help - but I’ll never, ever be normal.'
  • If you suffer with anorexia or are concerned that someone you know might, visit for help and more information

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