sad news this morning, tipped off by tom: one of the first people ever to write about weblogs in the uk, and one of the first attendees of the early blogmeets, has died from heart failure due to anorexia. I’m not going to saw I knew her well, because I didn’t – we met a few times, firstly when she interviewed me for this article in the standard, and then at upcoming blogmeets, and afterwards when I’d find her working in the starbucks round the corner from my flat. but it’s a harsh reminder that anorexia is a horrible, evil disease that can and does kill. it was something that was, sadly, all too common at my all-girls high school, where I’d estimate that about a third of the year had an eating disorder at one point. I’ll never forget seeing one girl return to school in sixth form after she’d spent several months in hospital for treatment (she was too ill to take more than a couple of GCSEs, keeping her alive was far more important), and seeing something that resembled a concentration-camp victim – her bones were jutting out at sharp angles, her skin stretched over her skeleton like a thin paper covering, downy hair grew all over her body (the body’s attempts to keep warm), and her eyes bulged out of a sunken face. the heartbreaking thing was that over the next two years, as we did our a-levels, she never really got much better: at one point she seemed to have put on some weight, and looked less shrunken – except that she hadn’t, her whole body was swollen because her kidneys were failing. oh, and did I mention that she hadn’t had a period for years and was most likely infertile?
possibly one of the saddest things about this awful disease is the way it takes hold of people – when one of my very best friends came back to school after the summer several stone lighter and looking gaunt and ill, that was the first sign that something was very very wrong; but the fact that her entire personality had changed was quickly apparent. our energetic, fun-loving, always-joking, always-daft and zany pal was now withdrawn, secretive, snappy, permanently exhausted and down – anorexia had taken our friend away. I don’t know what ever happened to the first girl, though I’m delighted to say that my very good friend did get help and fought her disease to get back to a semblance of normality, and she’s now flourishing at university, training to be a doctor. but the spectre of her anorexia is always with her, and before we ever get together there’s always a terrible pang as you hope that when you see her she’s be healthy and happy, and that the disease won’t have reared its ugly head again. anorexia’s not something that just happens to models and tortured artistes, it happens to real people, sometimes with deadly consequences.