By Claire Trainor
“On February 2, 2015, Lacey Smarr lost her life to a heart attack caused by anorexia. Her eating disorder was brought on by teasing from her peers and went undiagnosed by medical professionals and psychologists, despite her numerous doctor’s visits. She was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school living in Texas.
When I first was asked to write this piece by my editor, I didn’t know how. This is a piece that should never have to be written because it is about an event that should never have happened. But it did and it affects hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. So, here is my attempt at an article for everyone Lacey’s death has affected.
To the news sources covering Lacey’s death: There is more to an eating disorder than weight. Her demise from a healthy weight to an unhealthy one is not an indication of her sickness. To put emphasis only on the numbers of her illness contributes to the idea that you have to be “skeletal” to be sick. People die from their eating disorders at every weight and for a variety of reasons. Lacey was, and is, more than a number and her disorder was, and is, more complex than a low BMI. To make coverage about only the physical symptoms of her illness is to take away from the pain endured mentally, and to take away from the pain of the thousands of sufferers who are not “skeletal.”
To those who bullied her for her body: We should always be careful what we say to others. Especially when others are vulnerable and impressionable teenage girls. Even when we don’t mean to cause pain, we might. But this is not your fault. One comment is not enough to cause this much suffering. Eating disorders are complex biopsychosocial illnesses. It is not your fault. I promise. Be careful what you say to others, but please don’t blame yourself for Lacey’s feelings. It will do no good, for you or for her.
To the medical professionals who overlooked her symptoms: Teenagers are cunning and wonderful at fooling people. Those with eating disorders are perhaps even better. Still, I cannot begin to say how important a good medical team is in treating illnesses. Having medical professionals and psychologists who can recognize these lies is crucial in saving lives every day. The system needs to be better trained to respond to cases like Lacey’s. This was not the fault of an individual: it was the fault of everyone who stands by and did nothing. If Lacey didn’t want to be treated, there is an excellent chance that she could have fooled you out of a diagnosis.
To her friends: I cannot begin to imagine the pain you’re experiencing just weeks after your friend’s early passing. Those suffering often withdraw from their friends and peers, especially in high school. If this happened with Lacey, it doesn’t mean she didn’t love you. It didn’t mean she didn’t want to be there. She just didn’t know how. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to miss her. It’s okay to be confused and scared and unsure. You lost a friend and healing will take time.
To her family: Everyone here at Proud2BMe is incredibly sorry for your loss. I cannot fathom the feelings you have been experiencing since Lacey’s passing. But I can say that she was lucky to have parents who took her to the doctor and who tried as hard as they could to help her. She is lucky to have parents who continue to love and fight against eating disorders in her name. It’s so incredibly hard to detect the signs of an eating disorder, especially when the person suffering is trying to hide it. She may not have vocalized it, but I’m sure she was grateful to have people who loved her and continue to love her as much as you do.
To everyone suffering from an eating disorder: Help is available. Recovery is possible. There are few things in life scarier than being trapped inside your own head with an illness whose goal is to destroy you. One of the scarier things, for me at least, was recovery. And it’s a battle, every day. But it’s worth it. In the end, it’s worth being honest with the doctors, with your friends, with your family, and with yourself. I promise recovery is worth the pain.
And to Lacey: You are loved. By those in your life and by strangers across the country who mourn your death. I did not know you and I will never have the pleasure of knowing you. But after reading the page your family set up for you, I know you were a kind, brilliant, compassionate, empathetic, and beautiful human being. I am sorry the system failed you. I am sorry that your eating disorder’s hold was so strong. Rest in peace.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. In order to help raise awareness for the early symptoms, Lacey’s mom, Candy Miller, created the Lacey Foundation. The foundation will help not only to raise awareness, but also to help connect those suffering and their families with treatment opportunities, doctors, and psychologists. More can be heard from her mom below.”
For everyone who knew Lacey, I am so sorry for your loss. May Lacey rest in peace forever.
Photo via here
About this blogger: Claire Trainor is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology. In steady recovery from an eating disorder, she wants to educate, support, and inspire those struggling in anyway. She likes her dogs, hot chocolate, and books. Claire currently runs a personal recovery blog.
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