Eating disorder: Family of Madeleine Billings detail how anorexia stole her personality then her life

0
99
Eating disorder: Family of Madeleine Billings detail how anorexia stole her personality then her life

NZME’s Great Minds project will examine the state of our nation’s mental health and explore the growing impact mental health and anxiety has on Kiwis while searching for ways to improve it. Video / NZ Herald

“The only thing this eating disorder wants … is to put a headstone on you.”

That’s what Madeleine Billings’ therapist told her years before that prophecy became reality.

Maddie, who was adored by friends and family where she lived in Denver, Colorado, died in her sleep just after Christmas last year. She was 23.

Her family has only now begun to share details about how the “brilliant” young woman became “psychotic” in her last weeks of life as the disease took hold of her body and her brain and refused to let go.

They described how anorexia claimed her personality to the point that “there was no Maddie there”.

“She was brilliant. But in the end, she was psychotic,” her father Nick told Today in the US last week.

“I mean, the conversations that I had with her the last week of her life, there was no Maddie there. It was all illness.

“That brain was obsessing about Dr Pepper and whether or not she had inadvertently taken a sip of regular versus diet. And what did that mean? I talked to her for hours over consecutive days about that topic.”

Maddie’s mum Lisa, who is a clinical psychologist, said similar things.

“The voices, the eating disorder thoughts she would have that were so cruel and critical to her were so strong that all the behaviours would creep back in and she couldn’t do it,” she said.

“It made me incredibly panicked.”

The parents, who made the difficult decision after Maddie’s death to include how she died in her obituary, talked about the moment that changed their daughter’s life forever.

She was holidaying in France as a young teen when she met and spent time with a teenage girl who had an eating disorder, they said.

Off-hand comments about Maddie’s healthy appetite became louder inside the Year 8 student’s mind and her condition began. It snowballed from there.

Maddie went to a soccer camp that same year and her mother recalls how different she looked when she returned home.

On social media, Maddie appeared happy and healthy, but she was fighting demons.
On social media, Maddie appeared happy and healthy, but she was fighting demons.

“By the time we picked her up from that, she had dropped so much (weight) that she just didn’t look like herself,” Lisa said.

At one point soon after, Maddie dropped back to just 34 kilograms despite treatment that included inpatient, outpatient, therapy and medication.

Through it all, the teen excelled at school and made her way to the prestigious Dartmouth College.

On social media she posted photographs of happy moments with friends and family members.

To the outside world she appeared to be a very normal young woman.

But she was struggling. At meal times, Lisa would ensure Maddie was getting the nutrients she needed. But eventually the disease became too powerful.

In her obituary, the family wrote: “Madeleine Mae Billings of Denver passed in her sleep on December 30, 2021 after a long and arduous struggle with a treatment-resistant eating disorder. She was just 23.”

Maddie Billings died in her sleep after a battle with an eating disorder.
Maddie Billings died in her sleep after a battle with an eating disorder.

They described her as having “the biggest heart and brain in the extended family”.

“In the minefield of adolescent and young adult social circles, Maddie was the perennial Swiss, a member of all groups though exclusive to none. Everybody loved Maddie. Sadly her disease forbade her from seeing the shining light that all others saw.”

At Dartmouth, the family wrote, the illness “kept her in the hospital more than the classroom”.

She returned home to study closer to her family, especially her siblings who she adored.

“Maddie’s proudest achievement bar none was being a big sister,” her obituary read.

“She stood on a chair and watched Pace, now 19, through a gym door window play basketball during one of her many hospital passes.

“She co-mothered Cooper, now 16, and smothered him with physical affection and positive feedback.”

The family revealed that having exhausted “all conventional treatment”, Maddie enrolled in a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University for “treatment-resistant eating disorders”.

She died a week later.

The family has set up the Maddie Mae Fund in her honour.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Get in touch with Eating Disorders Association of New Zealand if you need help finding a private provider in your area by phoning Ph 0800 2 EDANZ or emailing info@ed.org.nz

If you need urgent help, reach out to your GP or local mental health provider.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

• Youth services: (06) 3555 906

• Youthline: 0800 376 633

• What’s Up: 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm)

• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

• Helpline: 1737

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111

Read More

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here