Image credits: Patrick Breig; Slavoljub Pantellic

The Media’s Sensational Monster: What’s So Wrong About the Coverage of Rachael Farrokh

Many of you have probably already seen the video that is now going viral of Rachael Farrokh, a 5”7’, “40-something-pound” woman seeking donations to enter a treatment facility for severe anorexia. I am very purposely not linking to that video here.

Farrokh’s story, first covered this week by NBC4 Los Angeles, represents the epitome of journalistic, quick-hit sensationalism. In Farrokh’s personal YouTube video for example, the San Clemente woman is fully clothed. For NBC4’s interview, on the other hand, the news team had her purposely clad in tank tops and shorts: making her show as much cleavage as possible, highlighting her tragic, skeletal frame. The network’s segment also, among other things, included photos of Farrokh’s completely bare-bone – literally – back.

This whole escapade is troubling on a variety of levels, but let me start with the media problem.

NBC4’s segment is unforgiveably irresponsible, and provides the quintessential example of why media coverage of eating disorders is unethical and routinely done in a way which only exacerbates and perpetuates severe and chronic anorexia, rather than curb its spread – which you’d think any news organization would prefer to have as its mission, right?

Apparently not. Media – and television media in particular – would rather go for quick, one-sided, sappy pieces like this which cement the incredibly inaccurate myths, stereotypes and stigma surrounding severe anorexia in adult women. Media coverage that accounts – not entirely, but in part – for why people like me can’t get a job today: because I’m dismissed as some freakish being too crazy to employ. Even though I’m no longer severely malnourished. (Disclosure:  While I still struggle with my eating issues, and am somewhat underweight, I am not anywhere near the emaciated condition Farrokh is in. Entrenched, behavioral routines, as well as OCD, is what I battle most, currently).

On April 29, Farrokh and her husband launched a GoFundMe campaign to get Rachael to Denver Health’s ACUTE Eating Disorders program – one of the only programs in the nation capable of helping someone in the physical and mental condition she is in. Now, less than a month later, Farrokh is all over the news and has raised $180,000 – mostly because she looks terrifying.

Meanwhile, I – a former journalist who also struggles with chronic anorexia, severe OCD and clinical depression, but now subsists off SSDI – have been attempting, for the past year, to get media outlets and even the National Eating Disorders Association  to publish stories I’ve written – or at least raise awareness – on the complicated factors underlying long-term anorexia, and why treatment for women like Farrokh is so often ineffective: so that she and others stop reaching such extremes, and stop dying. All while continuing to work on my own recovery with outpatient providers.

But no one will publish me or cover the issues I raise. Alas, I’m not grossly thin-enough to warrant the media’s attention. (Or possess a fancy-enough degree to warrant NEDA’s).

Image credit: Barry Barnes
Image credit: Barry Barnes

Apparently, neither my background, the quality of my writing, nor the issues I’m trying to highlight to improve outcomes for women with long-term anorexia matter. Apparently, what I need to do to get my voice listened to, is to go back to starving myself – but to do it even better. That – unless you happen to be a celebrity with anorexia – is clearly the only way to get one’s voice heard on this subject today.

What NBC4 and other mainstream outlets’ coverage of Farrrokh’s story says to women with both mild and severe forms of anorexia is this:

  • While we (the media) recognize and purport to care (wink, wink) – as NBC’s segment did – that anorexia has little to do with a desire to be “skinny” and is in actuality a way to cope with deep, emotional problems; we really don’t give a sh–. All we care about is how skinny you look, and what number you weigh. And if you get skinny enough – society, and us! – will recognize your pain.
  • Unless you are grossly thin, like Farrokh, you don’t have anorexia. (When in reality, many women who struggle with just as serious and life-threatening forms of anorexia – and bulimia – “pass” as “normal-weight” individuals on the street).
  • Unless you keep conforming to the stereotype we’ve created of this illness, we won’t cover your illness.

Just as worrisome is the very real possibility of what may go through the minds of girls and women with burgeoning anorexia who watch NBC4’s interview with Farrokh, or the associated YouTube video. Some could very likely start thinking to themselves, “Wow, I’m a horrible anorexic. I have no self-control, compared to this woman. I need to eat less. I need to do better.” Women with anorexia – research has shown – tend to be brutal perfectionists. So you can bet some who see this footage are now, more than ever, going to want to truly “excel” in the disorder, particularly if their anorexia is an emerging tool they’ve discovered to ameliorate excruciating, psychological pain.

It perplexes me how the majority of our nation’s, countless media outlets don’t get that the last thing they should be doing is giving more publicity to videos or photos of anorexic women in severely emaciated states. This irresponsible sensationlism feeds the disease, not the body – or soul – of the person. When obviously the latter is what’s sorely needed.

The other thing that troubles me about this issue is why – and the way in which – Farrokh launched this campaign in the first place.

Because as anybody with any knowledge of eating disorders in California knows, my very own law suit, Harlick v. Blue Shield, already requires insurance plans cover all “medically necessary” care of the nine, severe mental illnesses included in California’s Mental Health Parity Act – of which anorexia happens to be one. Our state law now mandates insurance plans cover whatever form of care a person with anorexia needs – depending on her or his state of illness – regardless of whether the individual’s plan includes the benefit or not. And this includes coverage of programs outside California.

So I simply don’t understand why Farrokh is raising money – and in such a visible way – in the first place, when she happens to live in a state with some of the best eating disorder treatment coverage in the nation. And the coverage my lawsuit made possible has been in place for four years. Therefore Farrokh has had plenty of time to seek treatment before reaching her current state. It has been her – and her husband’s – decision, to not act sooner to prevent her from now sitting on death’s doorstep. It is extremely disturbing to consider why they waited until now to go public and seek intense treatment.

Perhaps they were both in denial; I can understand that to some degree – or at least try to. Or perhaps Farrokh was too afraid to challenge the anorexia and undergo re-feeding; I can understand that a little more, as the physical process of it can be quite difficult, if not administered sensitively. Perhaps Farrokh’s cognition was so impaired, by malnourishment, she fooled herself into thinking her gradual weight loss was nothing to worry about, since she’d been through past treatment programs and had been pronounced “recovered.”

But still – to let it get to this extreme? Both Farrokh and her husband really went far past the point where it was possible to look at Farrokh’s body and remain blind to the urgency at hand. Particularly when Farrokh’s organs started failing, for goodness sake. I am not a fan of involuntary commitment in general, but when your wife’s life is in danger, hell yes – you involuntarily commit her.

NBC4 martyrizes Farrokh’s husband as her “caretaker,” a former fitness trainer (gee, I wonder if that played a role), who quit his job to attend to his wife.

Um, sorry NBC4 – I think the term you were actually searching for was “codependent enabler.” Farrokh’s husband – as well as the rest of her family and friends – are just as culpable as the media, by allowing her to remain out of treatment until now, when it’s too late.

Because it’s extremely, extremely likely this poor woman is going to die.

Rachael’s brain is so impaired right now she obviously can’t think clearly, so she is in no way deserving of criticism – including mine. And I hope my comments here do not come off that way. But I am not the only person in the eating disorder community who remains very perplexed, and seeks answers to questions which the couple continues to remain silent on. Since I posted this story Friday, I have received a flood of feedback from members in online eating disorder groups, thanking me for articulating issues they’ve been pondering and concerned about themselves.

Even when I was at my worst – which was, again, nowhere near the state Farrokh is in – the last thing I wanted was more people seeing the physical state I was in; seeing the veins on my arms popping out, seeing my hallowed cheeks. I was embarrassed to go out in public. I stayed in my apartment as much as possible. The last thing I would have ever done was post a video of myself for the world to see, or spend my time giving television interviews. When a couple newspapers ran photos of me, following my lawsuit’s victory, I immediately regretted having consented to it. I wasn’t doing well at the time, and in addition to being embarrassed about my appearance, I was even more concerned my underweight body would trigger others battling anorexia. I still regret those photos to this day (and I was not showing a bit of cleavage, for the record).

Even if Farrokh is on Medicare or Medi-Cal (which my lawsuit does not unfortunately apply to, ironically limiting my treatment options) – there are hospital-based, inpatient programs closer to Farrokh which take government plans and are well-trained in the delicate re-feeding process for the severely underweight. They certainly could have treated her before she reached 40 pounds.

And honestly, even if Farrokh isn’t covered in any way for Denver’s ACUTE program – there is no way anybody at that hospital is going to turn her away. For one, their Web site states explicitly that “Financial challenges or lack of health insurance should not prevent you from receiving care… Denver Health provides financial counseling to those who need it, affordable payment plans, and a health enrollment screening service that helps patients understand if they qualify for any financial assistance or discount programs available at Denver Health.”

Whether Farrokh is covered or not, whether she and her husband can work out a financial plan with Denver Health or not – even then, neither that center or any others are going to slam the door in her face. Eating disorder treatment is known to be one of the most difficult professions to work in – people join, and stay, in this field of practice because they care. They will take Rachael in no matter what.

So why are Farrokh and her husband spending their time doing television interviews, rather than in the hospital? Where exactly is all the money raised going?

Farrokh and her husband said to NBC4 last week, when they reached their donation goal that “when [Rachael] is physically able, they will go there” (to the Denver program). Excuse me, but Farrokh is never going to be physically able to do anything until she’s at Denver, or a similar program. Husband: carry your wife to your car and get her to the closest, capable hospital, NOW (UCLA’s ED unit, also trained to handle someone in her condition, is just around the corner!) – if you are really publicizing this tragedy for the reasons enumerated on your GoFundMe site.

Farrokh and her husband also conveniently failed to mention John Hopkins’ eating disorder program has been ready and willing to take them. A nurse at that program, Adrianne Whelan, wrote on their GoFundMe site, “[Our] facility takes the sickest of the sick, as we have the capability of caring for those who are medically compromised with severe anorexia. You are not a hopeless case! We can help you! Please call the admission office [here]. I have been there for 27 years and we have seen hundreds of case like you. Let us help you, please!”

So I am left extremely bewildered. What the hell is going on here? I hate to jump to conclusions, but considering that Farrokh has stated her prior profession as that of an aspiring actress, one can’t help but wonder – especially with the videos and television coverage involved – that something fishy may be afoot.

Farrokh told NBC4 she “wants to make her story public in hopes that it can help others” and “awaken [those] who are suffering from anorexia.”

Really? Or does she just want to be on TV?

That may sound cruel. And I’m sorry if it does; I feel bad for even considering it. But things simply aren’t clicking here.

In the end though – even if that were the case, as unlikely as it may be – it’s not Farrokh’s fault. She’s been taught that one of the best ways to get on TV or obtain YouTube fame – and isn’t that what so many of us have been brainwashed to believe is the only thing that makes you somebody that matters in this world, today – is to (even if you’re not one, at heart) look or act like a monster. Yes, the media, they love their “freaks,” and love to exploit their pain. They feed on it. Pun intended.

 

(UPDATE as of 5/26: Fox 31/Denver aired a story last night where the assistant medical director of the Denver ACUTE program said they are very ready and willing to take Rachael Farrokh, and that she ‘is the exact patient ACUTE was designed to treat.’ Despite this Rachael released a video this morning saying she will remain inside her home and receive treatment there, by a team ‘hand-picked’ by an unnamed doctor. Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani of Denver ACUTE said, about this plan, ‘My opinion is it is life-threateningly dangerous, to receive care of any type at home. The only hope for anyone recovering from critical anorexia is to enter into expert medical treatment immediately without hesitation… It’s pretty clear, without knowing her personally, this a tragic case. And I worry every day that she could die.’ [Here is a link to that story (it’s pretty short) for those interested: http://bit.ly/1Rl9Iqr.] As of this morning donations were at $187,000 and Farrokh’s latest video asks people to keep donating. She is also, once again – of her own volition – clad in a tank top showing off her ghastly, triggering body. Farrokch, in the video, claims her going public has helped people reduce their eating disorder behaviors when, in fact, members of online ED groups I belong to are reporting friends who say they feel they need to eat less after viewing Farrokh’s body. Many people continue to donate as I write, but there are also more and more individuals speaking out on her GoFundMe page, urging Rachael to follow Denver ACUTE’s advice, and to stop the fundraising campaign. Some commenters and donors are stating they fear this has all been a scam.)

 

If you find this article, or any of the writing here helpful, please also consider donating to keep this site alive, by clicking on the “Donate” icon below. Donations are critical to my continued ability to write about mental health issues in a way that dismantles myths and stigma; improves treatment; sheds light on the truth behind the misinformation spread by the media as well as some advocates and professionals; help reduce inequities and oppression; and help provide those of us labelled “mentally ill” with a true Voice in society.

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46 comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this excellent article Jeanene and for your heartfelt honesty. I’m so glad you’ve brought your “disordered world” back online!

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      Thank you Sarah! Couldn’t be doing this without your help, of course… I value your opinion enormously, so particularly appreciate your words and your time in reading the story.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      Thank you, Mel, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and am extremely glad you found it elucidating.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      Jeff – that’s what doesn’t make sense. She could have gotten the help she needed long before she reached this state. Things don’t add up. I find it interesting, the contrast between what people in the eating disorder community are saying about this, vs the general public. Many in ED circles are scratching their heads; wanting the best for this woman but also puzzled by what exactly is going on… While the general public is falling hook, line and sinker for the usual line, without questioning how the media is covering this story, how the campaign is being run, where the money is going when Rachael STILL isn’t in treatment despite $180,000 now having been raised, or challenging the questions the media fails to ask, nor the background research they fail to do, how they only cover stories like this, etc etc etc — as I’ve enumerated above…

      • Jeanene Harlick says:

        Didn’t mean to sound overly harsh there… I am not saying Rachael Farrokh does not deserve our compassion and help. And certainly I understand how a woman can be driven to starve herself because she feels undeserving of food – as Farrokh said in her interview. That is a big underlying problem for me, as well… So I don’t judge her; I just have an emotional reaction due to my own history… She is so emaciated that I’m sure her cognition is very poor, so maybe she just isn’t able to make the best decisions at the moment. I hope her family can make them for her and get her to Denver or a similar program asap….

        • Bianca Collins says:

          Jeanene, I totally agree with everything you said! I think and feel exactly the same ! Thanks for speaking up and writing this article! Still I am wondering – I guess just like you – where is her family, why haven’t they intervened and why is she still not in treatment!? This actually makes me a little upset knowing she has raised lots of money involving the public when in the meantime she could have gotten help already!? Anyway wish her the best because she indeed needs extreme help ASAP!

  2. R says:

    You excluded men and boys countless times in your article. We live with anorexia and other eating disorders, too. It’s troubling in an article in which you complain about not being emaciated enough to be published that you choose to worsen the stigma toward men and boys receiving treatment with your excessive and unnecessary use of the words “women” and “girls”, instead of people. You’re no better than the media you complain about with *your* specific requirements for being worthy of mention.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      I apologize. I am very aware men also struggle with eating disorders, including anorexia. I just tend to speak mostly about women because I AM a woman (and therefore cannot speak for men), and because I have only been in treatment (and friends with) women with eating disorders. My research has also focused on women with EDs. So I have no idea if images/footage of emaciated women affect men in the same ways they affect women with eating disorders/anorexia. However I welcome your perspective and encourage you to keep pointing out that men must be recognized as in need of help too, and that they are equal victims of stigma and being triggered. Thank you for raising this issue.

      • Jeanene Harlick says:

        P.S. to “R” – If you would be interested in writing a piece yourself about the issue you mentioned, I would welcome it as a “guest contributor” article. You may have a blog of your own, however, where you could post your views – it’s not like my audience is very large. I just wanted to throw it out there as an option, just in case you want to feel more heard… I do feel badly that I tend to exclude men when I write about eating disorder issues. But please know it is in part because I feel unqualified to speak on the subject.

  3. Sarah Ann says:

    Excellent article, Jeannie. I feel your journalistic spirit all through it! You make some key points that I had not considered about this story; then again, I’d been trying to ignore it for the most part because it kind of pissed me off, for a lot of the reasons you’ve stated (sensationalism, etc). The whole thing is kind of gross.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      Thanks Sarah… I keep wavering back and forth; I feel conflicted over whether I am airing valid views or not, whether I am being fair or not, in my thinking and feelings re: this situation… However I am seeing a lot of similar concerns raised on Rachael Farrokh’s GoFundMe page including this one by even a close, long time friend dating back to childhood, Malynda Yates, who says, among other things “…I’m not seeing you in treatment. I’m not seeing you in Colorado. What I am seeing is videos for you to go on the Dr. Phil show. What is that? I love you so much but help me understand..”

      • Kat E Grin says:

        Jeanene,

        I think the issues you raised are quite valid and I’m glad you are bringing them to our attention. On the other hand I think we need to keep into perspective how impaired Rachel’s thinking must be at her weight. My question is why her husband/ family have not legally forced her into treatment? She at this point can obviously not care for herself. I imagine if she were a minor, treatment would already be occuring. But again it is so easy for me to judge. I am not in her shoes, and don’t know what previous life experiences have led her to this point. I do believe that she is probably doing the best she can at the moment.

      • Jess N says:

        You are absolutely airing valid views, in a very fair and compassionate way. You have put words to what i’ve been thinking for a while and I appreciate it, because i wasn’t sure if i was just being judgmental and cynical. Farrokh’s story just doesn’t add up, i hope this hasn’t been a ploy to get on tv. I hope she didn’t commit fraud by taking almost 200k from donors with no intention of using the money for appropriate treatment. Is she still doing “treatment at home” or is she finally in a medical facility?

      • TooRotten says:

        IF Denver was the goal for fundraising, why the heck are they both in Portigal now?? Wondering what the issues were at Denver that sent her into another Country for treatment.

  4. anonymoiss says:

    I to suffered from bulimia/anorexia in the past..at 5’10 I got down to 123lbs.I thought I looked great..it wasn’t until my counselor told me I loooked malnourished and close to being hospitalized..I was married saw him everyday he never said a word..as I withered away..He is now my ex and If it wasn’t for my counselor and family who assumed I was on drugs another thing you get accused of. Helping me realize I needed help for my childrens sake I would probably not be here today..so yes great article and the husband must be blind or doesn’t care. There is something not clicking about all the media and not focusing on her care..she could die from cardiac arrest…If he loves her drive her to the hospital or get an ambulance…worry about the money . Later..

  5. Donna says:

    Thank you for writing this. You very eloquently explained many of the same concerns that I had upon seeing the reporting of this story but didn’t know how to articulate, and also brought up some points that I had not considered.

  6. Kat E Grin says:

    Ps J, sorry I didn’t read that you had posted almost the same response, earlier. Great minds… lol.

  7. Laura says:

    Thank you for writing this and for your courage in bringing forth your prior legal action. I am beyond disturbed about this whole thing. I’ve been watching it unfold on social media and I think people are basically paying to watch her die. I see so many ‘red flags’ of things that don’t add up: no updates, a promised ‘blog’ with updates that doesn’t exist, as you said triggering pictures, she’s making a documentary, no in-home care as they say supposedly until today (Friday) and most of all the plea to get funds to take her to treatment has been answered and. . . she’s not in treatment. As of last night their paypal address/campaign has been suspended by paypal so obviously they see an issue.

    As several have stated, where are her friends and family? So many things are fishy about this. I do not doubt that she is severely physically and mentally compromised. I do doubt that we know the whole story and that she will survive this.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      Thanks so much for your feedback Laura, and I’m glad you found the article helpful in shedding light on so many of the aforementioned, disturbing issues. All of this has been very bad for those fighting for recovery or to maintain their recovery in general. I have heard of many already severely triggered and not feeling worthy of seeking treatment, because they’re not “thin enough.” Others are frustrated that while, being equally in need of treatment, they cannot go due to lack of funds and because they don’t have the body type which generates such media coverage and attention — even though their eating disorder is no less severe. I hope the media will start understanding how to start covering eating disorders in a way which improves outcomes and the ability of others to receive treatment – rather than the current coverage which only exacerbates the disorder as well as hinders progress in eliminating stigma. Please share the article with others to help spread awareness. Thanks again!

      • Jeanene Harlick says:

        Laura, also thank you for pointing out the Pay Pal issue! That’s very interesting, I had not been aware of that. I will share that with my online ED groups and newspaper contacts!

  8. Laura says:

    Thank you Jeanene. I’ve read the other entries posted on your blog and want to encourage you to KEEP WRITING. Your talent shines through.

    Also as another comment on this case: today marks a month since the original videos asking for help have been posted. And it’s becoming more clear every day that she is not in treatment of any sort, yet. I fear it’s too late for her to recover at this point. How sad in every single respect. It’s more than ironic that in order to ‘shed light’ and ‘raise awareness’ on this disease, that the very actions being taken by this couple may lead to even more issues for people already struggling with it and to those who will, unfortunately, struggle with it in the future.

  9. Thank you so much for writing this. When I first watched Rachael’s youtube video, I felt that something was not right. Her motivation to make the video seems insincere, it does not look like she was trying to help others because she left out so much information.

    You did an excellent job criticizing NBC4′ role of sensationalizing severely underweight woman rather than talking about treatments, preventative measures, and most importantly California’s Mental Health Parity Act.

    I have a life-threatening mental illness/injury: the most severe form of PTSD. But I look completely fine. My illness/injury is invisible, that is why it is hard to get attention, even though I have so much valuable information to share to help others and raise an awareness on PTSD.

    Even though I do not have eating diorder, I was following Rachael’s story because I am passionate about learning and raising awareness on all kinds of mental illness.

    Please share my story of living with PTSD!
    http://bit.ly/1Nohstg

  10. Mary says:

    Thank you for your article. You expressed everything I have been thinking and feeling about this situation. I agree that something is fishy.

    FTR those photos and videos were professionally taken four months ago. There was special lighting, poses, facial expressions, wardrobe changes to make her look as pathetic as possible for the documentary, pseudo reality show they’re making. As both Rod and Rachael have stated they are trained dietitians, nutritionists, fitness experts, it makes me wonder. Rod and Rachael are also both actors. Rod seemed to hint that he hopes this will help launch Rachael’s acting career and he will be her manager. See the link in my sig for more information.

      • Jeanene Harlick says:

        P.S. I’ve thought of Munchausen syndrome by proxy myself. Great article. I only had time to skim it but will go back later to read in full.

      • Mary says:

        I added link to your story to my blog entry as well. You bring up some very important points. I live in SoCal 100 miles north of Rachael. I’ve been in contact with Adult Protective Services and local police which are investigating. I hope Rachael can truly recover from this situation.

    • Fiona says:

      Wow. So if those photos and videos were taken FOUR MONTHS before the fundraising campaign, they were very CLEARLY AWARE of how sick Rachel was – yet did nothing to help her.

  11. God heals says:

    I was in treatment with Rachael in 2011 and I have been friends with her on Facebook since. We had communicated even in January of this year. She said she was struggling, but doing her best. I didn’t know what that meant because there were no updated photos on her Facebook page, but I new something wasn’t quite right. She is a sweet woman and everyone loved her in the center. She was not the type in an eating disorder treatment center who would try and get attention. I have been in 5 treatment centers and there are always those girls who love the attention (or so it appears to be). Rachael was acutely kind, uplifting, quiet, and meek. She was a very sweet woman with no desire to draw attention to herself, so it was definitely a surprise to see her videos.

    However, the moment I saw her video, there was an immediate sense of discomfort. Why the production? Why the sad music in the background? Why did her husband enable her (which he did) and let it get this far? I met her husband when I was in the treatment center and he was a sweet man. I could tell he cared deeply for her, but I could also tell that he was possibly not strong enough to be hard on her. He seemed quiet like her.

    My ex broke up with me after four years, in the midst of an awful eating disorder I had gotten into about a year prior. It was awful being abandoned during that time and made getting treatment that much harder. I had to move in with my mother because I had zero money and no job. When I moved in, she immediately said “I am not going to let you kill yourself. I refuse to enable this behavior. You are getting help or you are getting out of my house.” While that may seem harsh to some people, it is the ONLY reason I went into treatment. It is the ONLY reason my eating disorder never got as bad as it was in 2008. However, like most, I ended up going back into treatment a few times prior to completely recovering.

    When dealing with this disease you need to be in a relationship (whether friend, partner, or family) who will be strong and not let you slip away. When all my resources were nearly taken away from me by my mother threatening to kick me out if I didn’t get myself together, it was fight or flight. I chose to fight. I got a job and moved on with my life.

    Point is, I cannot shake the fact that her husband has let it get this far. I am not saying that he should have threatened to leave her. Absolutely not. However, I believe he should have intervened more. At the same time, I can see how it may have been difficult for him. You can’t just threaten someone who has a disease with divorce. That’s just wrong. It’s utterly wrong. However, still can’t wrap my head around it. I’m sure he’s in a tough spot. I’m torn on this one for sure.

    I go back on to read the update on their Gofundme page. Then, come to find out that she is not going to Denver, but instead, doing an in-home treatment and I’m like—what??? I then have to question whether her husband has her best interest in mind. The decision for in-home treatment, in my humble opinion (and again this is hard because I don’t have all the information) is the worst decision he could make for her. Also, what is up with this comment? “We are all working with her to help Rachael get mentally prepared to go into an eating facility, but that’s going to take some time as she’s not mentally ready as of today. We are also working with doctors and others in the medical field to make this happen.”
    Am I reading this incorrectly? Sorry for the ignorance, but if I am reading this wrong, please let me know. Why does she need to mentally prepare for getting treatment when she’d been on the internet trying to get help to go to Denver ASAP? Also, the treatment center has already stated that it takes patients at her degree of severity all the time and that there is no concern of flight or needing to be “mentally prepared” for treatment.

    I want to know, who are these people treating her? Are they as knowledgable as the doctors in Denver? Or are they just regular doctors who live in their city? I feel home care is not the best decision for her, but again, maybe I don’t know the whole story.

    They are saying the treatment will take 3-5 years. Okay, look…treatment in a clinic can take up to a year, but rarely have I seen that take place. I’ve seen 6 months for very few people. So let’s say it takes a year, by that time her weight should be good (hopefully) and she should have enough psychotherapy to get her through ongoing recover at home, possibly with outpatient therapy for another 6 months. It will not take her 3-5 years to have consistent in-home therapy as some may see it. It doesn’t work that way. The patient has to want this and do what they have learned on their own. She will definitely need weekly or biweekly therapy sessions after a year or two or getting inpatient/outpatient treatment, but I don’t see her needing more that that. So basically it’s 6 months to a MAX of 1 year for inpatient (never even heard of a year of treatment, but might be different for her) and a max of probably 6 months of outpatient. Then continued care with a dietician and psychologist at about once a week, going to biweekly, then monthly, then possibly ending depending on where she is in her recovery. All which should be covered by insurance, given that they don’t try kicking her out earlier. The danger, is that to someone who hasn’t a clue as to how it works, would see 3-5 years as consistent expensive inpatient/outpatient therapy. That is not the case and I believe that statement in itself is a little misleading to those not educated on the subject.

    Lastly, perhaps I missed something, but why has insurance not been mentioned? Obamacare anyone? Medicare? Doesn’t he own a fitness center? That would mean he should have some type of healthcare.

    I am just as torn as others. I neither want to pass judgements on what they or doing nor do I want to reprimand them and make assumptions. I, as well as many others, simply have loads of questions regarding the whole setup of this.

    Final point I want to make, is that Rachael and her husband should know better than to post those incredibly triggering photos. I could go on about how anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder knows that doing what they are doing (essentially glamorizing the disorder) is an absolutely no-no. I understand a few pictures, but why on earth is she posing for camera, showing an awful amount of skin, in ways that try to pull the heartstrings. It’s frankly disturbing and it’s really the only thing I am truly upset about. I don’t even blame the media for this as much as I blame Rachael, her husband, and that photographer friend that she has known for quite some time.

    I love Rachel and hope that she recovers, but I hope that she realizes her triggering ways and apologizes in a youtube video about it. I believe that is necessary in order to assist those seeing her and not feeling “sick enough.” God bless her and her husband. I hope they do the right thing.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your friendship with Rachael and what you’ve witnessed over the years, as well as your current feelings/confusion re: what is currently occurring. I think you write of feelings/thoughts many of us in the ED community also have – some expressed above by me as well as others. This is an important perspective. I greatly appreciate your input.

    • Mari Laskmi says:

      Thank you, God Heals, for helping those of us who have been following this story understand more about Rachael and Rod and why they are doing what they are doing……it would be great if you could repost this at the GoFundMe website……there are a lot of concerned and confused people there, and this post would help shed more light on the situation….

  12. God heals says:

    I apologize Jeanene, as I did not read you post in its entirety! I now see you touched on most things I wrote. I guess I just got so caught up and I wanted to get it out myself. It has been hard because she is my friend on Facebook and my other friends who know her, appear to support her fully and not have any suspicion. Thank you for letting me vent and I think your post deserves more recognition.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      No worries – I totally understand and think it was courageous and important to share your perspective and feelings. I truly hope, too, that Rachael gets help – if it’s not already too late. I do fear, like others, that something troubling is going on w/ her husband.

  13. Gina says:

    Hi – I am very upset by Rachael’s story – as a former, recovering Anorexic I ‘m finding it hard to follow Rachael. I did donate to her fund. I did so that she might receive the care offered in Denver. I know that my recovery would have been so much easier if I had been given nearly $200,000 to achieve it. I cannot believe that, instead of going to the clinic, she and Rod are making plans to visit Disneyland (as mentioned in the June 1. 2015 podcast with Jim Carroll – the link to which has been removed from their gofundme national site) .

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      Yes, it’s very frustrating. I know many I’m in touch with online are upset. I think we have found it is best to try and distance ourselves from the story now as we were so fixated on it, in the beginning, that it was becoming unhealthy for our own recovery… But many are worried this campaign and how it’s been undertaken will hinder others’ ability to raise funds for treatment (for those who lack insurance or have Medi-Cal/Medicare etc). And then there’s the confusing issue of Rachael already living in a state with parity when it comes to private health care coverage of anorexia…

  14. Sarah says:

    She is obviously extremely sick, but this ridiculous. If she was really ready and wanting to get better, she would be- this whole story is fishy, and I don’t see how she would allow herself to be photographed in the ways she has. I don’t see how they don’t 5150 someone in this condition who clearly is not in the right mind to make any decisions for herself- I could go on forever about it, it is absurd she is still in her home right now and her husband and any family or friends let this all happen. I agree wi everything you have written here I your article, this whole thing is horrible in every way

  15. RJ says:

    I’ve been watching this unfold and I finally requested a refund from the gofundme page which they gave with zero hesitation. I’ve seen her total go down slightly as others get refunds as well. She made a public plea for immediate help to Denver. That is not happening now and truly don’t believe that was really the goal, despite what Rachael said. I’ve listened to Jim’s radio broadcast. I have to say it made my blood boil. First, as a man who loves his woman, Rod is being played by his sweet wife. This disease is all about control and Rod is not able to rise above her manipulation. I truly believe Rachael, not Rod, wanted to raise this money so that he wouldn’t have to work, so he could be home to attend to her. Because with some cognitive reality, she knows she can’t recover without him. This was never a plea to get to a hospital. It was a plea to allow Rod to stay home and have the resources to do that. After hearing Rod on the radio, he’s thrilled to see her eating a french fry and soft noodles. A man, who’s watched his wife deteriorate by her own doing, he feels utterly helpless. By his own words, he said he can’t force his wife to go until she’s ready. He loves his wife. I truly believe he’s just not strong enough to be the one to help her. She wants to be home…so who’s home? She is. It’s her comfort zone. Why would she want to leave? She can control her environment at home, whereas, she’d lose that control at a hospital. Remember this disease is all about the control. With all my heart, that man feels like he can’t do it. Somebody needs to intervene for BOTH of them. I’m heartbroken as I feel like she will die before she ever feels ready to leave her house.

  16. egs says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful and interesting post. I think everything about this campaign is fishy. Even the way she talks; the crying seems on cue…and you are on point re the tank tops, etc. What a terribly sad story…

  17. Adelle says:

    I saw an image of her posted on Facebook today on the “Chopper the Biker Dog” page. At least she’s in a hospital for the moment.
    Anyways, I was just stymied by the report the image linked to, and shocked to the core that her husband could have let it get this bad. I’ve had ill friends and family members I and others have had to drag to the ER, and a mom who worked in the ER for 30 years–it’s not very hard to get someone checked into the psych ward for a couple days. It’s a liability for them NOT to do a 48-hour hold. I can’t be convinced any hospital would have released her, even 40 lbs “heavier” than she is now.
    Anyways, thanks for your article. I haven’t suffered from an ED and am always most interested in feedback from those close to the issue at hand.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      I have been trying to distance myself from the story for the sake of my own mental health, but thank you for letting us know about the “Chopper the Bike Dog” page – I googled it and saw what has/is being posted. I had a Twitter “conversation” with him today, asking him to please educate himself about how harmful such photos/video can be…. Your other point is valid and I think I addressed it in my column. Many people within the eating disorder community are confused and upset about how Rachael Farrokh and her husband are going about this. They are also confused as to why there is a need for so much money if she has insurance and, as I noted, lives in a state that that requires private insurers provide some of the best ED treatment coverage in the nation.

  18. Gabriele says:

    I’ve been following this story since the beginning. I have to admit, i don’t understand anorexia. Try as i might, i just do not get it. What interests me with this story is the fact that i’ve worked in a hospital for 27 years (am not a nurse) and have interacted with patients, especially in the ER, for most of that time. And i know a little about the laws governing ER’s. Namely, that no hospital can EVER turn away any patient. It’s called the EMTALA Act (or EMTLA). It is a felony to turn away a patient without stabilizing them first. No hospital would do this. So the story was based on lies from the very beginning. There is NO weight requirment either, i’ve never heard anything so stupid. So either her husband is extremely stupid or he’s a liar, either way it doesn’t look good for him. Secondly, those pictures! What person in their right mind would pose OR take those pictures? She’s looking seductively over her shoulder. Really? Sorry but these pictures are frightening, in the worst possible way. There is professional photo equipment in the background. Who would do this except in an attempt to USE and profit from this situation? There is no other way to explain this. There are pictures of her wearing diapers and even one with her topless. No decent husband, even while trying to make a point, would photograph his wife this way. The constant excuses back and forth, the pictures taken when she was wheeled OUT of the ER weeks ago…….the idiotic grins both of them have in those photos, who grins coming or going out of an ER? I will tell you………nobody!! This is a life or death situation and he’s grinning like an idiot. I really just do not get it. Now, apparently, some therapy dog has visited her in the hospital and posted a video about it. This seems like proof she’s in the hospital right now. Someone posted that when she went to the ER she used her real name “for insurance purposes”. If she has insurance, WHY ARE THEY RAISING MONEY????? Just because that dog visited her doesn’t answer all the other questions. And i just do not comprehend how you can let yourself get this thin or let your spouse get this thin without intervention. There is the option of having them psychiatrically committed, why didn’t he do that? If it doesn’t feel right, in your gut, then something isn’t right…..

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