Rachael Farrokh’s eating disorder started off slow, she said, and was partially tied to her drive for success and perfection as a sales executive for a major office imaging and printing company. “My bosses would go around and say, lunch is for wimps, you need to get the numbers going,” Farrokh told Women in the World during a telephone interview on Thursday. “I just started skipping meals, being pulled away from dinners, missing lunch, and not having breakfast.”
Now, at 5-foot-7 and weighing a mere “40-something” pounds, the 37-year-old’s battle with exercise bulimia and anorexia demonstrates the extremes to which eating disorders can progress. For Farrokh, the disease resulted in her exercising four to six hours per day. “It was just years of denial, ‘no I’m just eating healthy, it’s no big deal, it’s just food,’ and it turns into that perfectionist, self-sabotaging thing,” said Farrokh, who is currently unable to walk and bed-ridden in her San Clemente, California home.
“When I was walking, I would get a lot of stares and comments. ‘Why don’t you lay off the crack, crack whore. I hope you have a disease looking like that,'” Farrokh recalled. “I would break down in tears because I could barely walk.” She also mentioned that she had not been able to sleep the night before the interview with Women in the World, one of several complications related to her low weight; other complications include brain shrinking and osteoporosis.
Farrokh is currently supported by her husband and former personal trainer, Rod Edmondson, who quit his job earlier this year to become her full-time caregiver. “My biggest fear is her not making the re-feeding process and her catching a heart attack and passing away,” says Edmondson, who has gone through therapy himself to learn effective ways to assist his wife. “It’s finding the difference between helping and enabling,” said Edmondson. “It took me a long time to find out which one I was doing.”
Their year of marriage has been marked by numerous visits to doctors, therapists, and several trips to the ER, which Edmondson said resulted in more harm than good. The couple is currently focused on seeking treatment with ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders in Denver, Colorado, one of the only medical stabilizing patient programs for adults in the country. “We go in [to meet with a doctor] today to find out how she is medically, to see if she is OK to fly,” said Edmondson. Her husband worries about traveling by air to the hospital in Denver citing the effects of altitude on her fragile body and stress that can lead to other complications given Farrokh’s frail state. “I’m pretty nervous on just her health getting there, but if they clear it, we’re good to go,” said Edmondson.
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Back in April, Farrokh posted a YouTube video asking for help and she and Edmondson also created a GoFundMe page to help raise money for costs associated with her treatment.
Farrokh, who has sought treatment at least eight times, has had a treacherous 10-year battle with her disease, but says she’s finally ready to recover and spread awareness about the psychological horrors of eating disorders. “A lot of times people come out and say I’m a recovered alcoholic. I wanted to come out and say, this is the ugly side of it,” said Farrokh.
While Farrokh’s case is extreme, millions of American’s face the same struggle, often with no physical signs or symptoms. “For many people who have eating disorders, it doesn’t always result in weight loss at all,” says Claire Mysko, Director of Programs at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). “If your thoughts or behaviors around food, weight, or body image are making it difficult for you to enjoy life, that’s enough of a sign to reach out for help,” says Mysko. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call NEDA’s helpline at 1-800-931-2237.