When Hashtags Take You to Dark Places

The Twitterverse is usually a wonderful place.

Except when it’s not.

The other day I was looking for conversations about #teachers, and this post caught my eye:

I couldn’t help but reply:

I was trying to be funny.

Fayth didn’t think it was funny.

She read me the riot act.

She told me to stay out of her business.

Instead, I went and read her profile.

So I learned that Fayth is Faith.

And that she currently weighs 91 pounds.

But.

Her goal weight is 75 pounds.

Let me give you some perspective.

My son, Tech Support, is in 7th grade.

He is 5’3″ and weighs in at a whopping 88 pounds.

(He is like a walking skeleton. For reals. The kid is all elbows and knees.)

Anyway, I got worried.

The more I poked around, the more I could see that Fayth was struggling: with school and self-image. She admitted to cutting herself.

Something else was troubling Fayth, too. But she wouldn’t share, even when we shifted to direct messaging.

Fayth shares some disturbing images on her Twitter page. Pictures of her hipbones. Her ribs. Blood in a styrofoam cup. The food she eats (puffed wheat and diet cranberry juice). Directions about the fast she was on.

I tried to tell her that her photos and her words caught my attention.

That she scared me.

We private messaged for a little while.

She shared so little.

She is used to withholding.

I did lots of typing.

For a few days, Fayth disappeared from Twitter altogether.

But the other day, I saw this post:

So now I know this high school student weighs less than my son.

And today, I saw this:

I let her know I’m still here.

If she needs someone to rant to, there’s a stranger who cares.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with this information.

I wish I knew where Fayth/Faith lived because I would drive over to her house and sit on the floor with her. I would be quiet and let her cry. Or not cry. She could be mad if she needed to be mad. But I would do my best to get her to whisper whatever her big scary thing is. Even if it meant telling her my biggest, scariest thing. Someone needs to pay attention to this smart girl who is doing dangerous things. To this young woman who is too tiny to wear a size 00. To the pretty young woman in the  baggy clothing. To the beautiful young woman who just got her hair straightened and spends all her time counting calories.

Because she isn’t going to be here for long if someone doesn’t help her find her broken places so she can repair herself.

And it is possible to fix yourself if you’ve got the right tools in the tool belt.

It is.

Do we have any responsibilities to each other on social media? Or do we just shrug our cyber shoulders?

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112 responses to “When Hashtags Take You to Dark Places

  1. The sad part is there are so many like her…..

    • So many! I just hope she is getting help. I hope that she is using Twitter as an outlet but that she is actually getting some professional help. I have known so many people who have struggled with this.

      It doesn’t go away.

      It can get better though.

  2. Wow. Beautiful piece, which seems odd to say. We are all beautiful. If only we could all see it in ourselves.

  3. My sisters struggled with their weight for as long as I can remember. A few times they had to be put in the hospital for anorexia and bulimia. I remember my oldest sister being 110 lbs at 5’7″. She was so thing we had to put her in the hospital.

    This is something very close to me and my family. Thank you for this post!

    Brian

    • I have had so many former students wrestle with their weight. One of my most beloveds was hospitalized. She used to put forks in her pockets when she was being weighed.

      Sigh.

      I’m wondering if I should tell her that I posted this. She doesn’t follow my blog.

      • My sisters did a lot of things so we would think they weren’t doing things. Hiding food, wearing more clothes, that type of thing. I know a lot of the warning signs because of my sisters and I’ll be watching my own kids for the signs.

        This girl needs help before there’s nothing left.

        • I know! That’s why I asked my question about our moral responsibility on social media. As writers, we tell each other a lot about each other. We have about pages, and we share where we live pretty readily. But teens. Wow. She was closed up like a fan. No information. She could live two streets away, and I wouldn’t know.

          In fact, I feel like I’ve been seeing her everywhere lately. How’s that for crazy making! I think I’ve been looking for her.

          I know the signs, too. But you can’t help when someone won’t let you in…

          • Now that I have daughter I’m understanding how one sided the media is toward the “ideal” woman. I’ve never cared for media’s version of ideal.

            I hope she listens to you Renee!

  4. It’s hard enough when they are sitting in desks in front of you with access to school counselors and addresses and parents. If she is on Twitter about this stuff, she is yelling for help. You answered. Hopefully someone who knows her in real life will too. Prayers.

    • She is screaming for help, but to the wrong people. I can see there is a divorce involved. And lots of anger. Obviously control issues, too. But there is something lurking underneath all of it.

      And I don’t know if she’s shared with anyone.

      I don’t know if her parents know about her goal.

  5. It is a disease. In my profession, I’ve known girls with eating disorders. Faith’s disease needs to be treated. You were the first step of getting her there, even if you don’t feel like you were.

    Hugs.

  6. My daughter is 14. She’s 5’10″ and weighs around 145 – 150lbs. She just told me she wants to weigh 130 lbs. I thanked her for talking to me about what she wanted and said I would help her work out what a normal weight for a girl her height is, and then help her make good food choices. And then I read your post and started to cry because I’m so scared for her, for what she’s going through. Thank you for being there for this kid. Someone needs to be.

    • I don’t know what to say. I’m just a teacher. I’ll just say this: I’m 5’6″ and I weigh 125. People tell me I’m thin and your daughter has got 4″ on me! Don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician. I’m no doctor, but the fact that she shared that information is probably the BEST thing she could have done. She is talking to you. Fayth isn’t talking.

      • similar thoughts from here. my wife is 5’9″ with a strong athletic frame (rowed varsity crew in college, over 20 years ago). The only time since we were married when she dropped down to 150 was when she had a horrible flu/vertigo that lasted over a week (ie, it wasn’t a healthy weight for her.)

        Liv — please tell your daughter that there is no shame in a particular number for weight. With my wife’s height and frame, if she was in perfect athletic shape without any fat, she’d still weigh about 170 pounds. And she’d look darn good too!

  7. She is crying for help and we should not shrug, not ever. We should yell if we have to, at her, with her or about her. I am proud of you for reaching out to her–very proud. Love you.

  8. Gosh, this is so heartbreaking! :( The cutting, the starving.. WHY? I am so glad you reached out to this girl, Renee..

    Sometimes I see my daughter staring at image after image of Photoshopped girls that are super thin and it ticks me off…. I ask her why she is looking at the pictures.. she says, “they’re pretty” I say, “you’re pretty” she says, “whatever.”

    UGH!!!!

    • Part of it is the age: we are measuring ourselves against everything, remember? But this is a disease, no doubt. People’s brains are wired different,y. They see themselves in a way no one else does. Their view is beyond distorted.

      Darlene: just keep telling your daughter how much you love her and remind her she can talk to you about anything!

  9. I don’t even know what to say. This is so terrifying.

  10. So sad. I read something in “The Zone Diet” (of all places) the other day. It was talking about how we have become a society of eating the wrong things & that it actually started back in the days of the Egyptians. The point I’m trying to get to is that someone asked why then were all the lithographs, sketchings, drawings, etc. of Egypt of thin people – the answer – because years from now all that will be left of our lifetime/lifestyle will be the issues of magazines that show only thin, “beautiful” people. Society has a warped sense of beauty – it’s thrown into our children’s faces each & every day. They “aspire” to be what they see – not knowing they are forcing their bodies to “expire”. :( You have reached out, maybe she will reach back. Thank you for being brave enough to do that.

    • Oooh. That is a dark way of looking at things. We certainly focus more on external beauty than internal beauty. Obviously. I just know there is so much more to anorexia than self-image. It’s about control and punishment. It’s about hurting yourself in a different way. It’s a battle of wills. People say, “Eat!” but they also say, ” You look so good!” so many confused messages for our teens to take in.

  11. Yes. We do. And you shouldered it beautifully. I’m grateful you ran into that precious one. Whether she knew it or not, you were a gift. You ARE a gift.

    Holding her name up to God’s ears. xo

  12. Last night after I had just gotten into bed I heard a girl wailing out on my front lawn. She was distraught and I felt like I should do something. I didn’t know her at all but I thought maybe if she just came inside and did whatever she had to do out of the cold, it might be a little helpful to her.

    But she had a friend or relative with her so instead I just waited to make sure they were both ok. In the end they left and I climbed back under the covers.

    Bless you for reaching out Renée, I’m sure that you’ve made more of a difference than you think. I hope that Fayth reaches out to you and that she learns about her true beauty – the one that isn’t defined by photoshop and cruelty.

  13. I don’t think I’d have to be a teacher for this to break my heart. Because I am a teacher, it makes it all the more of a sensitive subject. It makes me so sad that this poor girl has been told she is worthless, or that she feels that way for whatever reason. Good on you for trying to re-enforce and remind her she is beautiful. An educator’s work never ceases, does it?

    • Kevin: doesn’t this stuff slay you when you read it from your own students? But here I feel so helpless. She could unfollow me. Or block me. And then what? I’m going to keep letting her know I’m here in the least stalkerish way possible.

  14. It is good you listened. So many do not.

    If you keep talking, she might hear you some day. The thing that breaks me about things like eating disorders or depression is – you can talk forever, but until they want to listen, they hear nothing.

    Perhaps you brought her closer to listening. I hope you did.

    I would not have silent either.

    • Kelly! I know you know what you speak. It’s hard enough to talk to anorexic girls in person. Their wills are so strong. They are used to withholding everything: love, food, communication, honesty.

      I doubt our 3 days of texting has made much difference, but I do think we should have some way to report things when we are scared.

  15. Hey Renee. I had to comment because I had a similar situation this weekend. I am composing a post – I’ll send the link if you’re interested when I put it up. Anyway, I had been watching the Facebook posts of one of my daughter’s friends all week and getting more and more concerned when I received a phone call late Friday night from this friend. She was frantic and desperate and I ended up getting her to call the suicide hotline. I went to her home to make sure she was OK (the kind counselors had been able to calm her down when I had run out of “tricks”. I will be forever grateful to them now.) You never know when you might make an impression on someone’s life, and these days social media is a “safe”, impersonal way these kids are able to use to cry out for help. We should NEVER ignore the signs. I’m so happy to read that you took the plunge and began a conversation with this young woman. You may have made a tremendous difference in someone’s life just because you listened.

  16. This is heartbreaking and unfortunately familiar. My sister is going on 13 and is consistently trying to watch what she eats. One of her closest friends was recently hospitalized for anorexia (also at age 12) and my sister saw the hell that this girl went through, so we’re not too worried about her in that area. What worries me about both Fayth and my sister is the reaching out into the Twitter world and sending tweets that so desperately yell for attention. They’re lacking in the self-esteem department and want people to pay attention to them, and as a result are going to extremes to get people’s attention. Sometimes, with my sister, she exaggerates on the “I hate my life and I want to kill myself” messages so she can get that kind of attention. It’s concerning because I was there when I was 12 – 14 as well; the cutting, the depression, the lack of self-worth and need for attention and justification, the desperate and needy status updates to get people to pay attention to me. It’s heartbreaking to see other people go through it.

    From someone who’s been there before, you did a great job reaching out to her. Seeing love and a burst of self-esteem from random strangers is, on the outside, exactly what this girl is looking for. It’s definitely our responsibility to reach out and love people in this way. It’s frustrating to not know her personally or know anything about her so you can help her, but you’re helping in the best way you can by just being a friend to her – a friend who wants nothing in return but to love and show grace.

    Wow, I just blogged about this topic this morning; thank you for encouraging my passion for loving people.

  17. Of course we have responsibilities to each other, whether we’re sitting across from one another on the bus or in cyberspace. That is what makes us a society, isn’t it?

    You might feel frustrated that you haven’t done enough but maybe that little bit was enough to encourage a first step. We don’t know, and we won’t know unless Faith shares back. But you didn’t ignore her, and that’s big. Especially to teenagers.

  18. I am glad you reached out to her. You may never get to see thid through given that you don’t know her in real life. But let me share a couple of things. Firstly, when I was in college I became suicidally depressed. Twice I came to a point of decision about ending my life or going on. Both times seeminly very small things were what kept me going. Nearly 20 years later, I am grateful beyond words for that. What little contact you have with her may be making a huge difference.

    Secondly – you are almost certainly right about something lurking under the surface. More and more people who self-harm (cutting, eating disorders, etc…) are coming forth with a history of abuse, particularly sexual abuse. If this is her story, she has been trained and conditioned not to talk about it. So she may never tell you her story. As a survivor, I have to say that again – anyone reaching out with the smallest bit of compassion and without judgement of what she may have been through can make a great difference even if she doesn’t choose to open up to you.

    Thirdly, you don’t know where she lives or what her story is unless she tells you. So do what you can and try not to feel guilty if it isn’t enough for her.

    Good for you for not ignoring her. This world needs as much kindness and compassion as we can lend it. Your deeds will not be forgotten.

    • Meghan: thank you. Unfortunately, I know too much about the relationship between sexual abuse and anorexia. But sometimes it’s divorce or some other trauma.

      I hope she will share more with me.

      I’m not going to tell her about this post.

      I’d like to see if, by sticking around, I can gain her trust.

  19. This breaks my heart. So please let me just say this:

    You are a special person to care so much for a stranger; to give yourself so openly to her; to share this story, this fear.

    Yes, you are special, too.
    Don’t you forget it.

  20. Unfortunately, the person Faith needs is Faith, and no one can give her that but herself. Very sad. Many prayers for this girl.

  21. thetwistingkaleidoscope

    I posted this elsewhere, but . . .
    THANK YOU for talking to her. It doesn’t matter if you never find out what happened. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t feel you got through to her. Kind and loving words may seem to roll off, but they HAVE BEEN SAID and nothing can change that. Take it from someone who has been in a similar situation to that dear child. The sweet words of a stranger can make a difference where the words of those close to her cannot (because often the ones closest are part of the problem and so their words come off as judgmental or nagging or irrelevant). She may never respond to you but I promise you that what you have said to her will recur in her mind (even as she tries to shove it away) and if it brings her even a few seconds of healing it was worth it. ♥

  22. There’s a quote that seems to always be going around Facebook–something about how you’re only responsible for what you say, not what someone else hears. That’s what I think of when I read this. I’m glad you’re saying what she needs to hear, but I hope you’re not setting yourself up for responsibility if she doesn’t hear it.

    And I would seriously, seriously recommend Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s a life-changer, and a chance for girls who are struggling to see the story play out for someone else. That’s easier for so many.

    Glad you’re there, reaching out. Much love, warrior lady.

  23. Thanks for trying. Poor little thing.

  24. I think twitter is a dangerous and inappropriate way for her to reach out and for “interest” and concern to be returned. She is setting herself up for predators and should be told such. These things can turn into rattlesnakes for all involved. She seems insightful as to her malaise and at the very least be encouraged to seek help from providers in her area. And to get off the net and retain openness only in privacy. As a high school teacher, over the years several girls…..well I’ll allow you to speculate but I had to keep it at arms length and refer to authorities and professionals immediately. No we never turn our back to a cry for help but keep the boundaries.

    • Carl, before I gave her the “voice of authority,” I felt I needed to be gentle. I have a feeling a very good girl is looking to be a little bit bad. And who are the authorities here? If you point me toward a place in Twitter where I can report her dangerous behavior, I’ll do it. But she’ll set up tomorrow under a new name.

  25. You did the right thing. I know that not knowing the whole story, the one she won’t tell, is killing you because you just want to help. But I believe it’s possible she told you, estranger, more than she has told anyone else. You are incredible for reaching out to her. And of course, knowing you, I’m not surprised.

  26. I am certain that you were meant to stumble onto Fayth’s handle/page/ and into her life. Wow, Ren. This is serious and seriously scary stuff and I think you’re handling it beautifully. With depth. With heart.

    And yes, I think that we ALL bear responsibility, even on social media. In fact, I’ve just begun following a police officer who spents most of him time on social media and has saved 10 lives because of it. It’s his job, but moreso, it’s his calling.

    I don’t know at which point one is meant to give up another as lost cause, though. I’m gonna go with never. I do not envy your position, my friend. Not for one moment. This is hard stuff to bear.. But oh, how I love you and your open arms, open heart .

    Here’s hoping that one day, Fayth knows how I feel, because she recognizes your hand, reaching out, as one that is true and strong and real.

    Please keep us updated.

    • Liz. If anyone would understand this, it would be you. I suppose many think you are the Patron Saint of Lost Souls. But I believe this girl is genuinely hurting, and if I can be the one bright spot in her day, I’ll try that for a while.

      Until it feels bad.

      • The Patron Saint of Lost Souls. Heh. I kinda….dig that. It does sorta sound like me, doesn’t it?

        I checked out Fayth’s Twitter friends and was extremely saddened to note that there dozens, hundreds, likely thousands of girls just like her…dying for love/attention/affection/breathe. Key word: dying.

        Heartbreaking. Utterly, utterly heartbreaking.

  27. Oh my gosh, break my heart. I think you did absolutely the right thing in reaching out to her, and I think that if any of us encounter such a troubled kid (or adult, for that matter), we do have a responsibility to do what we can (even though it’s scary).

    I hear what some of the other commenters have said about the only person who is able to help Faith is Faith, which is ultimately true. As responsible, caring adults, I think we are obligated to reach out and care, even if it never bears fruit. One never know when a seed planted will sprout, and hopefully your seeds of caring will have a chance with this little girl.

    I’m also disturbed by her use of the word “rape” in her Twitter bio. Also heartbreaking, the heavy words that are used casually, or for shock value. It says so much about the world our youth can be growing up in, no?

  28. I couldn’t even go there. Not on this blog. That’s a hot button for me. But yes, disturbing. And telling of a society where children hear words but don’t understand their full weight.

    Either that or she understands too much.

    Her story is tragic no matter how one interprets this bio.

  29. Renee, there are so many good comments here. We can’t take on every problem we see with the world. It’s overwhelming. There’s a balance to be found between brushing things off and trying to save everyone. At those extremes, we either shut everyone out or become shut down.

    I try to remember that we’re all participants in creating joy in our own lives as well as the lives of those who wish for joy. Life is ongoing creation. You’re a willing participant in her creation, but it is still hers to create. You’ve said what you felt was good and right. You’ve put it “out there” and it will sit with her in one way or another, whether it’s now or later.

    • Oh Chris:

      You have hit my thing.

      I get overwhelmed by all this stuff. I always get too involved in my students’ lives. I start to care about them too much. I can’t help it. It’s my greatest strength and my Achilles’ heel. I have made a little more peace with this today.

      I have reached out.

      I let her know a random stranger cares.

      But I’m pretty sure she’s just happy to have another follower.

      Probably.

  30. I think we do have responsibilities to others we meet on the internet. I met an 18 year old who is depression and suicidal through my blog and we have an email relationship now. She is better now since I have convinced her to see another doctor for different meds and talked to her about my experiences. We share our experiences. She helps me as well. She reached out to me and I felt that I had to reach back. I;m glad I did and found a young friend.

    • Maire:

      I guess that’s why I reached out. I have had luck doing so in the past, as you have. People have helped me by reaching out to me at strange times. Sometimes I was in a place to be receptive. Other times, less so.

      I just couldn’t cyber-shrug my shoulders.

  31. Your heart drew me to you the first time I read anything of yours, Renee, and it keeps drawing me back. I love your attitude. I also truly hope this young lady finds help.

  32. I have a 6 year old daughter and she has spoken about fat. I couldn’t believe it. I think we live in a society now where the word “fat” has become a curse word. It scares me. It makes me want to move to a cave.

  33. absolutely heartbreaking :( Obviously something traumatic has broken her. She doesn’t love herself.

    I encourage my own children to be strong and healthy. Who cares if you weigh 75lbs and would blow over in a slight breeze? It’s better to be able to flex some muscles, swim some laps without fainting, to run and not grow weary, to dance and leap. It’s not about the number on the scale or the number in on the tag of your jeans. It’s about being capable and strong.

    But of course, when you hate the image in the mirror you have much deeper issues that can’t be fixed with one conversation. :( Keep talking to her, friend. She is crying out for help.

    • Exactly, Annie. She is so miserable and broken. It breaks my heart. I am going to keep talking to her, and maybe — eventually — I’ll let her know about this.

      Or not.

      In the meantime, please keep teaching your kids to be strong and feel good about their bodies.

  34. This makes my heart hurt. I’ve seen a lot of it on Tumblr, and I feel helpless. I think it’s time to do a little research into this…because I’d hate for a student to come through my classroom and I totally miss the signs. I don’t want to be totally unprepared when God gives me the opportunity to be light in their lives.

    Thanks for bringing a personal awareness to this issue! You are a light in a dark world. =)

  35. This makes me so sad. And I am so glad you brought this up….what responsibility do we have? I have no clue but I love that you engaged her and kept pursuing. I feel like TJ above – It makes my heart hurt!

  36. My answer would be yes. As human beings we have a responsibility to reach out to each other. And I also believe there’s a reason that this girl and you encountered each other. Your words may be that silent whisper that’s telling her there’s help for her and that she worth that help.

    BUT you are not responsible for what happens next.

    Hopefully she’ll allow you to keep talking to her. But, if not, you’ve done all you can possibly do in the position you’re in. I have faith that her screams for help are also being heard by the parents, teachers, friends, etc who know her personally. I think this is going to happen more and more often. There’s so much pain out there and because social media feels removed kids are going to cry out in those venues first. I’m so glad there are people like you out there.

    Amy

  37. As someone currently living with an eating disorder and using social media to discuss it anonymously, it doesn’t surprise me much that she didn’t open up in your private conversation. For a lot of us dealing with these sorts of things, we’re primarily here to vent and to share with others dealing with similar situations. Opening up to some stranger who wants to help (despite your good intentions) is unnerving–and most of us are aware of our problems, and that help is available. Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy.

    • Scarlett:

      Thank you for sharing. I wasn’t expecting her to open up, per se. I was just reaching out. Feeling hopeful. As I said in an earlier comment, I have been receptive to comments from strangers at different times in my life. I guess I was hoping to be that person. How naive.

      I hope you are well. I know body perceptions are difficult to change.

  38. Such a heart wrenching post. As a fully recovered anorexic and having worked with and met countless others sufferers, I’m not surprised that Faith reached out via social media either.

    In many cases, they are cries for help. Sadly, they also often gain the wrong kind of support—i.e., encouragement to further her ED-ed thoughts and behaviors.

    While the public is not responsible from a legal or biological standpoint, I feel we are responsible ethically to use our lives, expertise and insight to help others. Thank you for this post and your gigantic, loving heart.

    • August, I hope that she is getting help. She alluded to a therapist, so hopefully she is. All I know is that if she is trying to get down to 75 pounds, she may not be around for very long.

      We, adults, know these things.

      I will just keep my fingers crossed that she will find the right help and that Twitter connections help her in some way.

  39. Wow. What a lovely person you are for taking the time to reach out to her. The kindness of a stranger can mean so much.

  40. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Which I guess is part of the problem. It’s amazing how you can reach millions of people with one click, and yet be completely lost and alone.

    I think what you did can only help, and I really hope it does!

    • Hi Jules:

      Obviously this one struck a nerve for people. I just feel like there is no way for us to really show how worried we are. We can feel terror — and then click off of social media.

      It’s a real trigger for me.

      I had a student commit suicide while he was enrolled in my class. I wonder if he tweeted about it. I wonder if people tweet about things like that and no one reacts.

      That concerns me.

  41. I have an 8 yr old son who weighs more than her and he’s considered a string bean. I also have a 4 yr old daughter and this kind if thing terrifies me. And makes me so very sad. Good for you for trying…

  42. This post reminds me of conversations I had with friends in middle school and nights where my own depression became too much to bare. It was good of you to reach out to Fayth. What’s so sad to me is that if her friends are on twitter, are they encouraging her weight loss? I hope and pray that Fayth is surrounded by a support network and knows she’s not alone. Whatever is bothering her, there are others dealing with the same issues, probably the people she least expects. It will take time, but I hope Fayth doesn’t wait too long. I hope she is able to make positive changes in her life and health.

    • She did not seem to be surrounded by a network of real “friends.” Many people wanted to hear about her 7 day fast. She has surrounded herself with toxic people.

      But she is looking for followers.

      I was also concerned by the casual use of the word “rape” in her Twitter bio. What’s that about?

      • That fad came around when I was in college. To me, it’s no different than the hate speech people use when they say things like that’s gay or that’s retarded. At school, when our campus faced being visited by an anti-muslim hate group, I rallied all 13 diversity orgs together to create a full week of alternative peaceful events that allowed openness of dialogue and questions about other cultures. One of the days just focused on hate speech. We had signs all around the campus center and let people write down the words on a big door that were hurtful to them and looked at what other words were there. We then had representatives from every diversity org around the campus center to talk and have a dialogue about impactful language really is. I so WISH Fayth had an experience like this. One that focused on body image.

        For 3 years I worked with a diversity education by performance group and many of the pieces I wrote and performed had to do with gender roles. I would love to envelop Fayth with a huge hug and share with her the things that meant so much to me and really TALK. I’d tell her my spoken word about how who she is as a person isn’t defined by the make up and clothes she wears.

        You know, there’s SO SO much out there. Good and bad. But right now, Fayth isn’t looking for the good. I know sometimes people need to hit rock bottom before they can start to climb out, but in Fayth’s case, it could take her life before she gets there. I will keep Fayth in my prayers.

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  44. I found your blog when you were pressed. I was immediately attached to your honest voice wrapped in the crisp prose of a true writer. Since that time I have been thankful over and again that I happened upon you in the vast forest of the “interweb” as my boys say. The quality that leaps off of my computer screen each time is your heart. Whether it is joyful, concerned, anguished or content I sense the reality of it through your words. When you asked the blogger we would most like to meet after you recounted your day in N’awlins I immediately said, out loud,”Well, I’m thinking you after reading this.”

    All of that to say, I admire you. You have challenged me to consider myself in light of being the best version of me possible. That is not something strangers often do for me. Thank you. I believe that you have offered that same kindness to Faith. I am a praying woman with a faith journey of 22 years and counting. You have my word that I will pray for Faith every day. I will help you carry the weight of her in my heart. Be well.

  45. Pingback: Banana slug lessons (Wednesday’s Wisdom) | Transitioning Mom

  46. I have found far too often in searching for weight loss blogs that there are numerous young girls starving themselves and getting support from each other because they ‘look good’ and who will defend their weight, when in reality it’s painfully obvious to an outsider that the person is really sick. Usually it doesn’t help to message them, but I have tried a few times. All you can do is be honest and not judgmental, and hope they get help. :(

  47. Cuz, this one strikes very close to home.

    I admire you for reaching out to Fayth and offering to be her friend. And I think that friends need to disclose when they’ve done something that impacts the other. In this case, I believe your heart and intent were all from a warm, loving, caring place. But having shared her story/picture/words so publicly…I think she should know that.

    I would ask you to consider letting her know about this blog and why you wrote the post – what truly drove you to write it and post it. Hopefully she will see your caring, and the nearly 100 posts it generated – with people all concerned about her. It may backfire- but I think hearing it from you would be better than if she just stumbled on it.

    Luv ya
    D

  48. Marina DelVecchio

    Renee, this was such a powerful piece, I was hoping that 86 was above her weight goal and she was ok with it bc of you. Of course, not. We do have a responsibility, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are teachers and it is also our responsibility when we encounter this kind of abuse and neglect in our students. It’s part of our training. You were fabulous and compassionate, but the only people who will be able to help her through this are the ones who broke her. It’s disturbing to see the lengths girls will go to to seek help, to numb themselves, and yet at the same time to feel something other than the crap they feel. I hope she gets help. And you’re an inspiration.

    • Marina: You are so right. Her parents/sibling will need to be part of this recovery. And I could never counsel her (nor should I try) over Twitter. I’m not a social worker or therapist. I’m just a teacher who sees this stuff all the time.

      It is alarming.

      I couldn’t help but to try to reach out. It’s the fixer part of me.

      But you can’t something that doesn’t see its brokenness, right?

  49. You’re such a sweetie getting involved like that, it does sound like she needs a better self-esteem for sure. I hope you can work some magic, it would be awful if the tweets stopped altogether.

    I got into a right debate with some Somalians after using the somalia pirates hashtag, in the end I had to block them. Won’t be doing that again :)

    • Catherine:

      Well, there is no magic here. The tweets have stopped. Because I am now blocked from the site. I showed Fayth the link to this post, and — while I had to essentially BEG her to read it — she then freaked out and blocked me from contacting her. She has changed her identity and her name. So she is no longer Fayth.

      I don’t think she knows who she is.

      I don’t know if I’ll ever reach out again in that way again.

      Interesting to know you had a similar “thing” with some people when you followed a hashtag into a dark place. Thank you for sharing.

  50. Pingback: Stand By Me « runningfromhellwithel

  51. Oh my goodness, Renee. That is really hard. It is so kind of you to extend yourself, and that’s probably all you can do. I’m sure it makes a difference to her to know she’s not alone. Faith has a very sad story, indeed. I can understand your desire to help her in some way. It sounds like you are doing everything possible. So sad.

    • Jen, I tried really hard to do SOMETHING. You know, Twitter is public so it seemed very much like a cry for help. All these young girls with eating disorders have been attacking in droves — I haven’t allowed their comments to go through, but I know you know what that feels like. You start to question yourself.

      I never meant to hurt this girl. Only to try to open a little dialogue. But when I showed her the post, she freaked out (as i suspected she would) and cut off all contact with me.

      I really was trying to reach out.

      Maybe some day she will see that.

      In the meantime, I just hope she gets help.

  52. Pingback: Suicide Saviors and Random Acts of Kindness by Strangers « runningfromhellwithel

  53. I had something similar happen, Renee. The last time I got Freshly Pressed I got all kinds of comments from new readers, mostly fun and complimentary – you know how that goes. But one was a page-long, semi-incoherent ramble about suicide from a young man. He seemed to be heading down that road. He didn’t have a blog, but you have to give your email address to post comments on WordPress.

    I debated what to do. I decided NOT to post his comment. I emailed him on the side and gave my real name. I said I didn’t know if he was goofing around or if this was a real cry for help, but please talk to someone. I tried to convey that all of us are precious to God, and ended up asking him to email me if he wanted to talk. I never heard from him. I keep that comment in my “comments pending approval” file and sometimes look at it and wonder if it was a real cry for help, and if I could have done more.

    There are a lot of sad and lonely people out there. I guess all we can do is our best, and it sounds like that’s what you did.

    • I WISH there there was some way to really get in touch with this girl, especially since I told her that I wrote the piece about her and sent her the link. I felt I owed her that, as I didn’t want her to just come across it. Alas, she has blocked me from her feed — which is what I feared she would do.

      But there are so many girls like her out there.

      It’s positively heart-breaking.

      I will keep my FOLLOW button on, and if she ever wants to reach out, I’ll be here.

  54. blackwatertown

    Good for you trying to constructively engage – it may have made a difference even if you don’t know it.

    Encountering people over the web makes it even harder to assess them than in real life – (on the internet, no one knows I’m really a dog – and not a horse at all) – but I guess oneshould try to be as supportive as if one meets face to face.

    • I’ve received a fair amount of hate mail for this blog post. It’s been difficult for me. As you have said, I was trying to show my concern, but a certain contingency of girls seems to think that the things you put out on social media should be kept private.

      Um, I have not allowed their comments to push through here because they are minors — or I assume they are — because as anyone knows, anything that one put on Twitter on the public feed is public.

      I was not trying to hurt this girl — who has already changed her name and identity and blocked me. On an up note, an attorney contacted me, telling me he was going to contact the girl’s parents and sue me for libel. As I said to him, PLEASE contact the girl’s parents. Nothing would make me happier. I would love for them to read some of her Tweets! I’ll worry about my own legal recourse later.

      Especially since I am confident that I did nothing wrong.

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