Looking at French actress and model Isabelle Caro's photos on any day is painful. Photos of her before she fell into the grips of anorexia show a slight, almost sickly woman. Photos of her after seemingly show a gaunt geriatric -- she was just 28 -- in the grips of a terminal illness.
Today, those before and after photos might as well be a flashing red light for the 10 million women and 1 million men in America -- people like Candace Cameron Bure, people like me -- who struggle with eating disorders. Anorexia killed Isabelle Caro last month despite her best attempts to stop it.
The horrifying photo above represents her last message to the world about her disease. Shot in 2007, it was Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani's attempt “to use the naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion."
That the "reality" didn't seem to stop Caro is hard to understand if you've never struggled with disordered eating. To the casual observer, Caro looks like death warmed over in that photo. But to a recovering bulimic, she looks like a woman who still does not find her own body attractive. Been there, done that, have the acid reflux prescription to pay for years of crouching over a toilet, forcing up my latest meal. I look at Caro's photos with the same horror as the rest of the world, but it's tinged with an even harsher reality: there but by the grace of God go I.
Because as difficult as it is to look at Caro for you, it was even harder for her to look at herself. And she likely didn't see the haggard woman you see. Struggling with an eating disorder means a part of your brain doesn't work like a healthy person's. You very simply don't see reality. An anorexic looking at Caro may see a sick woman, but she (or he) won't see herself.
It's too late to help Caro. It's too late for Caro to help other anorexics. But the people who look at her photos today and see the ravages of disease still have an opportunity. If that photo is causing you pain, read up on the National Eating Disorder Association website and find the warning signs of eating disorders in your friends and family. Follow their directions. Help them.
Image via Huffington Post