For the past two nights I've been watching Michael Jackson videos on youtube. Here are a few.

Beat It
Billy Jean
Michael Jackson & Brittany Spears live
From New York Times: great interactive timeline of Michael Jackson's life.

I've always loved his music and his distinctive and electrifying dance moves.
But I had never watched his career unfold chronologically before my eyes from first appearance as a dynamic little boy in the Jackson Five to the creative genius behind Thriller and beyond. His "We Are the World" raised millions for starving children in Africa.

Yet at a low Michael was 91 pounds on a five 5'11" frame.

Michael Jackson may have been the ultimate "poor little rich boy."
Did he suffer from anorexia? Maybe. If he did, and I don't know that he did, it gives me a way to think about his life as well as his death.

Anorexia is not a stand alone illness. It is accompanied by and causes many infirmities. In my opinion, the most troublesome is the thinking distortions that develop from brain cell starvation. This can make a person be powerfully resistant to effective treatment, reach unreasonable conclusions about life situations and create painful chaos in relationships.

And, of course, starvation affects every organ in the body with catastrophic consequences. If Michael were anorexic he needed careful and nourishing refeeding.

But living in a more substantial body with more mind clarity would bring him into the reality of a world he could influence tremendously but couldn't live in personally. Body nourishment, while critical, is only the beginning. The whole person, body, mind and soul needs care and safety. With love and knowledge the person needs gentle encouragement and support to develop a healthy psychological sturdiness. That's what makes him or her able to be present in a healthy body and cope with and thrive in a challenging world.

Michael Jackson had more challenges than most of us can ever dream of. In my opinion he may have withdrawn from the world and tried to create his own world with his massive finances. But it could never be enough. The fires of his incredible talent and charisma lit up the world and may have also burned him up from the inside.

RIP Michael. I mourn for you. I hope your legacy includes not only your magnificent body of work but also an inspiration to others. I hope your life and your death will teach others to honor personal health, authentic and unique gifts and the need to continue to develop psychological sturdiness throughout life.

I'm listening to Thriller as I write this post with eyes tearing and feet tapping. Oh, Michael.

Author's Bio: 

Joanna Poppink, MFT is a Los Angeles psychotherapist who is dedicated to eating disorder recovery. Her specialized practice welcomes adults who want eating disorder recovery and family members who want to help someone with an eating disorder.

She began her practice in 1980, writes articles, blogs and now is writing an eating disorder recovery book through Conari Press.

You can follow her on Twitter:

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