A family has opened up about the cruel condition that caused a normal young woman to become “psychotic” in the days before her death.
“All this eating disorder wants… is to put a tombstone on you.”
That’s what Madeleine Billings’s therapist told her years before that prophecy came true.
Maddie, who was adored by friends and family where she lived in Denver, Colorado, died in her sleep just after Christmas last year. She was 23.
Her family has only now begun sharing chilling details about how the “brilliant” young woman became “psychotic” in her final weeks of life as the disease gripped her body and brain and refused to let go.
She described how anorexia claimed her personality to the point that “there was no Maddie”.
“She was brilliant. But in the end she was psychotic, “her father Nick told Today last week in the US.
“I mean, the conversations I had with her the last week of her life, Maddie wasn’t there. It was all illness.
“That brain was obsessed with Dr. Pepper and if she accidentally sipped normal versus diet. And what did that mean? I talked to her for hours on end about that subject.”
Maddie’s mother Lisa, who is a clinical psychologist, said similar things.
“The voices, the eating disorder thoughts that she would have that were so cruel and critical of her, were so strong that all the behavior would sneak back and she couldn’t do it,” she said.
“It freaked me out incredibly.”
The parents, who made the difficult decision to include her death in her obituary after Maddie’s death, talked about the moment their daughter’s life changed forever.
She was vacationing in France as a young teenager when she met and spent time there with a teenage girl with an eating disorder, they said.
Unpleasant comments about Maddie’s healthy appetite grew louder in the 8th grade student’s head and her condition set in. It snowballed from there.
Maddie went to soccer camp that same year, and her mom remembers how different she looked when she got home.
“By the time we picked her up from there, she had lost so much weight (weight) that she just didn’t look like herself anymore,” Lisa said.
At one point, Maddie dropped to just 34 kilograms shortly after, despite treatment that included inpatient, outpatient, therapy, and medication.
Through it all, the teenager excelled in school and found her way to the prestigious Dartmouth College.
On social media, she posted photos of happy moments with friends and relatives.
To the outside world she seemed like a very normal young woman.
But she was having a hard time. During meals, Lisa made sure Maddie was getting the nutrients she needed. But eventually the disease became too powerful.
In her obituary, the family wrote: “Madeleine Mae Billings of Denver passed away in her sleep on December 30, 2021 after a long and grueling battle with a treatment-resistant eating disorder. She was only 23.”
They described her as “the biggest heart and brain in the extended family”.
“In the minefield of adolescent and young adult social circles, Maddie was the eternal Swiss, member of all groups, though exclusive to none. Everyone loved Maddie. Sadly, her illness prevented her from seeing the radiant light everyone else saw.”
In Dartmouth, the family wrote, the illness kept her in the hospital more than in the classroom.
She returned home to study closer to her family, especially her siblings whom she adored.
“Maddie’s proudest achievement, other than being a big sister, was a big sister,” read her obituary.
“She stood on a chair and watched Pace, now 19, play basketball through a gym window during one of her many hospital passes.
“She was co-mother to Cooper, now 16, and suffocated him with physical affection and positive feedback.”
The family revealed that after she exhausted “all conventional treatments,” Maddie enrolled in a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University for “treatment-resistant eating disorders.”
She died a week later.
The family has established the Maddie Mae Fund in her honor.
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