I don't claim to know the truth of this story. I'm very aware that these documentary programs take a certain slant on the story and that information may be omitted or misrepresented. The slant taken was that Billy was being killed by his mother's overfeeding, as she tried to deal with her grief over the death of her previous son, Matthew. It was tearful viewing, as Billy's mother Barbara struggled not only with the still raw grief over Matthew's death, but the guilt over possibly killing Billy. (I don't know if loading her with more guilt was the best way to deal with the situation. I think an overload of guilt can be paralysing and/or destructive. However, as I mentioned, we don't know what was omitted). She said that if he died she would want to die too, to get in the coffin with him. He said that he felt he was slowly killing her. At the end of the programme we were told that the two had been separated.
But one thing really was bothering me by the end of the programme. Billy's facial expressions and speech seemed just like a depressed person's. It turned out that he had been bullied at school, and so had had to be homeschooled. He apparently had no friends. He spent almost all his time in his room, with his mother visiting to bring him food or to wash him. His father seemed caring, although he didn't seem to spend much time with him. It seemed to me that depression might be a risk for anybody in those reclusive circumstances, especially if the circumstances had been brought about by bullying. Billy's sexuality is never mentioned, and he's treated like a child sometimes by his mother, but also sometimes by the other adults in contact with him, I felt. At one point, he laughs as he's given anaesthetic, and one of the medical staff mentions that it's the first time they've seen him laugh. And right enough, he doesn't seem to laugh or even smile much at all. After the surgery and some weight loss, he is back home, holed up in his dimly lit bedroom, and a showdown develops with his mother, who is trying to encourage him to exercise. She doesn't want to bury another son, she says and asks him, rhetorically, if he wants to die. Yes, he says, sometimes he does.
And that all worried me a lot. Maybe Billy wasn't depressed, but what I was seeing seemed to point to him needing assessment, at least. The bullying, the social isolation, the apparent eating disorder, the lack of smiling or laughter, the lack of motivation or energy and particularly the desire to die were warning bells for me. But, unless I missed it, Billy's possible depression was never addressed. It was as if his size dwarfed all other problems he might have. The answer to everything was for him to lose weight. And maybe it WAS the answer to everything - I just don't know. But even if it was, treating his depression may have helped with his motivation, and surely would have given him a better quality of life, before, after and during the weight loss. And surely, even, if the bullies had been dealt with and Billy had had supportive friends and a social life, his life would have been better in the first place.
It seems to me that it may be another case of people not being able to see beyond the fat. The fat is the problem. Removing the fat is the solution.
While Billy was in my mind, I read this other story about David Smith:
'Man mountain' who nearly ate himself to death loses 28 stone and becomes fitness instructor
David seems to have had a happy outcome. But again, I'm bothered by the description of his life as a fat man:
He said: 'I had been overweight all my life.
'I would have sticks and stones and dog mess thrown at me and I would be spat on.
I've had a broken arm and black eyes because people didn't like me because of my weight.
'It got so bad that I didn't want to leave the house and I didn't even feel comfortable in my own backyard until it was dark out.'I felt like I deserved as much pain as possible and I wanted to kill myself.
Isn't that heartbreaking? What upsets me, is that he seems to judge himself for the terrible way he was treated, and again, the general thrust of the article is that his weight was the problem. He wouldn't have been so terribly bullied if he hadn't been fat. Now that he's no longer fat, he's no longer being bullied. Losing weight was the solution. The horror of people indulging in such utterly reprehensible behaviour as the emotional and physical bullying he describes is not addressed. Did the attacker or attackers who did this go to court? We don't know, and we get the impression it doesn't matter because they weren't the problem, David Smith's fat was. He was driven to an extreme level of social isolation, like Billy, and like Billy, he wanted to die. The same cycle of bullying, social isolation and depression, all being seen as an inevitable result of being fat rather than something that should be tackled.