To the Doctors Who Let My Eating Disorder Slip Through the Cracks
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
Dear Medical Community,
I am a woman with an eating disorder and I have a few things I want you to know. When I was 14 years old, I found myself in a temporary group home for teenagers with “emotional disturbances.” The first thing said to me was, “If you need to use the restroom, you must ask. You are only allowed to use the restroom an hour and a half after meals, or we will listen while you use it and check the toilet.” My first reaction was an act of disobedience, then my throat was obstructed with the thick feeling of tears. I am more than my eating disorder; I am a human being.
Two weeks later I was released and once again living with my parents. I was still using eating disorder behaviors, and had made little progress at the group home. My depression was unmanageable and medications weren’t helping. I reentered therapy with little success.
I have been in and out of outpatient therapy for my eating disorder since that time. On July 18th, 2016, I entered residential treatment 3,000 miles away from home. It only took eight years after being diagnosed with bulimia to be treated at the level of care I desperately needed. In that time period I lost many precious moments and managed to hurt my body in ways you say I may never be able to repair. I want you to know that I truly believe I am able to be fixed. I am worthy of repair. To be clear, I have had a few doctors who have been absolutely wonderful. They do exist and you can also become one. They have advocated for me and gotten me referrals when it was necessary. These are the doctors who finally got me into treatment in July.
Since July, I have been in an immense amount of pain. I am continuously invalidated, which has led me to become very frustrated with you. My pain is so significant that it hurts to eat. Think about this for a moment: I am in eating disorder treatment where I am asked to follow a meal plan but it is painful to consume food. I continue to do it because I know it will lead to eventual recovery. I am devoted to fully recovering from my eating disorder, yet you continue to devalue my health because I have the dreaded diagnosis. Please, I am begging you: Listen to me. Believe me. I am in pain.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
If I had been screened for an eating disorder or even received the care I deserved as an adolescent, I may not have entered college with such severe behaviors. At my worst, I was purging many times a day. When I was restricting, I became underweight and for the first time was seen by the medical community. It took my body being emaciated for you to see I was sick. The self-reported purging was not enough, I had to be underweight for you to notice my pain. No, I am not saying I engaged in these behaviors for your attention, but I do so badly wish you could have saved me from years of continued pain. Other signs that you didn’t catch were my excessive over-exercising and osteoporosis, especially after my knee surgeries three years ago. Five days after my ACL reconstruction, I had already re-taught myself how to walk. I was determined to exercise, even if it meant severe pain and inevitable re-injury. I did hurt that same knee six weeks later while I was walking on ice. I slipped and fell. To this day I wonder if my bone density at all affected my shattered patella. My chronic osteoporosis has also been a problem for as long as I can remember, but I was repeatedly told that it was “normal,” and it was not connected to my bulimia until I entered residential in July.
You missed so much and it makes me angry. I am not just angry because of my own health that slipped through the cracks, but because I know that other women and men have experienced the same thing. You were a major cause of my eating disorder, especially when you advocated for me to join Weight Watchers as an adolescent. No teenager should be on a diet, even if you believe she is “just learning how to eat.” The definition of intuitive eating is letting your body decide when and how much to eat without interference of your mind. I am working hard to return to intuitive eating, although my body hasn’t experienced it for at least a decade.
What I want more than anything is for you to want my recovery as much as I do. I want to be heard and I want to be believed. I am infuriated that I have been neglected by the medical community and I will not stand to be pushed aside anymore. My recovery is important and I deserve to be heard. Eating disorders are more than a blanket diagnosis, they are individual to each person and everyone has different symptoms. BMI does not dictate whether a person has an eating disorder and early screenings of young girls and boys could save a population that would otherwise slip under the radar.
The Woman Who Will No Longer Slip Through the Cracks
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