Oh my goodness. I am angry. I understand when the average person is ignorant about eating disorders. I can understand that even my close friends and family sometimes say unhelpful things or triggering things without realizing it. That stuff makes me angry too, sure. But I had an experience on Friday that was so triggering and so unhelpful AND it was supposed to be helpful. I went to a mental health crisis centre for some suicidal and self harm thoughts I was struggling with. I have been struggling with a low mood for roughly a month and these type of thoughts were getting to be a little too bothersome for comfort. For the record, I am safe and I will be safe. I just thought I would try this place out as I have heard of it before but had never been. Well after my experience I will never go back.
Please keep in mind this was my FIRST time accessing services like it really. I have called crisis lines before, and I guess I went to emerg about a decade ago for this same struggle….but it felt like a first time for sure. And it was my first time at this particular place. It was new and unfamiliar. I was scared. I get it, they’re busy and how would they know I was scared or even that it was my first time if I didn’t tell them…but I just felt labeled as a mentally ill patient (sure,which i am) but I felt unseen, unheard, unnoticed, unimportant…I get it – Im the sick one. My brain makes me think this way. But I didn’t feel compassion or empathy by the staff so I guess that was the first problematic thing.
But the most serious mistake made by them was probably not even discussing my suicidal/self harm thoughts with me, after all that IS the reason I came in, I marked it down on the blue paper I was given when I walked in the door. AND NOT ONCE WAS I ASKED ABOUT IT. In my meeting/session thing with the clinician I even shared that I have a history of this – still NO QUESTIONS about my current struggle. You have to admit you must be surprised too that someone could come into a mental health crisis centre and be direct about a current struggle with suicidal thoughts yet receive NO help/support for it or even questions about it. But I guess I’m used to that. I present well enough to not need help and too distressed to be taken seriously. That’s my downfall, always has been. That’s why I feel so helpless all the time. Too functional to need help and too dysfunctional to be helped. I get it. Not their fault I have walls. But I clearly have walls for a reason.
But mostly I was just sad about that part of my experience. The following part it was really made me angry.
I was incredibly triggered by a comment made by the clinician and although I don’t blame them for what may now happen in my recovery they really need to know that you cannot say such ignorant things to people with eating disorders.
I was very distressed talking about my weight and my anxiety around food and my eating disorder symptoms and when the staff member suggested I could “maybe try a different way to lose weight, such as exercise” I lost it. In tears I told her assertively that was an incredibly insensitive thing to say and that I would not continue this conversation with her. I had set my boundaries but she tried to defend herself by saying she was just talking about input (food) and output (exercise) as a general rule for weight loss but that only made it worse. I have spent the past year and a half in intensive treatment for my eating disorder where I was told that this input/output thing doesn’t actually ‘work’ and where I spend a significant part of my recovery journey learning how to have a proper relationship with exercise again. It was detrimental to my recovery to be told it. It was also a pretty clear way of being told that I am fat and shouldn’t be lazy and that I actually do need to lose weight. I know the clinician didn’t say those things (directly) but it is what I heard. You think it would be common sense not to talk about weight loss with a person who has an eating disorder. That would be common sense for the average person, but keep in mind this was a fucking mental health professional who said this to me. People NEED to be educated (esp mental health clinicians) that someone who appears at a normal weight, or a high than normal weight, is not immune from problematic exercise. This assumption is hurtful and damaging. If they have an ED don’t discuss weight loss. Period. In fact – if it is your first time meeting someone don’t discuss that either! But especially if that person has an ED or a history of one leave those discussions to them and their treatment team. Discussions about weight (loss, gain, or maintenance) need to be discussed with someone on their team, or refer them to someone qualified to have those conversations (doctor, dietitian).
I still can’t believe it. They knew I had an ED. They knew I was in recovery/treatment for it. It wasn’t even the reason I came in in the first place. I’m just SHOCKED that a MENTAL HEALTH professional told me that I could try loosing weight through exercise?!?!?! Basically saying – use a different symptom!
I’m trying so hard to believe my team that I don’t need to lose weight. But my experience at this crisis center has me really doubting my team and really reinforcing my own fears/beliefs about it.
So, I came in for help for one thing (suicidal/self harm thoughts) and ended up leaving without any conversation about the actual reason I came in but I did leave with more distress about something I didn’t even come in for.
I’m aware I’m this sick one. I can’t blame others for my behaviors, and I’m not. I just had an incredibly terrible experience doing something that was supposed tone helpful and good for me. I honestly would have been better off if I didn’t go it. That’s not meant to be harsh, it’s just the truth. I’m not doing well and my threshold to identify and face triggers is low.