The Chronic Case
In 2015, at the age of 19, I sat in an office at an eating disorder treatment center. This was not my first, or second, treatment stay.
The doctor looked at me and said: “you need to accept that you are a chronic case. You will spend the rest of your life in and out of treatment centers”.
When I think about that moment, all I feel is the same level of defeat that I did in that moment.
That feeling of realizing that even the doctors were giving up. Where it no longer matters if I try. Because this is my fate.
The Chronic Case.
In future clinical settings, I watched it play out. As I list past treatment stays, therapists, meals plans, etc. to people that are supposed to help.
There’s a moment where the tone of the conversation changes. It becomes less…hopeful. More about how I can best live with my eating disorder. Not how I can conquer it once and for all.
And when a treatment team member brings up going back to a higher level of care. I don’t feel scared or angry. I feel resigned. Like all the professionals were right.
Like maybe I should just stop trying. Because this is my life. And this is as good as it can get for me.
I feel hopeless and, even more so, helpless.
I asked Dr. Colleen Reichmann, an eating disorder survivor and therapist what her thoughts on this was.
“…I truly think it’s a dangerous concept and should be the very last idea that we latch onto for a person.”
I found this to be a really motivating sentence. Because at 19, I thought my life path had been designed for me by this doctor. By all the mental health workers that would comment on how I was “back again”. And how I needed to “get it right this time”.
But Dr. Reichmann said something else that I really had never thought about.
Plus the idea puts the onus on the people who keep relapsing, and takes the responsibility off researchers and clinicians. Like have we ever thought that treatment and research is just failing that percentage of people miserably? That it’s not their ED that keeps them chronic and persistent, but our continual lack of knowledge about robust evidenced based techniques?
I always thought that it was my fault. I’m just “too messed up”. That treatment works for other people but not me.
But maybe it’s not me? Maybe it’s not us? Maybe it’s that, it’s just easier to put us in a corner as being too difficult. It’s just easier to make it all on the sufferer.
Let’s be real, it’s a lot easier to give into an eating disorder than to fight with it.
Clinicians, all I ask is that you don’t give up on us. The hard clients. The ones who fall down over and over. The ones who need just a little more help. Jump in with us. Help us see there is a way out. Because we, I , need that hope.
To my fellow warriors, you are amazing. And strong. And smart. And caring. And empathetic. And all the good things in the world. And we WILL make it out of this alive.
Photo and patch from Stay Home Club
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