I was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 15 and after years of excruciating torture, bound by the rigid wrought iron rules of the ED, I was able to find my freedom. One very vivid memory I have along my journey in recovery, was a therapy session when I was 20. I had somehow worked through the initial denial that almost always accompanies these disorders, and I was grieving about the fact that recovery wasn’t like a light switch. “Why can’t I just figure this out and start living my life?” I asked my therapist. Wise from years of her own struggle, she quietly drew me a picture that resembled something like what a heart rate monitor depicts. “This is what recovery looks like Dani. You will have minutes first of clarity and freedom, then days and weeks and so on and so forth. Within those time frames, you will experience set-backs and that is normal. You may be triggered by something you see or something someone says or perhaps by a feeling you experience and will have to use your tools to not fall into your eating disorders trap.”
Fast forward about 10 years. I had just moved to California to pursue my career in the ED field as a therapist and I needed to establish a new primary care physician and therapist of my own. I knew it was imperative, even after experiencing a few years of recovery that I continue to have a team of professionals that I know are equipped with knowledge of eating disorders. I was able to network with my new colleagues and located a doctor near my home. Initially, I started seeing the doctor’s physician’s assistant and I was so pleased and grateful for my experiences with her! I unabashedly discussed with her my history of anorexia and shared with her that I did not need to know my weight unless something was so significantly important that my knowledge of this was required. I did ask that this information be viewable on my record so the other professionals in the office would be privy and not mistakenly share information that I really did not want to know.
Then on one occasion, she was not available to see me, and the doctor was. The patient care technician had weighed me (backwards of course), took my other vitals and left me to wait for the doctor to arrive. When the doctor knocked on the door and came in, I eagerly stuck out my hand and introduced myself. After saying a quick hello, the doctor proceeded to look over my electronic chart. After a few moments, he looked up and smiled, high fived me and stated, “you go girl! You are within a healthy range for your BMI! At the high end, but still within the range! You are at ###. I bet you would like to lose some pounds thought right?” As you can imagine, my jaw dropped to about three inches from the floor.
I couldn’t really absorb the information I was just exposed to, partly because I hadn’t heard numbers that were a reflection of gravity on my body in years, but also about how this physician had chosen to share this information with me. And not only how he chose to share it, but how he made the assumption that I would have the desire to change my weight, size or body shape because of the number he just shared with me. My inner sassy child was like… “you said what?!”
After grounding myself by deep breathing and touching both feet firmly to the floor, I explained to the doctor that I am in recovery from an eating disorder and that I really would prefer to not be told such information. I also let him know that I was actually quite comfortable in my own skin and did not wish to lose weight at this time. The doctor first congratulated me, and then asked me what support group I was participating in.
As I drove home to my boyfriend Chris, I reflected on this encounter and realized that had this been as little as three years ago, I would have been coping in a much different way. I did cry, and as I cried I realized that I was upset that this person whom I am supposed to trust and share personal information with did not understand the potential repercussions of his bedside manner. When I arrived home, I did not seek reassurance from Chris that I am ok. I can do that now for myself. I did not climb the stairs to the bathroom and stand in front of the mirror and body check, planning out an exercise and restriction routine that would certainly lower the number I had been told. I did not isolate and allow the negative self-talk to envelop me as it had done for so many years. Instead, I arrived home and allowed Chris to comfort me while I told him about my experience. I called my friends and shared with them how I felt about the experience and we discussed how great the need is to educate health care providers about eating disorders and those who struggle with them. I took a walk on the beach and let my lungs fill with the ocean air and let the sun shine on my face. I was kind to myself.
All of us in this field need to consider the implications of health care professionals that are in need of knowledge about eating disorders. This could have been a very serious setback that could have spiraled into a relapse for anyone struggling with body image disturbance and eating disorders.
As a business development liaison for The Meadows Ranch, I have opportunities to introduce health care providers to resources so that they can better understand eating disorders and therefore, provide better care to their patients. It is a blessing to be able to share with them the quality of care that The Meadows Ranch provides women and girls and how we restore hope into people’s lives each and every day. I encourage anyone out there who is struggling or in recovery to share your truth with your health care providers and get your needs met. You deserve it!
We Can Help
For more than 20 years, The Meadows Ranch has effectively and successfully treated women and girls with eating disorders. We define treatment success as:
- Restoration of relationships with family and friends
- Returning to a productive, healthy and meaningful life
- Reduction of eating disorder symptoms and behaviors
- Renewed interest in school or work
For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to a Counselor at 866-390-5100 and we will contact you with the information you need.