Last week I finally got to see a specialist eating disorder psychiatrist, having been asking to see one for over a year but constantly refused. As I have mentioned in my previous blogs-there is not a specialist in my trust and because I am a functioning anorexic, not severely underweight or at serious risk, I do not warrant funding to see an eating disorder specialist out of my area. My nurse has repeatedly told me she will not apply for funding and that eating disorder psychiatrists are there to deal with the physical side of things and not the psychological. And all I can say is…bullocks to that!
I have had a physical issue with my stomach for most of this year which eventually, having seen many general doctors, gastroenterologists and gynaecologists about this, my nurse finally agreed to send me to an eating disorder psychiatrist about this issue, thinking it may be linked to my anorexia. Hallelujah! I have been discharged from hospital for nearly five and a half years and have seen an eating disorder psychiatrist only once…this was to be my second time. It wasn’t my choice of psychiatrist but I had met her twice before twice and she was always very nice, knowledgeable and understanding so I went along with it. However, one may ask-Why do I have to have a physical problem to be allowed to see a specialist psychiatrist that could actually help me, when otherwise I am just left with what the trust has to offer (which in my case is no eating disorder knowledge)? Especially when other eating disorder sufferers who live in an area where the trust does have a specialist have ready access to this on the NHS and can have regular appointments with such psychiatrists.
So me and my mum made the two hour journey into the heart of London to see this eating disorder psychiatrist for which my nurse had referred me purely for my physical issue. We discussed my problem and she gave me a thorough explanation and yes, the problem is a result of my long-standing anorexia. But the rest of the conversation we had (I was with her for 45minutes and the discussion of my physical issue lasted about 10) about recovery, about weight, about food i.e. some of the psychological issues surrounding eating disorders, had a huge impact on me and my thoughts. So again-I put two fingers up to my nurse telling me psychiatrists only deal with physical issues. If anyone is going to understand, rationalise and help the thought processes of an eating disorder sufferer, it is going to be a specialist psychiatrist with years of experience.
The 45 minute conversation I had with this psychiatrist had more of an impact on me than anyone else within my trust has had over the past 5 and a half years. Yes, my nurse is a specialist eating disorder nurse but nurses do not possess the same knowledge and understanding as specialist psychiatrists…that is why one is a nurse and one is a doctor. You wouldn’t really want open heart surgery done by a nurse! So, with the same token, mental illness needs to be dealt with by specialist doctors.
|Me-where I am at the moment, trying to keep the boulder on the steep slope.
She really got me thinking about the idea of recovery and actually believing that I may be able to do it. Not just as something in the distant future which is what it has been recently, but as something I could potentially do sooner rather than later. She explained that anorexia, and recovery from anorexia is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Pushing the boulder up the hill is a very difficult task. To reach the top would mean recovery where the boulder (anorexia) is no longer an issue. But at the moment, maintaining where I am as I have been for the past five and a half years, there is that constant fight to keep the boulder on the sharp slope…it takes a lot of effort to keep the boulder up in the middle of a steep slope to stop it rolling back down, and that is what I am trying to do on a daily basis. At any moment the boulder can become too powerful and send me crashing back down to the bottom of the hill, where I started in the depths of anorexia and hospital. But the journey up to the top is a very hard slog and as she explained, it will take a leap of faith.
She gave me the encouragement and hope that I could actually make that leap of faith. And she was able to do that all in that one meeting. But that is all it was…one meeting. If I am to keep this faith alive, if I am actually to start pushing this boulder up the hill, I am going to need a hell of a lot of support to do so; not just one meeting. Because in a few days time, when I am worrying about my weight, about food, about calories, about exercise…recovery will again feel like a task that is all too difficult and one I cannot do. I will not have her, or another eating disorder psychiatrist (and there is one five minutes from me) there to help keep me pushing, to help keep me fighting when times get tough and when I want to run back to the save arms of anorexia. But that is what I need. If I am to actually do recovery and push this boulder to the top of the hill, I need to have regular appointments with someone who can help me, a psychiatrist with knowledge and expertise. And this only has to be once a month or once every six weeks, just to keep my fight alive to help me through. Because when faced with gaining weight, if left alone I will never do it…it is beyond terrifying and I can’t put myself through it. But an eating disorder psychiatrist might be able to help; to help start the process and keep the process going.
But my nurse will not refer me so left to her, I will have an appointment with her once a fortnight which is meant to be sufficient. Again, bollocks and two fingers. So I am seriously considering delving into my savings to pay to see the eating disorder psychiatrist I want to see privately. The idea of recovery is terrifying but so is the idea of being like I am now in five years time. Seeing an eating disorder psychiatrist would do no harm but has the potential to help significantly. I wish this could be understood.