I saw my Psychiatrist today. Now, as you read this I would like you to bear in mind that this is the Psychiatrist who is responsible for my overall care, who is meant to help me, treat me and make decisions regarding my treatment. I see him one or two times a year. Yes, you read it right-the Psychiatrist in charge of my care, health and treatment I only see once or twice a year. Instantly I think this raises the question of how someone can be placed to do all these things when I see them so infrequently?
My psychiatrist has no eating disorder knowledge or experience, his specialist area being Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Another question springs to mind-how can someone with no knowledge of an illness be in a position to try and treat you? Answer? They can’t. My psychiatrist cannot help me with my illness, help me with my struggles, help me with my thoughts, help me try to recover in any way, shape or form. And this is a damning reflection of the NHS mental health services. As I have mentioned in my blog before, you would not send someone with a heart problem to go and see a foot doctor. With physical problems, you go and see a doctor who is a specialist in that area. This is not the case with mental illness. It is a postcode lottery. You get what your local services have to offer. My local services do not have a specialist eating disorder psychiatrist so I do not get to see one. Someone else, living in an area where there is a specialist, has all this support, knowledge and expertise available to access regularly. Another question – Is this fair? Is it fair that someone like myself in an area without a specialist has such limited resources that they don’t get the help and support they need to try and improve their health, to try and recover, to have a life?
My meeting with my psychiatrist went as follows:
Psychiatrist: “How is your mood? Are you depressed?”
Me: “No more so than normal.”
Psychiatrist: “Any suicidal thoughts?”
Psychiatrist: “How is your sleep?”
Psychiatrist: “How is your appetite? Because that’s the big problem isn’t it?”
Me: “My appetite is fine. Normal.”
Psychiatrist: “Ok. That’s it from me. Thank you for coming.”
So that was my annual (or twice annually) meeting with my Psychiatrist. Lasting less than five minutes. And I defy anyone to tell me that is adequate treatment. I fail to see how I am meant to be helped by this. What good is that conversation in helping me manage my illness or in helping me try and recover? Anorexia is a severe and complex mental illness and the Psychiatrists I have had when I have been in hospital have spent years specialising and working in the field. And it these Psychiatrists that can offer the help needed. I have had severe anorexia for over a decade and for the Psychiatrist in charge of my care to think that anorexia stems from a lack of appetite and simply not feeling hungry just summarises how awful the current services are.
I have reached desperation point. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and it is no wonder if other people are having the same experiences as myself, being left in the care of people who know nothing and don’t know how to help or treat. So I have decided that I am going to pay to see a private eating disorder psychiatrist. I don’t think I should have to but I am left with no choice. If I carry on as I am, with my current psychiatrist and care team, I will be destined to carry on existing as I am, rapidly becoming a middle-aged, lonely, miserable anorexic, with only my parents for company and with life passing me by. And that is not a life I want. But if things are going to change I need help and support from people who know how to. And the NHS is in such a state that I cannot access this on their services, even though someone else living in a different area can. It is going to be expensive to pay privately. The NHS is not willing to pay. But I don’t think you can put a price on life.