Welcome back to Bloganuary, the daily encouragement from WordPress for bloggers to post something each day. If you want to participate in Bloganuary, just click here! Today’s prompt is to write about a challenge you faced and overcame.
When I was a teenager I had an eating disorder. As a high school freshman, I was hospitalized for seven weeks. At the end of that seven weeks I was discharged by hospital staff. They sent me home under the belief that I would die, simply because they had not been able to help me adequately.
If you would like to know more about what led to my fight with anorexia nervosa and a more detailed account of what I experienced while hospitalized, I point you to my Life Story series of blog posts, beginning with Chapter 24 through somewhere in the Chapter 30s.
As for overcoming this challenge, all I’ll say here is that it was not easy… and then it was.
The problem with my hospital stay was not that those in charge were not helpful or could not help me. The problem is that they didn’t really try. Something I’ve learned throughout my own career in mental health supports is that a patient or a client must receive a person-centered approach to treatment.
As a patient at St. Alban’s Psychiatric Hospital, my assigned psychiatrist and my assigned counselor were uninterested in treating me… in treating Aaron as a unique individual who just happened to be suffering from an eating disorder. No, they were too busy trying to treat my eating disorder by treating me as if I would somehow fall into whatever they believed an eating disorder patient was supposed to look and act like. But I didn’t fit their mold… so they didn’t know how to treat me. And they weren’t interested in finding out.
That’s why I say they believed I was being sent home to die. Because they, from their lofty and highly educated points of view, knew that there was no way my physical or psychological health could possibly improve since they were unable to “fix” what was wrong with me, given the seven weeks they had to work with me. But, again, that’s the problem. They didn’t work with me. They talked at me.
Their textbooks told them that I had a distorted body image… that all I saw in the mirror was a fat kid. What they wouldn’t listen to is when I tried to tell them that I understood how sick I was and that when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a skeleton wearing my skin. Their textbooks told them that I would respond to treatment like every other patient they had dealt with, the vast majority of whom were female… because they had never treated a male eating disorder patient before. What they couldn’t understand is that, as an adolescent male, it was impossible for me to respond to their treatment in the same way as everyone else.
They discharged me from their hospital. I went home to be with my family. And I survived. More than that… I lived my life as a normal teenage boy from then on out. Well… what is normal? But I sure ate like a normal teenage boy about to hit a growth spurt. Except I didn’t really hit much of a growth spurt… but my metabolism sure did kick in.
Man… I miss my metabolism.