The title is a little harsh, admittedly – but dang, some doctors make me feel so angry. I know that they don’t all know about eating disorders – and a lot of them have a mere textbook understanding of what eating disorders really are – but they can say some really, really unhelpful things sometimes. Actually, it’s not just them. It’s a lot of people. And it’s mostly a reflection of the fact that there are so many misconceptions floating around about eating disorders. But one would think that doctors might have more of an understanding of EDs than just your everyday individual walking down the street.
I went to see a doctor in my bulimia days about an awful recurring stomach ache I had going on – turns out all that purging had left me with a stomach ulcer. She wasn’t my regular doctor but she was the only one I could get an appointment with that day. She did all her doctor-ey things, talked to me about the dangers of purging food, gave me a prescription and just before sending me off on my merry way told me to “try not to do it.”
Not going to lie, I was a little flabbergasted with that one.
Now I can look back at that and laugh – obviously she really didn’t know a great deal about eating disorders – and perhaps she even thought she was being helpful. But I think one who recognises that eating disorders aren’t a choice and you can’t just switch it on and off whenever you please would try their very best not to say something like that.
I’ve heard a doctor tell someone they looked bigger than what their weight was. He said he had a reason for telling her so; I’m not quite clear on what that one was. So she could go home and starve herself even more so? So she goes for an extra run? Ignorance, or a lack of understanding or empathy on a doctor’s behalf can lead to the ED patient feeling like they don’t really have a problem. That their behaviours are normal. That they must be overweight. That the doctor thinks they’re lying. That the doctor thinks they’re a stupid little girl for even bothering to make an appearance in their office.
There’s a point in here, I promise.
It’s this: how do we educate people? How do we tell doctors about what REALLY goes on in the ED sufferers mind? How do we get people to take these things seriously? How can we help people to realise that the doctor’s opinion may not actually be the be all and end all – and people actually exist who specialise in this field and would recognise the eating disorder immediately?
We continue talking about eating disorders. We continue informing. We become bold in our conversation with others; we become willing to share our experiences so that others may also gain wisdom and insight into these matters. We tell the doctor that what they said was RIDICULOUSLY unhelpful.