Today I had an epiphany. I love that word, it sounds so high and might but what it really means in my case is that I thought of something obvious :P
I was thinking recently about all the medical professionals I've come in contact with in the past, and what our relationship/interactions were like. I came to the conclusion that they were all fairly nice people (with a few exceptions), but they didn't help me very much. In the past I took that to mean that all medical professionals are there for in ED recovery is to keep you from slipping back too far, or putting you in IP if you need it. But I came to a different conclusion today.
They didn't help me because I didn't LET them help me. Sure, some of them didn't even bother, they treated me like a “case” instead of a person. They didn't have any personal touch whatsoever and when I was around them I felt like a bother. So they offered very little and I in turn was able to accept very little from them. But there were others that offered much more and I was the one to blame for not being willing to receive it. I listened to their advice but was convinced that I knew better, and so I didn't even bother following the assignments they put out for me.
Right now the psychologist I'm seeing is a different story. I'm following more of her suggestions then I have any other professional I have come in contact with. Sure, not all of them are applicable because she has no experience in dealing with patients with EDs, so there are some things she misunderstands or doesn't tackle appropriately. On the other hand she is just a human being, and I don't expect her to be God and have a “magic solution” for my problems. What she has been able to offer me however is a different perspective on myself. She offers insight into how others see me and my situation. She gives me different exercises that help with my self-image, anxiety and other such issues.
The truth is she has helped me more then any other specialist I have come in contact with. This is not because she has the most experience, because she doesn't. I have dealt with psychiatrists that were considered the best ED specialists in the entire country and yet dealing with them didn't benefit me in any way. That's partially because I didn't allow myself to be helped. I didn't allow myself to open up and be honest with them. I refused to let down my front of “I'm in control and I have a handle on my life”. I didn't let them see the real me – the scarred, confused, unhappy girl. I didn't trust that they could help me so I didn't even let myself be helped. On the other side of the coin I wanted them to magically “heal me”, I figured (and in some twisted way this made sense to me at the time) that if they were so “good” at what they did they would somehow telepathically know what I needed and help me. So I relied on their words of assurance and determination to get me though each day. Once I stopped seeing them the “motivation” I had faded, because it was never mine own. I had to be pushed and prodded and encouraged and cheered. I gained a satisfaction of my accomplishments by their praises, not from an internal source. So once they were gone there was little left to keep me from slipping back.
Now I look back and wonder if things would have been different if I had allowed myself to be helped. Maybe I would never have relapsed. Maybe my life would be completely different by now. On the other hand perhaps nothing would have changed. I do believe that life is a school and everything that happens to us happens for a reason; to teach us something or help us to grow. And I have learned a lot through this experience; lessons that I could not have learned any other way. I have learned to celebrate my victories and get up when I fall. I have learned how much inner strength I really have. But I wonder what would have happened had I traveled down the right road the first time.
So give medical professionals a chance if you are like me – a cynical and somewhat “closed” person. On the other side of the coin if you expect them to “heal you” you're setting yourself up for failure as well. They are only humans, they can't read your mind or force you to do anything. You need to determine to fight for yourself, to try to take what they give you and use it to the best of you ability. Everyone has something to offer, we just need to choose to accept it.