Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I don't trust doctors

I will be the first to admit that I have a very hard time trusting doctors. It's almost impossible for me to believe or to trust anything they say. How do they know? They're only human. Are they misdiagnosing me? Are they sure this medication won't interact with that one? Are they really doing everything in their power to understand me? Do they want me to get better? Do they care at all?

These questions may seem strange to most people. I may seem completely paranoid, but there is a reason why I have a hard time trusting doctors. It's because I haven't always been under the care of the most competent medical professionals. One experience with a "medical professional" has seriously damaged me.

When I was at the lowest point of my eating disorder, I reached a point of desperation. I had lost 80 lbs. I was barely eating at all. When I did eat, I threw up immediately. I was throwing up 8 or 9 times a day. After long, I began throwing up when I hadn't eaten at all. I threw up coffee, diet soda, water. It became a physical act rather than a mental one. My body was so used to purging, I threw up without even thinking about it. I didn't want to get out of bed. I dropped out of school. I moved back in my mother's house. I didn't want to get a job. I didn't want help. I wanted a familiar place to die.

My mother made several appointments for me to see therapists and eating disorder specialists. I didn't show up for any of them. Finally, she persuaded me to come in and speak with a nurse practitioner that she works with. Granted, the nurse practitioner wasn't an eating disorder specialist, but after hearing my mother talk about me, she decided she could help. I don't know why I decided to talk to this woman. It was a big step for me and I don't think she realized just how big that step was. I was vulnerable. Whether she meant to or not, she made things worse.

She told me when she was in college she had "a touch of anorexia." That alone should have been a red flag to me. It's not like a cold or a flu or a sore throat. Anyway, she admitted that she was very thin and she didn't eat at all sometimes except for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before bed. But she reinforced to me that she had never been anorexic and had never had an eating disorder, though she "came close."

Without expecting to, I began to open up to her. I told her my whole story, tears streaming down my face. She didn't seem concerned at all about me not eating, but she was worried about me throwing up all the time.

"I think we'll put you on a liquid diet," she said.

I remember wiping my eyes and feeling horrified when she said that. As sick as I was, as strong as the grip anorexia had on me was, I knew that wasn't right. A liquid diet? Isn't that a step in the wrong direction?

She told me that the most important thing was for me to stop throwing up, so starving myself wasn't really a big deal. She said it didn't really matter if I lost a few more pounds, as long as I stopped purging.

"If you don't eat, you won't want to throw up," she said. "And if you lose a little more weight, well, that will only make you feel better about yourself, so you won't want to throw up anymore."

She wasn't getting it. I wasn't eating to begin with and I was still throwing up. Hadn't she been listening at all?

She told me to get some low-carb, high protein shakes that wouldn't make me gain weight and drink two three of those a day. They only had about a hundred calories each, so I listened. I felt like I was doing something dirty. She had just given me permission not to eat, to starve myself further. To lose more weight.

Had I heard her correctly?

The next time I went to see her I had lost a couple of pounds and she seemed almost happy. It was almost like she was experimenting on me. As sick as I was, I realized that. I stopped seeing her. I didn't want to see anyone else either. Instead, I decided I would beat it on my own.

And I did. Or, I am.

I know now that I can' t let one bad medical experience shape the way I feel about doctors and medical professionals in general. Deep down, I think she wanted to help. I just think that she knew absolutely nothing about the treatment of eating disorders. I should have just seen an eating disorder specialist like my mother asked me to, but I didn't want to back then. Somehow the path I chose seemed safer, but I regret it all the time.

I'm not saying you can't recover on your own. You can do anything you set your mind to. But it's best to find a group of individuals who care about you, who know what they're doing, and who have the knowledge and ability to help and support you. Recovery takes a long time, but it takes even longer when you're too scared, stubborn, or ashamed to ask for help.


  1. I am SO sorry that that happened to you.

    I also had bad experiences with a nutritionist and two counselors. They absolutely "didn't" get it. The nutritionist gave me a pamphlet about the food pyramid. Gee THANKS!

    I hope that you're doing better now.

    Lots of Love,

  2. Oh my gosh i'm so sorry that happened to you/: People who say "yeah I had wannabe anorexia for a few months" really make me bad. It's like they're downplaying the disease like it's a little cold, like you said. Like it's no big deal. But it is. And you're right, we have to be careful who we talk to and who we listen no. I'm glad you chose not to see her again, she didn't know what she was talking about.

    I hope you're feeling better

  3. Oh my goodness. What a situation! I am sorry that you had to go through that. You don't have to answer my question, but have you or your mom pursued an action against this nurse since she had caused you more harm (that goes against medical oath; HIPPA)?

  4. YIKES that is just NOT OKAY on so many levels. i have dealt with my share of... errr otherwise good doctors/medical professionals that are well-intentioned but somewhat incompetent at treating EDs... but that just goes above and beyond! it's like she was acting out her own, "unachieved" ED ambitions vicariously through you. I'm sorry you had to go through that :(

    Whenever I think back upon the few experiences I have had w/ medical professionals that were extremely triggering in nature and made me feel like I was a failure at my own ED, not sick enough, it wasn't a big deal, etc. I repeat to myself: "At some point, pretty much everyone with an ED meets an incompetent professional or two, and it is a right of passage of recovery to keep getting healthy in spite of them!"

    Your experience is definitely way more severe than anything I've dealt with but seriously, she DEFINITELY did not know WHAT she was talking to and was obviously projecting her own issues onto you.

  5. I'm sorry to say I've had nothing but bad experiences with nutritionists, however well meaning. I think many of them have their own food issues that haven't been resolved, and the result is too often what you've experienced.

    --Harriet Brown, author, Brave Girl Eating

  6. HI there :)

    I totally get this. I have a doctor that I see every 2-3 weeks and there is something about her that I don't trust. When I was still in denial about my eating disorder and "struggling" to gain weight, I told her that I was exercising almost 2hours a day and she didn't see that as an issue at all. I was thinking OK, then me exercising this way must have been healthy and normal...yeah it wasn't until i stopped the exercise completely (due to advice from another doctor that worked with ED patients) that I was able to gain weight and begin to recover both mentally and physically.