Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Canada: A Journey to Recovery Shouldn't have to Mean a Trip to the U.S.

Eating Disorders are brain-based, biological illnesses with a strong genetic component. They are not disorders of choice, vanity or family dysfunction. As with autism and schizophrenia, we don't know everything, but we do know we were wrong about a lot for a very long time. Help us challenge stigma and fight for resource parity for these deadly disorders!

                                                           Ashley's Story                                         

I am 31 and a survivor of an eating disorder which included restricting and over exercising.  After a seven-year struggle, I am now almost eight years in recovery.

I started struggling at 16 after I was put on a then new anti-psychotic for depression. As a result of that, I gained a significant amount of weight in just under six weeks. I was then told to diet and exercise, but with no oversight. Within months, I was deep into the eating disorder.

I finally sought help at the age of 19 through Interior Health at the outpatient eating disorder program in Kelowna, BC in 2003. I was only able to participate in the outpatient program for a few months because I was too unwell to benefit from it. I was not able to access a higher level of care through St. Paul’s in Vancouver despite needing it due to unrealistic expectations of being able to eat all meals and snacks and gaining weight before I was allowed to participate in that particular program (which was the entire reason I needed a higher level of care to begin with!).

I was medically monitored and had a psychiatrist as well as case managers from 2003 to 2008 but with no other treatment for the eating disorder. Despite inquiring again two or so times about a higher level of care, I was still unable to access it for several reasons. The wait list as of 2006 was an estimated nine months for a component of St. Paul’s program.

I tried to get better on my own but was not successful.

I was finally able to get treatment in a residential center in the U.S. in 2007 thanks to the help of a man I met online who had followed me via a video blog I did sharing my struggles with mental health, the eating disorder, and trying to get much needed help.

During those seven years, I experienced severe gaps in care, inadequate treatment because I supposedly was not physically or psychiatrically unwell enough for hospital admission. I had ill-equipped ER physicians/nurses when it came to patients with mental health issues; this almost led to my death in 2003 after being sent home where my appendix burst, leading to emergency surgery the following day due to lack of appropriate testing and assuming it was a mental health issue. This and other experiences have left me with very little help and little faith in the system.
It was only when that one person stepped in and gave me the chance I needed--what I had been fighting for over all years--that helped save my life. I do not believe I would have ever received the necessary treatment I needed in B.C., as all these years later so many still struggle to get desperately needed adequate treatment. Without that help--not from Canada, but in another country--I do not believe I would be here today.

1 comment :

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