Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Canada: A Rural Zipcode Should NOT Mean No Help

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!

Trish's Story

My story encompasses the struggles that people who don’t have health benefits, who don’t have a wise family doctor, who live in rural areas or who don’t come from a financially wealthy background.  It wasn’t easy on so many levels and this is why we need change to the services available, or lack thereof, to people who struggle with these deathly disorders.

I was never formally diagnosed. I worked out a lot and ate very little. It wasn't until treatment that someone actually paid attention to me, but I just always assumed I had anorexia. I began losing weight the healthy way as I was overweight when I first began this journey, but it was probably October of 2007 when it all began getting out of control. I had hit my weight loss goal but I knew I could go further.

My condition got worse in January of 2008 and I began seeing a counselor for family issues. Luckily, the counselor that I was seeing was provided by OHIP, however only eight sessions. She noticed me deteriorating right before her eyes and she somehow found more sessions for me and kept seeing me because I didn’t have health benefits.  My family physician had no clue. He said it was okay that exercised for 4 hours a day, I just had to eat more. He even gave me suggestions as to what to eat. I knew those were things I would stay away from.
By March of 2008 I knew I had a problem and wanted help. I was seeing a cardiologist because my heart rate was so slow and there were discussions of putting a pacemaker in me. 

My counselor gave me options but they were all located in the GTA.  Simcoe County (I was living in Wasaga Beach) had no eating disorder services for someone my age.

I had no idea how I was going to do this but I called Credit Valley Hospital and had forms faxed to me.  I took them to my doctor to sign and with reluctance, because he didn't think I needed it - I could fix this myself, he signed it. 

I was placed on a wait list that was months long.  It wouldn't be until February or March of 2009 that I could go.  During this time, I was undergoing tests and hospitalized for my heart – my resting heart rate was 26 beats per minute*.  Beginning immediately, I would have to travel to Mississauga every Thursday, for eight weeks, to attend motivation group in order to stay eligible.  My home, Wasaga Beach, is 2.5 hours from Mississauga.

I entered treatment December 2008. I stayed until August 2009 and by the time I left, I was in severe financial debt.  Although the treatment was covered, I had everyday living to pay for. The first two months I was forced to pay $1,400 a month to live in a hotel because I was rushed to find a place. By February I found a tiny basement apartment to rent for $600 a month.  It was a place to live while I was attending full day treatment. I also had to pay for my car, car insurance, gas, food, laundry… the list goes on.  I lived off of credit cards and Ontario Works.

I graduated from Credit Valley in August of 2009 and have been back twice to be a motivational speaker. Currently, I am at a healthy weight, I have a great career, I am married and my husband and I are trying to have a baby. 

*It is very common for doctors--who generally have very little training on eating disorders to attribute a low heart rate to excellent health.

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