Monday, February 2, 2015

Canada: Help is a Long Waiting List Away

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!

HELP: Always a Waiting List Away

My name is Alita Patel. I am a wife and mother of two children; a girl and a boy. I have suffered from eating disorders for most of my life. I was 11 years of age when the eating disorder started and it lasted until I was 45 years of age. It was in my 20’s, that I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. My eating disorder was not constant, but was off and on. In terms of recovery, I say that I am almost recovered-- in my experience this is a day-to-day recovery process. 

I live in Ajax, Ontario and our health care comes from the Rouge Valley Health Systems. Throughout my struggles with eating disorders, I found that I was limited to resources for getting help. I either faced long waiting lists or specialty clinics, where thousands of dollars were required. 

Either way, this was a difficult situation, and I was not getting better. I had met with Dr. Kaplan at the Toronto General Hospital a few years ago and inasmuch as he could verify my diagnosis and suggest treatment for me, there was always the long and dreaded waiting list. It was at that time, that a caring friend suggested that I try the Durham Rape Crisis Centre in the town of Whitby. 

It was at this centre that my eating disorder was treated. My anorexia nervosa was complicated and preceded by childhood abuse and at the centre they were able to make the link for me between abuse and my eating disorder (editors note: eating disorders have a psychosocial component which is often the “trigger” for the behaviors that lead to the negative energy balance/malnutrition that flips the switch for the disorder. Abuse alone does not cause eating disorders and many with no history of trauma or abuse develop EDs). The centre turned out to be a godsend and literally saved me. I still attend the Durham Rape Crisis Centre, but as a support person to help those to heal from abuse and to let them know that just as I am a survivor, they too can become survivors. 

Eating disorders equal death, straightforward and simple. The longer that one has the eating disorder; the harder it becomes to treat and this is a sad situation. In Canada, we are a first class country and we should be able to provide resources to help victims and sufferers of this disorder. 

I feel that education should start in public sectors, in the homes, in our schools, etc. We also need to have people educated about the signs of these disorders and how they are treated, so that once they are diagnosed, their chances of getting treatment and recovering outweighs their chances of becoming a mortality statistic. 

I am here today because I beat the odds. One does not wake up with an eating disorder or decide to become anorexic. These are mental illnesses and arise from a number of factors including genetics, temperament and psychosocial influences; in my case, it was abuse from inside and outside my house.  I had nowhere to go and I had nowhere to turn. Let us work together today to make eating disorders manageable and treatable.

One day, I hope that this disorder does not exist. Let us make a difference. Together we can make our todays count for better tomorrows. The future is in our hands. Let’s do something about it; let’s do something positive. Thank you.

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