Sunday, April 5, 2015

Canada: Four Beds are Simply Not Enough!

Eating Disorders are brain-based, biological illnesses with a strong genetic component and a psychosocial influence. 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!
Canada: Four Beds are Simply Not Enough!

I had to give up my apartment, find shelter for my cat, and leave the little professional and social supports I had to in order to receive treatment hours away from my home, my life.

Having struggled with both severe anxiety and an eating disorder for over half my life; I don't know how I found the courage to embark on such a journey to seek treatment.

After waiting six months to even hear if the hospital got my referral, I was directed to attend a weekly group meeting in order to prepare for the intensive three stage eating disorder program. This meant I would have had to commute four hours by public transit or have my father drive me part way. It was further recommended that I relocate to the city so I would to be able to take part in the outpatient portion of the program which was to be completed after two months of inpatient treatment.

A month before my admission I packed up my apartment, left my 15-year old cat with a friend, and with a mixture of great anticipation and anxiety, left the home I had lived in for seven years. I was leaving the security of the comfortable turmoil I was accustomed to living, for the possibility of a new positive and productive life.

Being ill for so many years I have never really been able to live a “normal life” finish school or hold down a full time job, thus having to be supported by living off of disability. 

The financial burden associated with the treatment program was high. I had to pay for housing and storage of my possessions during the inpatient portion of the program and so I would have a place to live during the intensive day treatment portion. This was also in addition to the costs of transportation and the additional food costs that were mandatory for the program.

The inpatient program was located inside the psychiatric unit and had only four beds. Space is very limited. Outpatients followed the same program but were able to leave after dinner. In total the group of approximately 14 patients and two staff were literally squished around two big tables at meal times. It was difficult to eat without bumping elbows. Group rooms were located outside of the unit so we would be paraded out into the mental health outpatient waiting room and down the hall several times a day.

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity; however, due to the narrow scope of the treatment modality, other comorbid health concerns which could impact the success of treatment were not adequately managed . Many people with eating disorders have other comorbid mental health conditions, (e.g.: anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.…) myself included. 

If programs focus solely on eating disorder treatment and fail to properly support the person as a whole, then this leads to greater chance of relapse. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to me, I started to slip even before I left the program.

Three years later I am again looking for treatment and am not pleased with the very limited options I have in Ontario.

It would be beneficial to have residential treatment in Ontario that is publicly funded. A place conducive to repairing the holistic health of each individual person. Just because we are diagnosed with the same disorder does not mean we are carbon copies of each other.

This disorder affects a wide range of Canadians. There is not enough help in our communities. Currently, people are forced to put their lives on hold in order to receive treatment, waiting until they are deemed sick enough, or not getting any help at all. We need to stop ignoring eating disorders, closing our eyes, and letting someone else handle it.

These are people who have so much to give the world but are being held captive by the most powerful of forces--their own brains.

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