Taking the step to seek professional help is incredibly daunting, no matter what the situation may be. The reason for being so could be largely due to the fact that these appointments have a significant stereotype around them that even in this day and age still exist. Accepting that you need someone else to help with your mental state can often make you feel like a failure, that you are weak, or downright crazy. Like I have said before, when you break a bone or strain a muscle, you are on the phone immediately making the appointment to help get it fixed, not a second thought enters your mind. Yet, when mental problems arise, you hide from this option.
Today I wish to share with you a journal entry that briefly goes into my first psychologist appointment. Why am I choosing to do so? 1. Because I too found this step to be incredibly daunting due to all of the stereotypes associated with it and 2. Because I felt it was the critical turning point to my recovery and I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with anything to see that going down this path can be a vital step in moving forward.
Delaying the appointment does not make you any stronger, strength lies in the fact that you recognise you have a problem that you can no longer handle on your own and you are willing to open up to someone else who may be able to help you with it.
Have a lovely day x
That is why I’m here, sitting in the psychiatrists waiting room. Yes, a psychiatrist waiting room, never in a million years would I have imagined myself sitting in here with all these people. I thought people who came here were crazy, looked crazy, stressed, hair on end, bags under their eyes, people who were visually in definite need of help and attention but all these people look normal.
“Sally” a younger looking blonde lady calls out.
“Yes” I reply quietly. Mum and I get up as the lady walks calmly towards us with her hand outstretched introducing herself, I take it hesitantly and shake it slowly. She then repeated the welcome to mum before turning and showing us into her room.
She’s a lot younger than I expected and her room was different too, it had more of a lounge room vibe than a clinical space. Along one wall lay a two-seater brown leather couch covered in a cream crocheted rug, two wooden chairs with plush cream cushions. In the opposite corner of the room were two wooden children’s seats, bright green in colour and a box of toys.
Both mum and I sit down on the couch as the lady perches herself on an armchair across from us. She looks at us both calmly, “So, how are you both? I see you’re in your school uniform, what year are you in?”, this was not how I was expecting the session to start.
“I’m in year 12” I reply in a casual tone.
“Oh really, tough year isn’t it, what subjects are you doing? Are you enjoying them?”
“Yeah it’s a little stressful and full on, but I’m doing a good mixture, I have three that are exam based and the other two are more focused on assignments, a little more work than I first expected but so far so good, looking forward to the end of the year”
“Good, good, so is the school far from where you live or is the travel not too bad? I found with year twelve it was a half hour drive there and back through the city which was good because I could unwind but bad in the way that it cut out that bit of study time”
“Well, I’m actually a boarder, so I live on campus which is handy as I’m always right near the school if I need things and I can get straight into study as soon as I get back from school so my minds still in school mode which helps me get things done”
The conversation goes back and forth a little more before coming to a pause, and the words she spoke I was waiting for but not completely ready to answer.
“So, why have you come in to see me today Sally? How can I help you?”
My stomach plummeted, I know within myself that I have a problem, I’ve asked mum if I can see someone professionally to help me through some issues but I’ve never actually given a verbal confession. My throat tightens, I could feel mum beside me a little rigid, she knew what was coming but like me she had never heard it said out loud. At that exact moment I felt so sorry for my mum, I didn’t want her to hear this, this whole time I’ve been trying to hide it, not admitting to it, I didn’t want anyone to know, thought I could control things myself, but now there’s no escape, I have to move on.
“Well, I’m having trouble eating” my voice sounded nervous and unsure, I wasn’t exactly sure how to put it because when I say those words out loud they sound really pathetic…but the lady didn’t seem bored or confused.
“Ok, so what is it exactly that you are having trouble with” I liked that she talked like a doctor, like she knew the problem but was trying to find the solution that would fit me. She didn’t look scared, worried or angry, she was just her, she was calm and she wanted to help.
“Well, I don’t want to eat” and just like that the tears started streaming down my face, that part of the stereotype was true. The part where the patient begins to open up and then all of a sudden there is a flood. The pain of having to confess my feelings out loud as well as having to have mum hear them all was incredibly hard but as soon as I started it was like vomit, the words continued to fall out, “I feel like I’ve been woken up from a coma, I’m starting to not want to eat on purpose, I’m starting to get anxious about my weight, initially I didn’t realise what I was doing but now my mind is actually thinking about it, I know what I’m doing, but it’s not the normal me that knows that, its like a have a different mind now. I don’t feel hunger anymore, or maybe I’m just so good at ignoring it. food, once so delicious it now my greatest fear”.
And that’s what it’s like, it’s a fear, think of your greatest fear, snakes, heights, spiders, closed spaces, think of the feelings they have when you come to face those fears, the feeling of uncertainty, shakiness, the colour drains from your face, goose bumps arise and cold sweats break out. That’s how I feel about food. I can’t even imagine why and how it came to this. “Every single bite I take, I know about it, my mind constantly calculates my intake, how much will this hurt me. I can’t remember what it was like to eat something without thinking about it, stressing about it. Any time I eat something I feel is ‘unhealthy’ or too much I need to exercise, but the thing is my ‘unhealthy’ is pasta, it’s a piece of bread or more than two scoops of yoghurt with my breakfast. I don’t know how this happened but if I eat too much or something ‘unhealthy’, I stress, I can’t sleep, I feel hot like an extra two layers of fat have added to my body instantly. If I can’t exercise to work it off in private the anxiety gets greater and greater until I can”.
Saying all this out loud to someone else, like a confession, I’m scared by how weird it sounds. I could feel mum tense even more beside me. This is the first time that she would have heard my point of view, the actual truth.
“Ok, so do you see yourself as thin now?” the lady asks.
I always thought that people who had this type of issue, looked in the mirror and thought they were a damn sight bigger than they actually are. “When I look in the mirror, I don’t see someone that is overweight, but I don’t see someone extremely skinny either. I see myself as average. I see bones but that’s what I want to see, that’s what I think of as being normal. In the beginning it was only a few kilos, I didn’t mean for it to come to this. It’s like every time I look at the scales as I step on them I’m shocked by what comes up but then I know how much I’ve lost and in my head anything higher than that means putting on weight which I ultimately do not want to do. It’s an obsession, I weigh myself sometimes hourly just searching for that constant reassurance”.
“So” she turned to mum “have you noticed any changes in her?”
“I knew she wasn’t liking the boarding environment, we offered her to come home but she wanted to stick it out. It was only when she began to lose the weight when everything else changed about her. I remember the first time I noticed the weight loss when I picked her up from school after her being away for a couple of weeks. When I mentioned it to her she seemed surprised that she had lost weight and kept reassuring me that it was stress so I just tried to help where I could, cooking her favourite foods, packing extra snacks to take back so she always had plenty of the things she loved around her. It didn’t take me long to realise there was something more to it and the mood swings made that a lot more noticeable, she just became very withdrawn and tense”
“So, is everything else ok Sally? As far as the other aspects of your life?” the lady turned her attention back to me.
I talked about school going well, how I was getting good results and that I do strive for perfection. I talked about my routine lifestyle how I was very constant in my day to day activities and liked it that way.
Once she had gotten completely familiar with my background and situation she began to pick at the other people in my life, my family’s personalities, life adventures and began drawing herself a little map. This is when I began to feel a little threatened. The words I had spoken out loud could not be unsaid, they fell out so quickly and now I felt extremely exposed and vulnerable. What have I done?
“So, is your sister of similar physique to you? Does she eat well?”
“Yes” I blurted out in a definite voice, “she eats like a horse”
“Both girls have my metabolism, they are naturally slim no matter what they eat. Kayla is slim but very healthy in appearance” Mum explained.
“Oh gosh, I wish I had that metabolism” the lady joked, “hmm, I’m interested in your sister, she seems like a capable young lady, very enthusiastic about life, healthy appetite and quite a direct personality. I think she could be really helpful here”. This confused me but I let her keep working on her map. She then rested her pencil down and looked up at me with caring eyes, “So what were you hoping to get out of coming here today Sally?” I didn’t like this question, that was her job, I’m here because I don’t know what to do, I want her to tell me what to do.
“I want you to tell me how to get better, I do really want to get better, I didn’t to start with but I really do now, the thing is I really don’t at the same time because I know its going to be hard work, I want to go from where I am now to completely better overnight, I don’t want to go through the hell in between”
She nodded then she excused herself for a few moments to go outside and think about everything. The silence in the room was uncomfortable, what can you say to your mum when she has just heard how completely lost her daughter is.
The lady came back in and crossed her legs before leaning slightly forward and in a caring voice suggested some things to try:
- Whenever you feel hunger, give into it immediately so that your brain responds to the hunger meaning I need to eat rather than I don’t want to eat. It doesn’t have to be much, a sultana, a nut, just trigger that response to hunger.
- Whenever you feel like you’re struggling or feeling down, sit yourself down and say “I’m ok” just those two words and breathe, “I’m ok”.
- Think about what your sister would say when you feel yourself slipping. When you decline a food offer put your sisters brain in your head and say “are you kidding, give it here, ill eat it” try and encourage her carefree approach to food and life.
You have got to be kidding me. They aren’t solutions, I’m going to sound like a weirdo talking to myself out loud. What are these stupid small little things going to fix? I wanted her to hypnotise me or something, come up with a drastic measure to snap out of it. I want to go from where I am to where I need to be with the click of my fingers.
I walked out feeling emotionally exhausted and disheartened. But as I got into the car and looked at Mum I remembered why I made the appointment in the first place. The way I am is not me and its not fair on those around me, so I made the decision to give the suggestions a go, as useless as they appeared to be.