Over a year ago, last spring, I realized I was seriously struggling with an eating disorder. I had discovered and learned enough about my self that I could finally, clearly see the patterns of triggers I was experiencing and my reactions to them. I struggled with how I wanted to handle it, but I knew it needed to be addressed and sought additional therapy outside of the current therapist I was/continue to work with.
I researched extensively options in my city for programs/therapy that specifically addressed and treated only eating disorders. I knew I had potential to be a complicated situation with my abuse background and the current patterns I was seeing in myself. It wasn’t textbook behavior where one could look at my patterns and say “oh yes…you are struggling with bulimia, food avoidance, or binge eating…here is the perfect treatment program for you,” at least not from what I could discern from my own research into eating disorders. It turns out, my hunch was correct.
I mustered the courage to seek an evaluation. This was hard for me. I felt like a complete failure. I went to the appointment and spent three hours filling out questionnaire’s, answering question after question, and telling my story of abuse from my childhood and also currently in my marriage. The intake therapist seemed overwhelmed. She even said “you have so much you are dealing with…wow…” which was validating, but also overwhelmed me again. She admitted she didn’t know how to diagnose me on a clinical level, as I fall into many categories of disorders, but she settled on Anorexia Nervosa, not because I am underweight, because I’m not, but mostly because of my exercise patterns at the time…which she considered excessive and of a “purging” nature. This only created more confusion inside of me, as I thought this was the one thing I was doing well for myself and my healing, an attempt to take care of myself.
I agreed to continue in the program and meet her recommended therapists for me. Yes, I said therapists…plural. So now I had three therapists I would be working with…and a full time group therapy recommendation as well (which would add another therapist, or more) that I could do as inpatient or outpatient. She was recommending inpatient. I immediately said no. This frustrated her, which frustrated me, but I stood my ground so she put me on the waiting list for the outpatient group program and told me we could continue to discuss the inpatient option as we got started and I would probably begin to see the value in it. I thought I already said no…??? I began to feel like maybe this wasn’t what I needed in the moment, it felt too controlling, but I told myself to keep going and give it a chance, I’m not the professional, so I did.
I met my first therapist. She seemed ok. She asked about my story and my past. I told her what I could without losing my composure. She asked for a lot of details in her follow up questions that were very hard to answer to someone I had just met and had no idea if she could be trusted or not. I left the appointment triggered, upset, and with no plan or treatment goals or idea of what was coming next. But I trusted the process and went back the next week. When I arrived, she picked right back up where we left off…asking more questions and again pushing the inpatient program, which I declined again. The session was about to end and she then told me she is referring me to a new therapist (what?!) because she is starting a new job somewhere else.
This news was frustrating to say the least. I was angry they assigned me to a therapist that they knew would be leaving. And I considered leaving the program at that point because the thought of having to share my story again was just too much. But I felt like I needed the help, and hadn’t really connected with or fully trusted her so I went back the next week to meet the next therapist taking me over.
I went through the same routine with this new therapist. Told my story, received the same “wow…that’s a lot” reaction, and uncertainty of how to “handle” me since I refused to go through the inpatient programming…again. But I know it takes time to settle into therapy and build trust so I continued to see her. But things quickly fell apart again. I would show up for appointments and she would not. I would reschedule and then they would get cancelled. I would finally see her and she would change the programming, adding in new diagnoses to my my file for depression and anxiety (duh…I thought that was basically a given at this point in my life) that then complicated my treatment plan, somehow, which seemed weird to me since these issues often accompany eating disorders. After weeks of missed/cancelled/inconsistent appointments, I was internalizing the chaos and beginning to feel like a burden. I expressed frustration and was told again, she was transitioning to a new position within the organization and they would be recommending me to yet another new therapist.
At that point I asked for an appointment with the program director, which they obliged. I met with her and told her how maddening my experience had been and how negatively it had impacted me. She asked me again for my background and I found myself divulging my abuse story again…which I hate telling and talking about, or thinking about, for that matter, and was wondering why this was something she needed to know. Having reached the end of myself, I tearfully told her that if I was going to move forward with the programming, I needed a therapist that could handle the complexities of my situation. Someone who was well versed in the abuse I had experienced in my childhood and marriage and how that was contributing to my current struggles and my desire to not be assigned to a “new/baby” therapist. I needed someone with solid therapeutic experience. I was no longer willing to be a “this will be great learning experience for a new therapist” case. She said that my request was completely fair and that there was a new therapist coming on board in a few weeks that would be a good fit for me if I was willing to wait…but in the meantime, I could work with another new therapist joining the program as well and in the end I could choose which one I wanted to stick with. This seemed like a lot of work for me…and more storytelling, which I was not interested in. But I agreed anyway and she set up my appointments.
The transition therapist was completely new to the profession. Not even licensed yet. She had no clue what to say or do. She did not read any of my file before meeting me. The exact opposite of what I requested. I left the appointment completely defeated and never returned back to the center. The damage that was done to me emotionally during those three months of trying to seek help was huge. I know I still haven’t recovered from it and as I continue to struggle and process I’m beginning to wonder if there was more to it than I was previously realizing.
Something I recently remembered was a persistent request by all of the therapists I saw (five total, plus the program director) to have access to my current therapist. Something inside told me not to disclose this information, so I did not, and said I was not interested in coordinating therapy between them and him and that I would handle communicating any information I thought he needed to know, was recommended to disclose, or I thought was important to my process with him. Immediately with the first therapist there was a lack of respect for my decision…just as there was for not wanting to be admitted to a hospital for treatment long term. And each subsequent therapist also asked for the same access and told me that they would need to coordinate treatment with him. I refused each time they asked for any information they could try to get out of me about who he was.
Why was this so necessary? I get the concept of it…which is not what they presented when asking for the information…that all therapists treating me could be aware of what was happening and coordinate and share information. But that wasn’t their stated goals. They “needed” to speak with him and know who he was and direct him in treatment on his end that would compliment theirs. I’m wondering now what exactly this was all about.
I have read in my research about trauma and abuse, and have heard many personal accounts, that victims beginning to remember and exposing their abuse publicly are targeted to intimidate and silence them. I am beginning to realize that many things that have happened, and I have experienced, is opposition to my disclosures. I have been belittled, threatened, and abandoned by family. I am followed. I am called on the phone. I am texted. Strange and triggering items just happen to appear in environments that have no previous connection to my experiences. I have been approached on the street. My home has been broken into. I have been assaulted. My email has been hacked and YEARS of email communications have been deleted and removed from my account. My blog was deleted and temporarily shut down and it took a tremendous amount of work to get it restored. My husband constantly needs to know where I am and will full on stalk me if I do not respond to his calls or texts until he hears from me. I feel like I am watched 24/7 and have just completely accepted this as normal…this is my life.
It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that my seeking help to heal and break abuse programming gets obstructed. I literally get followed by a car that matches my therapist’s…sometimes by a man who looks like my therapist. This probably means something that I haven’t figured out yet. Or maybe I have. Maybe I am supposed to be afraid of him too? I have thought of that. And I have panicked MANY times about my time with him, the information I have shared, and if he is trustworthy. What if he is obstructing my healing as well? What if he keeps me stuck? What if our sessions are monitored? So many questions…
After years of weird experiences, I could be putting two and two together…or continuing to be crazy and paranoid…