I had had depression for some months, but she could see I was putting on weight. She could tell something wasn’t quite right. I knew I ate too much. I knew something wasn’t quite right. Turns out I had an eating disorder, but one I’d never heard of before – binge eating disorder. I wasn’t just fat; I have a pathological addiction to food. An obsessive thought pattern about eating. A noise in my head that can’t quiet even when I have already eaten more than enough, when I’m so full it hurts.
The local hospital was taking people on for an eating disorders trial – she’d try to get me in. She could see I needed help.
“I’m sorry, they’re not taking people like you right now.”
They were only taking people with anorexia and bulimia.
I went to a new GP (my old GP had gone on maternity leave). I was worried about my brain. I’d always been down, but now there was a new concern – was I maybe too up? From my involvement with a youth mental health organisation, I’d been learning more about different mental illnesses and that there were different forms of bipolar. Hypomania sounded like exactly what I felt.
“I think I’m hypomanic,” I said. “You’re not manic,” he said. “I know.” We went back and forth. I got frustrated, he looked blank. Here I was, the mentally ill person explaining the diagnosis to the GP. I left.
I went to a new new GP. She was lovely. She listened. She asked me questions about my life, my past diagnoses, how I responded to medication, my family history of mental ill-health. I felt validated.
“I’m sorry that happened to you.”
She diagnosed me with Bipolar II.
I needed to see a psychiatrist. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I hadn’t showered in days. I didn’t want to exist anymore. My GP offered me a referral to ‘someone who was definitely good’ or ‘someone who was close to me’. I’ll have the definitely good person, thanks.
I sobbed to the receptionist as she told me they weren’t taking new patients for three months. I didn’t know if I’d be here in three months. Then the GP gave me the referral to the ‘someone who was close to me’. The two appointments I had with that psychiatrist were the worst, must humiliating health appointments I’ve ever had. I left enraged that I could be treated like that and devastated I was fighting my battles alone again.
I have an eating disorder that makes me eat, that makes me fat, that causes me more shame than I can put into words. And she made me feel all of that. I contacted Eating Disorders Victoria for a recommendation to someone with specialism in my disorder.
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for you”
She wasn’t taking new patients.
It’s been four and a half months since I felt so awful that I needed to see a psychiatrist. I don’t feel like that anymore. I’ve recovered on my own, with the support of a psychologist, exercise and medication. But I’ve spent more emotional energy than I needed to (and $350 out of pocket) treading water in this system.
I’ve dealt with mental health problems for many years now, as long as I can remember. And for as long as I’ve been dealing with mental health problems, I’ve been dealing with mental health professionals, and their apologies. I know there are many wonderful people working in this system because some of them have given me treatment and some of them are my friends. But too often, they are hamstrung by a system they have to apologise for. A system that creates siloes and gaps; that doesn’t do what it should do.