Dealing With Things That Don’t Help

Yesterday I wrote about things that don’t help.

It was one of the hardest posts that I have written. It sent me straight back to some places that I have forced myself not to dwell on; and reminded me of how hard it is to have a voice. Particularly when you’re up against a system and not feeling that great about your own state of mind.

Today, I have been attempting – and failing – to advise other people how to handle these feelings.

I have tried to think about how I moved beyond the embarrassment that I might be creating a fuss; the sense of shame that I was seeking attention; the urge to shout louder when my pain was overlooked.

I have encouraged people to try and ignore the little voice that says they’re undeserving; and remember the bigger picture; and focus on the ignorance behind some people’s words.

But I also remember the kick in the stomach; and the heat of shame; and the desperate spur to go further and further and further…

Until they see.

I decided, therefore, to write a few of my stories, because experience speaks louder than words sometimes; and I’m not sure that I’m managing to say what I need to convey.


I didn’t do well in my first inpatient unit. I fought, like a caged animal, and did things that I can’t now forget. As every kilo was agonisingly gained and the struggle, interpreted as a sign of my misbehaving, I grew more resistant to recovery – and increasingly convinced that I was somehow bad.

We sat down, one afternoon, in the meeting room, and went through my non-compliance and its repercussions. The battle ground was, in that patronising conversation, well and truly set. I decided to play along – while I had to – with the knowledge that one day I’d prove my point and “win”.

I left. Lost weight. And after 6 months, they stopped taking me back.

For years, I held the fact that they hadn’t beaten me as a trophy. “Hah!” I thought, “if they knew that they hadn’t made the slightest difference, despite their threats…well, who’d have the upper hand then?”

The thing is – they weren’t in on the competition; in fact, I never saw them again.

So, there weren’t any victors and no one-upmanship; and, by the time I realised this, I’d gone far too far to turn back.

“Seen thinner”

A nurse once told me that she’d “seen thinner”. It’s not the kind of thing that you want to hear when you’re about to be admitted to an eating disorders programme. It infers, somehow, that you’re a bit of a waste of the resource.

I didn’t know how to respond (because you don’t want to take up someone else’s time); and I felt a little embarrassed (because they were clearly talking about my ‘non-illness’ behind my back); and went home on the first day, feeling a little perturbed.

Over the next few months, each weigh day, I would turn up a little lighter; and, it felt like a perverse gift to justify my place. “Look”, I could feel myself saying, “I’m doing what you asked, and proving that I need you, and showing you just how much my head hurts.”

I was playing Russian Roulette and nearly didn’t make it through that summer.

Moving beyond blame

The comments, in both these instances, weren’t the sole cause of the outcome. I was already on a steep and slippery slope. They did, however, give me a sharp shove; particularly in the earlier stages when I was still confused about whether I was ill – or well.

The thing is, the people who claimed that I was “misbehaving” aren’t the kind of people I’d now give two minutes of my time too – and yet I let their ignorance determine my actions for the next however many years.

Similarly, I didn’t really consider that the “seen thinner” comments which seared so deeply at the time were contextualised, I would imagine, in a lack of understanding – and a lack of NHS funding – and my inability to stand up and say, “actually, when you say that to me, you negate my illness and make me feel like it doesn’t really exist”.

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

So, whilst I can’t give out any much-needed help – or make the hurt go away – or rationalise the ‘treatment’ that some professionals provide; I just want to say to anyone in a similar situation, that you’re not alone, nor unworthy -

And that I wish, on reflection, I hadn’t lost so much because of a few things that shouldn’t have been said.

How has anyone else managed to let go of comments that might have made it hard to move forwards?

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One Response to “Dealing With Things That Don’t Help”

  1. Dani says:

    I can so relate to this and stupid comments people make. I had a CPN tell me once that I was ‘thin’ but ‘not that thin’ – two weeks later I had been sectioned.