Physician, Heal Thyself
Last week, Joanna wrote about a wonderful experience she had in an urgent care facility. Wonderful because she was treated as a normal human being rather than just treated as “fat” — not wonderful that she had to go to an UCF.
I also had an experience last week, but mine was definitely not what could be considered “wonderful.”
I have stated before that I am a survivor of extreme abuse. How I was literally starved by my parents growing up (only one small part of my abuse). I also have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome/disorder) with insulin resistance (IR). My goal these days, where my body is concerned, is to be healthy (by evidence of true measurements of health), rather than to be thin.
Because of some issues that have cropped up between me and my former therapist, I am in the process of finding a new therapist. Friday, I had a “second interview” with a potential therapist. The “first interview” had been a few questions I asked him on the phone before I scheduled the appointment.
If there was such a thing as “bad therapist bingo,” this therapist would have scored a blackout.
I won’t go into all the things he did wrong, most of them aren’t germane to the idea of Size/Fat Acceptance or Health at Every Size®. What he tried to push about my weight was bad enough.
On one of the forms he had me fill out, he had a space for my height and weight. I was displeased to see that because we are talking about a counselor here. In all my years of going to counselors, I’ve never had to state my height and weight.
I put a question mark in the weight section. I really don’t know what my weight is. I don’t own a scale and have refused to be weighed the last few times I’ve gone to a medical doctor. I figure once a year is good enough, and my clothes are the exact same size they’ve been for the past five years, so there’s been no dramatic weight gain or loss.
When we went over that part of the form in session, he became outright antagonistic with me. It turns out, he was using that section as a shortcut to diagnosis.
How many times has that happened with medical doctors? “Your problem with x is that you’re fat. Lose weight, you’ll be fine!” Where x, of course, stands for anything that is wrong with you that the doctor doesn’t want to deal with.
I have never had a counselor try to use it as a diagnostic tool, however.
Yes, increased weight CAN be a sign of depression. So can loss of appetite. So can a lot of other things. And since I went into the office stating, “I’m depressed, and have x, y, z diagnosis,” he should have taken it as given.
Instead, he was trying to convince me that 1) my not knowing, 2) my not caring, and 3) my not trying to reach a “normal” weight was all signs of depression and lack of self-care.
I was already irritated at things he’d said (just because I was born into a family with a preponderance of alcoholism and drug abuse, that means I was “born addicted,” among other things), but I became angry at this.
First, he’d not heard about the starvation I’d endured as a child. Second, he’d not asked if, or how long, I’d ever dieted in my life, let alone the results. Third, he didn’t even ask what PCOS was or what its symptoms are (IR and weight gain, as well as other things). He just looked at me, all size 22-26 of me (depending on clothing manufacturers), saw that I really don’t know exactly how much I weigh, and decided I am depressed and do not engage in self-care because of that.
He did not ask any questions of my daily diet or exercise regime. He didn’t know that I’m a purple belt in karate or how, even though our dojo self-destructed and we’re still searching for a replacement, I keep practicing what I know daily. He doesn’t know about the bike and my struggles to ride it due to my fear of cat calls. He doesn’t know about the daily walks I take with Piffany, my Yorkshire Terrier, or how many times a week I go hiking in Garden of the Gods.
My weight does not define my health, whether it’s physical or mental. My weight does not define whether I’m engaging in self-care, or whether I’m depressed or not. Not just my weight.
I explained, rather heatedly (since I was feeling attacked) that I am a Size Acceptance activist and that my weight had no bearing on anything. He tried to give me grief about my physical health, and I told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t going to see him for my physical health, that I was there for my mental health. I told him that my physical health was fine, according to the real indicators of health (e.g., blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol). When he continued to try to press me about being “as overweight as [you] are,” I explained a very little bit about the starvation as a child, the PCOS and IR. And then I told him that my weight was definitely not open for discussion.
He dropped it then. But I had the feeling that this would not be the last I heard of that.
The kicker on this? He wasn’t within “normal” weight himself. As he was attacking me, I really wanted to turn the tables on him and ask him why he was so depressed, and why he wasn’t engaging in self-care. But I’m not that way, and he’d done quite a few other things in that session that shocked me into not really being able to speak coherently. Staircase wit, I had it in spades on Friday.
Needless to say, I will not be going back to see him.
I’m actually kind of proud of myself. I stood up to an authority figure and made him back down (at least for that day). I engaged in appropriate assertiveness and did not let him pigeonhole me without answering back.
The thing is, I shouldn’t have had to.