When you walk into a doctors office the last thing you want to feel is invalidated and dismissed. You want to be taken seriously, listened to, empathized with, treated with respect and given the high level of care you are paying for. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen.
I personally have noticed that as my weight has increased, it is almost shocking how I have been treated when I see a new doctor. I’ve read about doctor bias when it comes to weight. I’ve heard the horror stories of people being misdiagnosed because a doctor can’t look past there BMI, but I never thought it would happen to me. I have a reason my weight is where it is at, all I need to do is explain my recovery, and they will understand and help me. Right?
Over a week ago I had an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic with one of the best endocrinologists they have. (I’m going to keep it cute and not share this doctors name…) I went to this doctor for all the reasons I’ve been blogging about over the past three years and also because my doctor in DC thought it might be good to get another set of eyes. I’ve been recovering from my 7 years of anorexia and extreme exercise for three full years now and my body is still having a hard time. I’m still at a weight that is WAY over my set point, I swell a lot, have hormone problems…I won’t bore you with the list.
So I walked into this doctors office, hopeful, excited and ready for some answers! I had been praying so hard that God would heal me and it seemed like going to this prestigious doctor was a gift from God that just fell into my lap out of nowhere. I was sure he was going to hear everything I said, know exactly what was wrong, figure out a treatment and I would be back on the road to feeling like Sara again. WRONG!
It only took a few minutes into the appointment for me to realize that it was not going as I had hoped. I remember looking at my husband when the doctor was looking at my chart and mouthing, “I don’t think this is going well….” and I was right.
The doctor asked me to tell him what was going on and what I needed from him. Basically, why was I there to see him? So, I started with what I thought was important, I was anorexic for seven years and entered treatment three years ago to recover from it. This is going to sound unbelievable but believe me when I tell you, he was looking at my body and he DID NOT BELIEVE ME! He started asking me questions in a tone that insinuated I wasn’t serious. He asked questions like, “How do you know you were anorexic?” and “Are you sure it was real anorexia?” He then proceeded to say that it was very odd because anorexia is typically found in younger teenage girls and it’s odd that I would develop it in my twenties. (F$^#&$(%^!!!!) I was shocked! Literally shocked. I then had to CONVINCE this doctor I was in fact anorexia even though it was “odd” to him that I would develop it at 25 years old. He then asked me how I developed anorexia? I shared with him a few of the reasons how it happened (but any person even slightly educated about eating disorders knows it is extremely complicated). I shared about moving to NYC, getting married and how hard that was, deaths in the family, stress, insecurity, etc. You won’t believe this but he then looked at my husband and made a joke saying, “AH so YOU'RE the reason she became anorexic!” It was disgusting.
I then moved on to tell him all my symptoms, what I have been diagnosed with and to go through my medical history. He then proceeded to tell me that my current doctor in DC is a quack and is feeding my pills and drugs for money because it’s easy to do without a lot of repercussions in order to make me “think” she is helping me. I was shocked. Like chin hit the floor, this cannot be happening, shocked. (and by the way, I know my experience with my doctor in DC and I'm for SURE better then I was a year ago...)
Don’t worry ya’ll, it gets EVEN better!!! After he basically dismissed everything I had been through for three years, made it pretty clear he didn’t believe I was anorexic in my 20’s and mocked my husband for being the "reason" I was anorexic, he then went on to do exactly what every bias doctors does, accuse me of eating too much.
He said to me, there are only four ways the body gains weight like that and doesn’t lose. PCOS, thyroid problems, Cushings disease and calories in/calories out. I do not have PCOS, my thyroid has tested normal and crazy enough he did want to test me for Cushings. So to him, it only left calories in and calories out. He then proceeded to say to me, a recovering anorexic, a person who is an expert at weight loss, being in control, and counting calories, that if I don’t have Cushings he thinks I should go to the Cleveland Clinic Weight Loss Management Center so they can help me lose the weight. This man, just told a recovering anorexic, to go to a weight loss center. A center that literally puts people on 800 calories diets, replaces full meals with shakes and prescribes medication to suppress appetites and hunger cues. (M$^%&*$#($!!!!!)
He also explained away my swelling as just being fat. Let me tell you all something, I know a lot of people fatter than me that do NOT swell up like I do. It is not normal and it is not just because I have a little more weight on me. This isn’t just a little water retention, this is painful swelling that within hours I can look 8 months pregnant and have pitting edema. I think the only thing that kept me from popping this guy in the mouth was the Holy Spirit himself. Don’t even think I’m joking!
I can’t make this stuff up folks.
To sum it up, this doctor didn’t take me seriously, didn’t believe I was anorexic, accused me of over eating and suggested I go to a weight loss center to be put on a restrictive diet, wanted to test me for Cushings although he didn’t think I had it, and blamed pretty much everything on my weight and calorie intake.
I was crushed.
As a Christian I’m suppose to turn to God during these times right away to depend on him, but I’ll be real with you all, I had a breakdown first. Cried like a two year old who had just dropped their ice cream cone. What’s sad is during the next 24 hours I actually considered the weight loss clinic. I succumbed to the ED voice that said the only way out is restrictive diet and over exercise again. I convinced myself that I should never have recovered, and that I will be stuck fat forever unless I go back to calorie counting, restriction and running endlessly. To be VERY real with you all, I even had suicidal thoughts. I felt like a failure. I convinced myself that recovery (REAL recovery) would never happen for me and life just isn’t worth living overweight or constantly starving. It was a dark day.
But you know what? God is good. ALL the time. As I sat in my bed blubbering and lost he came and scooped me up and pulled me out of the dark place I had returned to. After hours of tears and crying out to him (and a bit of rest) a peace came over me, clarity seeped back into my mind, and TRUTH began to take the place of lies.
See what you need to know is, that while I’ve been praying for God to heal me, I have also been praying for freedom. Freedom from my eating disorder. Freedom from the burden of doctors and pills. Freedom from literally hating myself because of the weight my body put on as it has healed. I’ve been tossing and turning around the idea of just letting it all go and living my life…heavier. The idea of just accepting that maybe this is what my body is now after seven years of starvation. I couldn’t stomach the idea on my own. This society is mean and made for thin people. I didn’t feel like myself. I can’t be fat like this forever, I won’t accept it!!
Yet in my darkest hours, God met me exactly where I was at and made up the difference I couldn’t make up myself. I say I’m too fat and embarrassed to play piano in front of people at church, he says use my gift to help others worship and feel his presence. I say I’m too broken and sick to commit to anything, he puts people in my life that say we think you would be an amazing BSF leader please do it, we will walk along side you. I say I’m to ugly to take a photo with my beautiful sisters, he says I am fearfully and wonderfully made and reminds me I’m beautiful even at this weight. I say life is not worth living like this, he says oh the plans I have for you Sara.
I sat with God and finally decided, I want to be free. I want to be free from this. If it means I’m fat the rest of my life, I want to be free. I am DONE torturing myself over my weight. I need to let it go! God gave me so much clarity and truth it was unbelievable. In my case, it is NOT calories in and calories out. It just isn’t. My body is healing from VERY severe damage and it just is what it is. I still don’t eat enough most of the time and I am extremely active. No weight loss clinic is going to tell me to eat even less and exercise even more. I’ve been there and done that garbage and it DOES NOT WORK. (if you think it works I want you to read again IT DOES NOT WORK!!!) The only thing that will work is for me to let it go! Live my life to the fullest. I’m going to do my best to eat enough. Try to eat all foods. Eat healthy and for fun when I’m at a party. I’m going to exercise, but not too much. I’m going to do my best to just be as normal as possible and see what my body does over the next five years. On average it takes 7-14 years to recover from anorexia. My case was very severe and I’ve only been recovering for four. This is going to take time. I need to trust my body to heal and trust in the God who made it!
In the days following this painful doctors appointment, my breakdown and revelation of truth, God gave me so many moments, signs whatever you want to call them of validation that I was making the right choice. I sat with my husband and told him I was done. I just wanted to live my life and eat normal and exercise normal and hope my body heals, and if it doesn’t, well, I’m just heavier now. Is that ok? Could you still love me like this? I’m blessed to have a husband that likes the extra curve and he said he supported me 100%. I sat with my parents and asked their opinion on my decision and my dad said it was the best thing he has heard me say in years. My mom agreed and said just live life!! I called my brother and sister in law. I asked if what I wanted to do sounded crazy, they said it sounded like freedom. My little sister said she had been praying for a year for me to just accept this new weight and live life. My other sister said it was the most healthy thing I’ve said in years. As I told my aunt this story she already told me to just let it all go before I could even tell her it was my plan. A random woman at bible study came up to me, hugged me, and said, I’m SO glad you are healthy now and here was us. Another woman at church who lost her daughter to anorexia around my age squeezed my hand at church and smiled saying she was so glad I was there. I listened to a powerful message at church about God’s will from a pastor who is not thin and again realized NO ONE CARES ABOUT MY WEIGHT BUT ME! I can still do good things in the body I have now. My dietician gave me a book to read out of nowhere that validates everything I’m thinking and above all else, Gods word, over and over again has never taught me that my weight matters or that I have to be thin to have worth. Instead it has told me I am clothed with strength and dignity and that I can laugh without fear of the future. I am fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose. That I am loved, and whole and perfect in Gods eyes.
Since I’ve decided to live in freedom about a week ago you can be sure that it has been tested. I’ve had swollen days that have sent me temporarily back into a state of panic. I’ve scrolled on instagram and walked away feeling like losing weight will be the only way I’ll be happy, and I’ve ran into people I haven’t seen in years at a restaurant, which is never my favorite moment of the day haha. But you know what, even though this has been tested, my mind hasn’t changed. I still want freedom and I continue to stand in truth and not in what some bias, ignorant, doctor has to say about what HIS eyes see, but I know that what I see and what God sees is better! I thought God brought this doctor into my life to heal me….and you know what?! He did! Just not in the way I expected!
Cheers to freedom ya’ll!