Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hell hath no fury like a mother faced with dangerous ignorance in the medical profession...

If you could have seen me 40 minutes ago, storming into the GPs' surgery, demanding to see the senior partner and demanding that a locum be removed for his (at best) appalling and (at worst) lethally dangerous ignorance of anything to do with eating disorders and mental health... The sheer self-control as I waited in the waiting room to see the senior partner... counting from 100 down to 1... and again... no crying, Bev, PLEASE....

Ben usually sees the University GP for his monthly prescription for anti-depressants, which he is still on, albeit the minimum dosage these days. But, it being the summer vacation, he needed to renew his prescription at our local GPs' surgery. So along he went...

... And back he came...

I haven't seen him like that since the worst days of the eating disorder: kicking furniture, swearing, weeping... crying out that this was the biggest trigger since the original things that triggered his anorexia five long years ago.

First, he said, there was 'that look' from the (locum) GP. The 'you silly boy, snap out of it' look. Pinched mouth, you know what I mean... Followed by: "Well, why don't you just do some exercise?"

Ben explained that he couldn't exercise because he'd had an exercise addiction as part of his anorexia. He'd had to stop exercising completely when he had anorexia.

'That look' again... Followed by the king of all crass comments: "Well that wouldn't have done anything to improve your appetite, would it?"

As if anorexia was simply about *not* having an appetite... Just do some exercise and - wow - you'll get your appetite back and all will be well again...

Patronisingly, Ben was asked why he needed the medication if, as he explained to the locum GP, he was happier when he was at home i.e. not at Uni.

As if the solution to his depression was simply to be in a location where he felt happy.

Ben was so upset he didn't even take the prescription into the pharmacy.

So I grabbed my bag, a couple of my books, zoomed up there and demanded to see someone important. I saw the senior partner within about 10 minutes.

As I explained to him, the locum GP obviously didn't have the first clue about eating disorders or mental health. It was the kind of reaction that might have been expected from a GP 30+ years ago. In 2014 this is inexcusable.

I said that hopefully Ben is now robust enough to see this for what it was - ignorance - and come through it relatively unscathed. But I also said - and Ben admitted - that, had this experience happened to him 12 or more months ago, it could easily have catapulted him back into the eating disorder.

"The medical profession is here to offer solutions not create serious problems," I said. "And should Ben not be robust enough to deal with this, and should this result in a relapse, I will be making a serious and official complaint. We spent five long years battling to rid our lives of anorexia - a deadly eating disorder that nearly killed Ben. And all of this in a week where actor Robin Williams took his life as a result of depression."

I said a lot more, too, and also presented the senior partner with two of my books. Please eat and When anorexia came to visit which I insited everyone in the practice read from cover to cover.

The senior partner, a lovely GP who 'gets it', took my complaint very seriously and said he would be talking to the locum "who will no longer be working at our surgery from now onwards".

And thankfully Ben IS robust enough at this stage to be able to see this for what it is.

Archaic and dangerous ignorance.


  1. You have a really great blog! I'm an 18 year old girl, and my best friend suffers from anorexia. I had not thought boys does get eating disorders too, but they do.. He has been hospitalized 3 times, and once he was close to die. I love him so much, and I want him to get better. I hope you son gets better too. Greetings from Denmark.

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